Most pet owners are aware that the medications safe for them to use are not safe for their pets. However, in 2013, animals ingesting human medications were the top-ranking reason for calls to the pet poison control lines.
More than 24,000 calls that came into the ASPCA’s national poison control line involved human prescription medications — which makes this the No. 1 cause of poisoning six years in a row!
Most cases were the result of a pill falling onto the floor as the owner prepared to take it, and were completely accidental. The top medications reported ingested by pets include heart medications, antidepressants and pain medications.
The third-ranking cause of pet poisonings were over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements, giving medicine a second ranking in the top 10 most reported sources of poisoning in 2013. Nearly 15 per cent of cases reported to the ASPCA poison control centre included acetaminophen, ibuprofen and herbal remedies.
The ASPCA’s poison control centre isn’t the only place reporting high numbers in medication consumption. The Pet Poison Helpline in Minnesota (which takes calls from across North America) also reported nearly 50 per cent of their calls involved human medications — both over-the-counter and prescription.
While some human medications can be safe for pets, most of them are not. Even pills that are safe for children to consume are not necessarily safe for animals. It is extremely important to consult with a vet before dispensing any human medications to your pet.
It is also extremely important to remember that just because someone told you it was OK for their pet doesn’t mean it is OK for yours. There are many factors to consider before dispensing medication, including species, age, weight, and medical history.
Here are a few tips to keep your pet safe:
Store medications properly
Medications should be kept in a secure place where your pets can not gain access. For cat owners, this may mean even a cupboard or medicine cabinet that is higher up isn’t secure enough. If you have a pet that can get into the cupboards, using child safety locks may be necessary.
Transport pills safely
Never use a plastic bag or Ziploc® bag to store pills. These bags are very easy for a pet to chew through. When using weekly pill containers or travel containers in your purse or bag, be sure the purse or bag is kept well out of reach of any animals. Those little plastic containers are attractive chew toys for some animals (and sometimes the smell of the medications can make them extra attractive).
Separate human and pet meds
Many reported cases of pet poisonings involve humans accidently dispensing the wrong medication by mistake. To avoid mixups, store human medication and pet medication in different locations, and be sure all medications are in labelled containers.
Take care when dispensing medications
The No. 1 cause of pets ingesting human medication is pills falling onto the floor when the owner is preparing to take them. To avoid such accidents, open pill containers over the sink to provide a safety net where pills can fall.
BE CAREFUL WITH disposal
If you are throwing out old or expired medications, be sure that they are in a secure garbage container. There are many cases of poisonings resulting from animals getting into the garbage, and ingesting pills.
If you are ever in doubt about medication and safety where your pets are concerned, please take the time to consult with your vet. With human medication consumption being the No. 1 cause of pet poisonings, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Dana Grove is an animal lover who works with several pet organizations in Brandon.