Pet Ownership in the U.S.
The American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports 62 percent of American households have at least one pet. By far, the most popular pets are dogs and cats. More than 45 million households own a dog and more than 38 million own a cat (compared to 6 million with a bird and just over 5 million with some type of small animal).
For many people, pets are considered to be members of the family. Many dogs and cats are lavishly pampered with toys, treats, special beds and, for some, coats, blankets, designer collars and other “dress-up” accessories. Last year, the APPA estimated Americans would spend $47.7 billion on their pets.
Medicating Our Pets
Many people treat their pets as if they were human. But when it comes to medicating their animals, pet owners need to take some precautions. Although the FDA allows some human prescription medications to be used in animals, not all human drugs are safe. In fact, in 2007, the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center received more than 89,000 calls related to accidental ingestion of people medications by pets. The top ten drugs most reported to the call line include:
- NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen or naproxen
- Methylphenidate (a drug often used to treat ADHD)
- Fluorouracil (an anti-cancer medication)
- Isoniazid (used to treat TB)
- Pseudoephedrine (a decongestant)
- Oral diabetes medications
- Vitamin D derivatives
- Baclofen (a muscle relaxant sometimes used to treat spasticity)
Manuel Sanchez, D.V.M., Veterinarian with Freeport Veterinary Clinic, in Freeport, TX, says some over-the-counter (OTC) products meant for humans are safe to use for pets. However, he cautions that a veterinarian should be consulted first, since some OTC products (like acetaminophen and ibuprofen) are extremely toxic to pets. In addition, dosing can vary greatly, based on the animal’s size and overall health.
In general, here are some oral drugs that are considered safe for many pets:
- Antacid - PEPCID®
- Anti-diarrhea - Imodium®, Kaopectate® or Pepto Bismol®
- Antihistamine - Benadryl®
- Pain relief - baby aspirin (dogs only, aspirin is NOT recommended for cats)
Minor cuts and scrapes can be treated with small amounts of topical hydrocortisone or NEOSPORIN®. Sanchez says these products are safe even if an animal licks them off. For relief of nasal congestion, try a saline nasal spray. If you have any questions about using a human over-the-counter product, or if your pet doesn’t get better (or the symptoms get worse), call your veterinarian for advice.
AUDIENCE INQUIRYConsult your veterinarian before giving your pet any over-the-counter medications made for humans.
For general information on pet health: ASPCA, http://www.aspca.org
BIBLIOGRAPHY“FDA Published Final Rule on Extralabel Drug Use in Animals,” CVM Updates, Rockville: Food and Drug Administration, November 12, 1996, http://www.fda.gov
Langston, Cory, and Cyril Clarke, “The Role of the Clinical Pharmacologist in Animal Health,” AAPS PharmSci, 2002, Vol. 4, No. 4, p. E36.
Lust, Elaine Blythe, Pharm.D., “A Lecture about Pharmaceuticals Used in Animal Patients,” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 2009, Vol. 73, No. 7, p. 116.