Think twice before treating pets with over-the-counter medication

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019


K9 Corner

I’ve been asked if I would write a column on self-medicating pets with over-the-counter products. Since it has been two years since I wrote about this subject, I said yes, because it is important for all pet owners to be very careful about giving animals medication.

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In the past, I have given several examples of pet caregivers doctoring their animals with over-the-counter medicines and even one person who doctored her new, scared dog with her prescription drug. Repeating these examples might enlighten new owners on the seriousness of these actions.

One woman nearly killed her pet by treating it with a flea product. She didn’t want fleas in the house (who does?) so if a little flea treatment would kill the fleas, a stronger solution would make sure the dog would be flea free. When the dog collapsed in the tub and started shaking, the family called me and I told them to rinse the dog thoroughly — a number of minutes — and if the dog had not responded, to get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Remember to read the label on the container before using and follow the directions carefully, you are using a poison when you use a flea killing substance.

One friend of mine back in the early 1960’s thought that if her prescription drug helped her, it would help her dog. Please, please never think that, it is a disaster waiting to happen. When the drug caused a reaction, I was asked if I would keep him overnight since she “couldn’t stand to see him suffer,” but she couldn’t afford to take him to the clinic. Fortunately he was a tough little character and survived, but the woman learned the hard way that her prescription medication is meant for the human and the dosage is formulated for a human’s size and age.

Further, do not give your dog aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen or any other over-the-counter pain or anti-inflammatory drugs without your veterinarian’s approval. The same goes for laxatives, anti-vomiting and anti-diarrhea medications. They are usually in doses for adult humans and any of these drugs can kill your pet if it is overdosed.

Remember, the majority of dogs are about one-half to one-third the weight of a normal adult human. Some dogs, like my papillon who weighs only a little over five pounds, could die if she got any medication formulated for an adult human.

Grooming products especially formulated for dogs and/or cats are the best for the animals since their skins are more sensitive than humans. Also do not use toothpaste formulated for humans. Dogs are inclined to swallow while you are brushing their teeth and they may vomit if you use foaming toothpaste formulated for humans.

A word about cats: besides being smaller than most dogs, these pets are especially sensitive to over-the-counter products. It is even more important to check with your veterinarian or your groomer before purchasing medical or grooming products. Be alert for allergic reactions to shampoos or other grooming products.