Popular pills and what to do if your pet eats them

May 25, 2011|By Jill Rosen | Baltimore Sun

There's little scarier than the thought of a pet ingesting some of your prescription medicine. I take Zyrtech (not prescription) and whenever I drop one of the little buggers, I pounce on the bouncing little pill like a maniac, before a furry one can pop it into its mouth.

Well, the Pet Poison Helpline just released some helpful info about what would happen (and what you should do) if a pet eats some of what are the top five most popular drugs in the country: Lipitor, Nexium, Plavix, Advair Diskus and Abilify.

"Nearly half of the calls we receive are for pets that have accidentally ingested human medications," Dr. Justine Lee, the associate director of Veterinary Services at Pet Poison Helpline said in a statement. "Recognizing the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. and how they affect pets can help pet owners be more cognizant of potential dangers associated with these drugs."

Some drugs cause only minor symptoms and some can be potentially life threatening. Here is exactly what the helpline has to say about each of the Top 5 meds:

Lipitor: Used to reduce cholesterol levels. When pets get into it, only mild side effects are seen, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Lipitor is not considered to have high toxicity levels for pets.

Nexium: It is an anti-ulcer medication and proton-pump inhibitor that results in decreased gastric acid secretion. While it is utilized in veterinary medicine for some pets, mild side effects can include vomiting and diarrhea. Pet owners of dogs or cats that get into this drug should watch their pet closely, but not be alarmed since symptoms will generally subside on their own.

Plavix: A drug that affects platelets in humans, inhibiting clot formation and reducing the risk of stroke. When pets get into Plavix, it has a wide margin of safety and generally is not considered to be acutely toxic. Only mild vomiting or diarrhea.

Advair Diskus: Often used for treating asthma and administered through an inhaler. Because inhalers contain many doses, dogs that chew into them are exposed to massive amounts of the drug. This often results in heart arrhythmias, an elevated heart rate, agitation, vomiting and even acute collapse. Severe electrolyte abnormalities such as very low potassium levels are likely and can be life-threatening without immediate veterinary treatment.

Abilify: Used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and clinical depression. It is important to keep this drug out of the reach of pets, as ingestion can result in profound lethargy, vomiting, hyperthermia, significant changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and seizures. If a pet ingests this drug, immediate veterinary attention is needed.

The helpline advises people to keep human meds away from pet meds -- apparently accidentally mixing them up is common. They advise against pill boxes -- which can seem like rattle toys to dogs and cats and putting meds into plastic baggies which can be easily chewed through.

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