Medical Care

Are Your Pet's Medicines Safe?

The federal Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) receives reports of accidental medication overdoses in pets as part of the agency’s overall system for monitoring drugs used in animals. Some of these reports involve pets getting into their own medications or medications for other pets in the household. A lot of pet medications are flavored to smell and taste good—which is a positive when Princess takes her pill easily but a negative when she sniffs the pills out on her own and eats the entire supply at once. Some pets with less discriminating tastebuds will eat medications that aren’t even designed to be tasty.

Other reports of accidental overdoses involve pets getting into people medications, such as a dog eating an entire bottle of his owner’s ibuprofen. About 25 percent of all phones calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center are regarding pets that ingest medications intended for people. The center receives hundreds of calls every year involving pets that accidentally eat ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

“It just takes a second for a dog to chew open a bottle of medication left in an owner’s purse or on the counter,” said Sharon Chase, a veterinarian at FDA. “Even medications sealed in child-proof containers can be no match for a hungry dog with a keen sense of smell.”

FDA receives more reports of accidental overdoses in dogs, but the curious nature of cats and ferrets can get them into trouble too.

Help protect your pet from an accidental overdose by following these safety tips for storing pet medications:

Keep pet medications in their original containers with intact labels. It’s important that the directions for use and the pet’s name are legible.

Keep pet medications in a secure location. What you may think is “out of reach” of your pet may, in fact, not be. Cats are good jumpers and ferrets are good climbers, so kitchen and bathroom counters, shelves, and other high places may not be secure enough. And a determined dog with a good nose can devise clever ways to reach that pill vial at the back of the cabinet, especially if the medication is flavored.

Also, medication containers that are child safe may not be pet safe. Pets are known to chew through a variety of medication containers, including plastic pill vials, boxes, and blister packages.

Keep pet medications away from children. Children may think a pet medication is candy, especially a chewable or liquid product. Some liquid pet medications are made to smell like banana or strawberry and may be especially attractive to children.