Monday, April 27, 2009

Pre-programmed disaster: People medication may kill your pet

Unfortunately pets get ill from time to time. What ever the reasons are, whether it is life long feeding the wrong diet or other circumstances, these reasons today shall not be the subject of my comment. As the headline suggests I want to go into a little different direction.
This one pet owner wrote to Dr. Michael Fox in the Palm Beach Post’s pet column the other day:
“I have a 10 year old pit bull mastiff mix. He is on a daily dose of glucosamine for his joints. On cold mornings he is really stiff. Is it ok to occasionally give him an Advil?”
Joint problems unfortunately are common with heavy large breeds like in this example bull mastiffs. That the owner wants to ease the pain is understandable and I commend her for her best intentions.
About the glucosamine: Dr. Susan Baker, D.V.M, answered another pet owner in the same column: “One glucosamine tablet will not hurt your dog. Glucosamine is a nutraceutical*. It can be purchased without a prescription at regular human pharmacies.” (Comment: Why send her to the human pharmacy? Go where she belongs for that, the pet supply store or the vet, this way she will not get tempted or talked into buying the wrong stuff.)
Dr. Baker continued: “You can think of it like a vitamin in your dog’s joints. It helps nourish and support the cartilage (sponge white stuff at the end of the bones) and joint fluid. The joint fluid is important to keep the joint moving freely. Think of your dog’s arthritic joints like a rusty hinge on a door frame. If we put grease on the rusty hinge the door will open better. Glucosamine does a similar thing to your dog’s joints. The big thing about glucosamine is that it needs to be taken at least six weeks daily to see results and then continued for life. Not all glucosamine supplements are equivalent. Stick to good quality supplements and ask your vet to recommend the right one for your pet.” (Comment: Or instead of asking your vet ask knowledgeable pet food supply store reps for their advise, it’s going to cost you a lot less money and there is a huge number of good quality products available to you without having to go the prescription route.)
Sorry I wandered away from the actual topic, but joint problems and glucosamine are a very common issue and it just offered itself to talk about it briefly. Coming back to the “Advil woman”: I could write and bring up plenty more of similar questions and inquiries. It amazes me how many pet owners are under the impression that people medicine will do the trick on their companion animals as well. It is bad enough that we live in a time where it is all too common that illness and diseases are being treated with some type of remedy rather than finding the actual cause and eliminating that. It is worse that some people even think like the mastiff owner. And these are only the pet owners wondering about what they are doing. I wonder how many are out there putting their animals on a human medication regiment without even talking about it and thinking it is totally ok. Well, here is what I read on a pet insurance company’s** website about those “treatments”:

“As pet owners, we dread seeing our furry friends suffer pain. It’s natural to want to ease your pet’s pain if he’s experiencing illness or discomfort. But before you act, you must be aware that common medications used for adults and even children can be toxic and even fatal to your pet.

In fact, animal poisoning by drugs is the most common type of small-animal poison exposure, according the American Veterinary Medical Association. This type of poisoning accounted for 75 percent of toxin exposures in 1990 and resulted in 82 fatalities.

It is always recommended that you contact your veterinarian before administering any medications to your pets. It could be the difference between life and death.

Danger Lurks in the Medicine Cabinet
While some over-the-counter medications are used to treat cats and dogs, the dose is critical, says Dr. David Reinhard, a consulting veterinarian for VPI Pet Insurance. “There is often a fine line between the effective dose and the toxic dose in cats and dogs,”

Reinhard says. Below is a list of some of the most dangerous drugs for cats and dogs.

Tylenol: Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in this pain reliever, is very toxic in cats, Reinhard warns. The drug interferes with oxygen uptake in the blood of cats and can result in death if not treated promptly. Acetaminophen (also used in Excedrin and other aspirin-free drugs) can be used in dogs, but the dose is key. Consult with your veterinarian. Acetaminophen overdose in dogs can cause severe liver damage. As few as two regular-strength pills can cause overdose in dogs.
Aspirin: This drug is also very toxic to cats except in a very low dose. At times, veterinarians will use aspirin as an anticoagulant for cats with heart disease, Reinhard says. This should only be done under a veterinarian’s supervision, as aspirin can be fatal. Dogs can tolerate this drug, and veterinarians will sometimes recommend it for use as a pain reliever. Chronic use of the drug produce side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding.
Ibuprofen: This is the active ingredient in over-the-counter medications such as Advil, Motrin and other NSAIDS such as Aleve. This drug is never recommended for cats or dogs. “There are many drugs available specifically for dogs that relieve chronic pain and loss of function from arthritis,” Reinhard says.

“There is often a fine line between the effective dose and the toxic dose in cats and dogs.”

Safe Options
There are some over-the-counter medicines that are safe to use on your pet, according to Reinhard. While these are some common medicines that can be safe for your pet, it is very important that you consult your veterinarian for dosage instructions.
Imodium: This drug can be used to treat diarrhea in dogs and cats. Collies are prone to toxicity from this product, so it shouldn’t be used to treat that particular breed. If the treatment is not effective within 48 hours, stop using it, Reinhard advises.
Metamucil: This can be used as a bulk laxative and stool softener in dogs and cats. It is also used to treat fiber responsive diarrhea. However, if your pet is suffering from an intestinal obstruction, Metamucil is not recommended.

What to Do If Your Pet Is Poisoned
If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned by a medication, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian is not available, call one of these animal poison hot lines. There is often a charge with these services, but paying a minimal fee could save your pet’s life.
As a precaution, dog owners might want to keep Ipecac syrup on hand. The drug is used to induce vomiting in case of accidental poisoning of dogs. It is not recommended for cats. Cat owners should use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide as an alternative. However, you should not induce vomiting in your pet without first consulting a veterinarian; you might do more harm than good, Reinhard says
Pets Are Different
Though we like to think of our pets as part of the family, the simple fact is, their bodies are not like ours. Medicines that we use all the time to treat pain or illness can have devastating effects on our pets. Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about any medications. Never assume a drug is safe for your pet.”

I hope this is a wake-up call for the pet owners addressed above.

*Nutraceutical, according to
Wikipedia, is “a portmanteau of nutrition and pharmaceutical, refers to extracts of foods claimed to have a medicinal effect on human health. traditionally the nutraceutical was contained in a medicinal format such as a capsule, tablet or powder in a prescribed dose, although more modern Nutraceuticals such as Probiotic drinks and yogurt are now found in ordinary supermarkets alongside normally everyday versions of the product. More rigorously, nutraceutical implies that the extract or food is demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against a chronic disease. Functional foods are defined as being consumed as part of a usual diet but are demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions.”
VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) Health Zone “Protect Your Pet from Toxic Medications - What’s Safe for You Could Be Deadly To Your Pet”

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