I have been seeing more and more people with huge hearts trying to help their pets. Unfortunately, veterinary medicine is an extended degree just to learn what they can and cannot have – put simply, pets are not small people. They have very different metabolisms and those change depending on the type of drug and its mechanism of action. In fact, there are huge variances between dogs – cats – bunnies – and other species. What will work for one can be fatal in the wrong species! Here are some real life scenarios that we have seen and treated.
Scenario 1: You are out for a walk and Buddy starts limping. So you go home and you decide to give him one of your medications. Please don’t do this to Buddy – he has a very low tolerance for anti-inflammatories and cannot have the wrong kind, the wrong dose or a mixtures of them. Ibuprofen is a common TOXIN seen in pets. It (along with other anti-inflammatories) cause stomach ulceration, kidney toxicity, and can cause neurological symptoms at high dosages. It is hard to treat, involves multiple days of hospitalization on fluids to support Buddy’s kidneys, detoxification with vomiting and charcoal, and even intralipid therapy to try and bind up some of the circulating toxin before it causes permanent harm.
Scenario 2: Fluffy the cat is slowing down. You decide to give a dose of human medication to help your kitty feel better. Please do not give human medications to cats. While there seems to be blogs and recommendations online for doing so, they have serious side effects and one in particular is LIFE-THREATENING. Cats are susceptible to methemoglobinemia (a condition where the blood cell can no longer bind to oxygen) and low dosages can cause acute symptoms of rapid blue discoloration of the gums, trouble breathing, low temperatures, facial and feet swelling and rapid progressive liver failure.
Scenario 3: Max the Labrador is slowing down. You decide to give an aspirin to help your little dude feel better. Please do not give over the counter ‘pain pills’ to pets. While these seem to be marketed at the pet store, they are 1) not well tolerated and 2) not very efficacious. It means when you finally bring Max in to see me, I will have to wait a week before starting him on something more effective (to wash out the riskier, less effective medication). We as veterinarians have seen way too many bad outcomes to justify the use of over the counter medications, and honestly they don’t seem to work very well.
I think you all know me well enough to know that I am not one to spread fear or panic. I DO however want my clients to be informed to make good decisions for the health and wellbeing of your pets. My training in emergency medicine has taught me so much – but it has also taught me that these horrible side effects occur with accidental ingestion. What concerns me is that people are giving out advice on the web leading to dosing dogs with inappropriate medications. They feel terrible for having put their pets at risk and then we need to do testing and stomach protectants while we wait to make sure the pet is okay. Please please please reach out with any questions. If you cannot get a hold of me or my staff, just wait before giving medications.
You CAN use the web to inform yourself, and this is helpful to let you know what questions to ask me – my recommendation is to stick to the veterinary school websites like UC Davis – they are not controlled by drug companies, they don’t operate on ‘click-bait’, and they have teams of veterinarians who are driven by the greater good. I try to post helpful links on our website here:
You CAN cold pack or ice an injury (as long as it is comfortable to the back of your hand). You CAN restrict movement by keeping them in a crate or a small room. You CAN reduce exercise to bathroom breaks on a 6 foot leash only. You CAN call our office – to determine what the next best step is for you and your lovely pet.
As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Stay safe, and in love and health,
Dr. Jenna Cooper