Hidden Dangers of Over-the-Counter Medications

Image of medicine pills.

There are many medications available over the counter (OTC) at pharmacies and grocery stores that we consider to be safe, their use to be routine. We don’t think twice about picking up medications to help with pain or flu symptoms. What many people don’t consider is that these same medications can be very dangerous and even fatal for our pets.

As mammals, humans, dogs, and cats metabolize many medications the same way. Your veterinarian will often prescribe medications that were developed for people for use in your pet. However, there are several classes of medications that don’t work the same way for humans as they do for our pets.

NSAIDs

The most common class of medications that is very dangerous and easily fatal for pets are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). These medications are what people think of as OTC pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil) and many others.

We see commercials for them all the time that exclaim how effective and safe they are for everyday use. Because of this, owners feel that they must be helping their pets by giving them these medications for injuries and arthritis.

Unfortunately, in dogs and cats, these medications are not metabolized the same way, and, in our pets, toxic chemicals are created in the body. These toxic chemicals can cause kidney failure, liver failure, stomach ulcers, and even keep the blood from being able to carry oxygen.

With known ingestion, it is important to get your pet to the vet immediately. If too much time has passed and the pet has absorbed the medications or is already showing signs of poisoning, very aggressive therapy is needed and is not always successful.

Because human NSAIDs cannot be used for pain management in pets, animal pharmaceutical companies have been successful in developing very effective NSAIDs for dogs and cats that have a lower risk of side effects. These medications are available from any veterinarian.

As with any medication, prescription or OTC, it is important to discuss with your veterinarian what medication you want to give your pet and possible side effects to be aware of.

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  • "I have been taking my 16 year old lab, Oscar, to this vet since he came to me in 2004, and I wouldn't take any of my dogs anywhere else! They are so wonderful with both pets and people. I would recommend any of the doctors and staff to anyone."
    Erin H
  • "We have been going to another vet for years. We wanted to have our year old Wheaten Terrier, Rylee spayed by laparoscopy so she would have less pain and be back to her usual activity in 2-3 days instead of 10-14 days. Our vet does the traditional spay. We had a consult meet and greet with Dr. Courtney Pierce. She answered all our questions and so friendly and professional. They have a state of the art OR suite. Rylee did great. On post op day three she spotted a squirrel and did an all out chase with no ill effects! All the staff were great."
    Linda A
  • "I love Dr. Jernigan at AHLB and would never take my dog anywhere else! The staff is excellent with animals and always professional, courteous and respectful to owners. I have trusted this animal hospital for all of my dog's care, including check ups, surgeries (she's had three!) and for boarding when we have to go out of town. Every experience I have had here has been wonderful and I highly recommend their services to anyone looking for a veterinary office for their furry children!."
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