A huge chunk of the calls that pour into the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' (ASPCA's) Animal Poison Control Center every year involve pets poisoned by people pills. About 40 percent of the animal poison control calls—25,000 cases—revolve around pets exposed to human medications. "Pet exposures include pets eating dropped pills, owners giving the wrong medication to their pets, animals getting into pill cases or even breaking into cabinets," explains Tina Wismer, DVM, medical director at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center. "Just like with children, always store your medication where your pets cannot reach it because, unlike children, dogs will chew right through those bottles and eat whatever is inside."
Most common pills involved with poison control call complaints:
The pill: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
The problem: Ibuprofen is the most common human medication ingested by pets, thanks in part to many brands' sweet outer coating. What seems like a sweet treat to your pet could cause stomach ulcers or even kidney failure in an animal.
The pill: Tramadol (Ultram)
The problem: This powerful painkiller can be beneficial to pets, but only at doses carefully prescribed by a vet. Too much tramadol can cause sedation or agitation, wobbliness, disorientation, vomiting, tremors, and possibly seizures.
The pill: Alprazolam (Xanax)
The problem: The anti-anxiety and sleep aid prescription could cause lethargy and trouble walking for your pet, but sometimes pets suffer the reverse effect and become extremely agitated. Large doses of alprazolam could send your pet's blood pressure dropping to dangerous levels or even cause collapse.
The pill: Adderall
The problem: Adderall is a combination of four different amphetamines and is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Not meant for a pet, it causes racing heartbeat, high body temperature, hyperactivity, tremors, and seizures in animals.
The pill: Zolpidem (Ambien)
The problem: Ambien helps people sleep, so they often set it out by their bed, where pets routinely swipe pills off of owners' nightstands. Zolpidem may make cats wobbly and sleepy, but most pets become very agitated and develop elevated heart rates.
The pill: Clonazepam (Klonopin)
The problem: Used as an anticonvulsant, anti-anxiety drug, or sleep aid for people, clonazepam causes low blood pressure, fatigue, trouble walking, or collapse in pets.
The pill: Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
The problem: This popular painkiller may cause liver damage or red blood cell damage that could deprive your pet of the oxygen needed to live.
The pill: Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
The problem: This over-the-counter pain reliever may cause ulcers or kidney failure in dogs and cats.
The pill: Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is prescribed as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety agent.
The problem: When ingested by pets, duloxetine can cause agitation, vocalization, tremors, and seizures.
The pill: Venlafaxine (Effexor)
The problem: For reasons veterinarians still don't understand, cats love to eat these antidepressant capsules.
Top Tips for Protecting Your Pets
• Always keep human medications away from pets unless you are specifically instructed by a veterinarian to give the medication.
• Do not leave pills sitting on a counter or anyplace a pet can get to them.
• Do not leave pill bottles within reach of pets.
• Make sure pets aren't in the room when you're taking pills. "Dogs especially will devour anything that hits the floor, so taking pills in the bathroom or behind closed doors is the best way to avoid accidental exposure," Dr. Wismer says.
• Always contact your veterinarian if your pet has ingested any medication not prescribed for them.
• Never give your medication (or any medications prescribed for a two-legged family member) to your pet without first consulting a veterinarian.
For more information, check out Prevent Pet Poisonings: Eliminate the 10 Biggest Pet Threats in Your Home.