Arun Veterinary Group

How safe are human painkillers?

Human painkillers

If you see that your dog or cat has hurt themselves, you might think that you should give them a painkiller in order to ease their discomfort. Did you know that human painkillers are very dangerous for cats and dogs? Although these drugs are safe for people to use, they are poisonous for your pets.

There have been many tragic cases of well-meaning pet owners who have given human medications to their pets and unwittingly killed them. According to a case reported in the Telegraph in 2004, a cat owner had given a liquid fever medication to a litter of kittens who were suffering from cat flu. The mouths of the kittens turned blue and they began gasping for breath. The paracetamol in the fever product was inhibiting the cats’ metabolisms from taking up oxygen properly and all but one of the litter died.

Although owners mean well using human medications on animals is very dangerous. You must always check what you are using is not toxic to your pet. What is safe for a human will not necessarily be safe for a dog or a cat. Their bodies are different to ours and the levels of drugs in our products can be toxic to their systems. It is important for pet owners to understand that they should never administer their own treatments to pets and they should always use a medication that has been recommended by a vet and designed for animals. In addition, you should not use a pain killer on a cat that is meant for a dog, or vice versa.

Why Are Painkillers Poisonous for Pets?

Popular drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen are toxic for both dogs and cats. These drugs are all grouped together and known as NSAIDs, which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Poisoning with these drugs is a common problem, because owners frequently try to administer drugs that they use on themselves on their pets. Another reason is pets sometimes get into medicine cabinets and eat the medication thinking it is food. Another common reason is when a dog or a cat requires long term pain medication their owner believes they can replace the pet’s medicatiom with the human version if they run out.

The reason why painkillers are toxic in dogs is because they have a substance in their body called prostaglandins. These are complex molecules which have a role in protecting the internal organs. However, drugs such as ibuprofen will stop prostaglandin production, which can damage the organs.

When a pet ingests even small dosages of an NSAID it can cause vomiting, bloody vomit, severe stomach ulcers, diarrhoea, weakness, black and tarry stool, pale gums, lethargy, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. If your pet ingests a larger amount they can develop kidney failure, liver failure, seizures, tremors and halitosis.

There are lots of different brand names of painkillers that are dangerous for pets. These include Calprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac, Nurofen, Ibugel and Rimafen. These are only a few but give an idea of how many human painkillers are dangerous for pets. The active ingredient will always be written on the packaging, but to be safe you should never give a painkiller that is designed for humans to your pet.

If your cat or dog has ingested any human painkillers, you should contact us immediately.

How to Protect Your Pet from Human Painkiller Poisoning?

It is crucial to never give your pet a human painkiller. If we have prescribed a painkiller for a pet with a long term health issue only that variety of painkiller should be used as it will have been tested by the drug company to ensure that it is safe for use on your pet.
Always keep your painkillers in a locked cabinet that is high up so that your pet cannot reach it and get into it. Don’t leave pills lying around anywhere that a curious pet could find them.

Signs and Symptoms of Poisoning

How do you know when your pet has been poisoned? If your dog has had access your medication, you will usually find a box or an empty container that has been torn apart. You might also see capsules or pills in your dog or cat’s vomit. If the drug was a liquid it will be more difficult to spot the drug in the vomit.
Here are some of the symptoms that you should look for:

Jaundice (yellow colour to the skin and eyes, caused by liver damage)
Difficulty breathing
Hypothermia or a significantly reduced body temperature
Brownish-grey coloured gums
The animal in a coma like state

If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms it is very important to contact us immediately. We will likely try to induce vomiting which is the ideal choice of treatment if it is within three hours since your pet ingested the drugs. Make sure that you tell us the type of drug your pet has eaten as this will help to determine the best course of treatment.
However, if your pet ate the painkillers more than three hours ago they will have already begun to be absorbed into the body. At this stage there is a need to protect the intestines and kidneys. We may admit your pet and place them on a drip to help protect the kidneys and maintain a healthy blood pressure. We may also administer a gastric protectant medicine to safeguard the intestines.

Please contact the surgey if you have any concerns or would like to discuss your pets medication further.

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