Many pet owners do not suspect that they are storing dangerous items in their homes. Some items that owners are least likely to consider harmful for pets are human medications, but if you feed your pet your painkiller, for example, you are hurting rather than helping. Also, curious dogs and cats who eat your pills that you dropped or from a bottle left open can suffer dire consequences.

At the Animal Clinic of Council Bluffs, our unwavering mission is to ensure your cherished pet stays happy and lives a long, healthy life. We are providing this guide that explains the dangers of specific human medications for pets. 

First and foremost—never administer any medication to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian.

Here is a list of commonly used human medications that you must never administer to your pet. 

Painkillers that do not kill your pet’s pain include:

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) — These over-the-counter medications, commonly known as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin, can be lethal for dogs and cats who swallow only a single tablet. Your pet’s body is different from a human’s in that they lack the necessary enzymes to process these drugs, which can lead to severe stomach ulcers, potentially life-threatening kidney failure, and liver damage.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) — This pain reliever is particularly toxic to cats, affecting their red blood cells and liver function. Only a small dose can be fatal since pets are unable to metabolize the drug properly. Tylenol is dangerous in all forms.

Mood-altering drugs for humans alter your pet’s mood in an alarming fashion

These include: 

  • Antidepressants — Medications like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil) are essential for many humans, but in dogs and cats, they can trigger a cascade of alarming symptoms. Ingestion can lead to tremors, seizures, and sometimes coma.
  • Anti-anxiety medications — Alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and clonazepam (Klonopin) help manage anxiety in humans but can have the opposite effect in cats and dogs. These medications can induce lethargy, difficulty breathing, and coma.
  • ADHD medications — Stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall) are crucial for managing ADHD in humans but can be extremely dangerous for dogs and cats, causing hyperthermia (i.e., abnormally high body temperature) and life-threatening situations such as seizures and cardiac issues.

Take this to heartheart and blood pressure medications put dogs and cats at great risk

Medications include:

  • Beta-blockers — Propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin) help regulate heart rate and blood pressure in humans, but they can create a delicate imbalance in dogs and cats. Ingestion can cause dangerously low heart rates and weakness, putting their cardiovascular health at risk.
  • ACE inhibitors — Medications like enalapril (Vasotec) and lisinopril (Zestril) are vital for managing heart and blood pressure issues in humans,but can have devastating consequences for pets, because they can lead to dangerously low blood pressure, kidney failure, and death, if ingested.
  • Diuretics — Furosemide (Lasix) and hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) help manage fluid buildup in humans, but they disrupt your pet’s essential electrolyte balance. Ingestion can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and kidney failure.

Other harmful medications for pets

The list may already seem long, but many other human drugs that do not fall into a specific category also can harm your pet. They include:

  • Birth control pills — These medications, which contain estrogen and progestin, are crucial for human reproductive health, but they can wreak havoc on your pet’s hormonal system. Ingestion can trigger hormonal imbalances, uterine infections, and mammary tumors.
  • Thyroid medications — Levothyroxine (Synthroid) regulates thyroid function in humans, but can create an overactive thyroid in dogs and cats. This condition (i.e., hyperthyroidism) can manifest in pets as vomiting, diarrhea, and heart problems.
  • Cough and cold medications: Decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) help clear nasal passages in humans, but they can put dogs and cats at significant risk for elevated blood pressure and seizures.
  • Sleeping pills —Zolpidem (Ambien) and Zaleplon (Sonata) help regulate sleep in humans but can induce a dangerous state of drowsiness in pets. Ingestion can lead to incoordination, difficulty breathing, and respiratory depression, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. 
  • Medical marijuana — Animals lack the necessary enzymes to metabolize THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, which can lead to severe intoxication and death in pets. Any form of marijuana, including edibles, oils, or smoked flowers, puts pets in danger.

Protect your pet

Ensure your human medications are used only by humans and take care to keep them out of your pet’s mouth.

  • Store securely — Ensure all medications are kept out of your pet’s reach in pet-proof medication containers, locked cabinets, or on high shelves. 
  • Dispose of pills properly — Never leave unused medications lying around or dispose of them carelessly. Take advantage of your local pharmacy’s medication take-back programs to ensure safe and responsible disposal.
  • Be vigilant — If you drop a pill, search for it right away and ensure your pet hasn’t consumed it. Pill organizers help track dosages and minimize the risk of accidental spills. 
  • Know poisoning signs — Early intervention is crucial in pet poisoning cases, so you must be familiar with the signs, which include:
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Lethargy
    • Seizures
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Abnormal behavior 

Again, never medicate your pet—with human or any other medication—without consulting with your veterinarian, and always contact them immediately if you suspect poisoning in your pet. 

If you have any questions or concerns about medications and their potential dangers to your dog or cat, contact the Animal Clinic of Council Bluffs. We are here to help.