Three quarters of vets have treated pets given human medicines

78% of vets have had to treat pets that became ill after ingesting medicine for humans, research finds

More than three quarters of UK vets (78%) treated pets in 2013 that had become ill after ingesting medicines meant for humans, a survey has found.

More than a quarter (28%) of 100 veterinary practitioners surveyed by Direct Line Pet Insurance on 28-31 July 2014 had treated pets whose owners had intentionally given them human medication thinking it would benefit them, but many human medicines are toxic to animals. There were 243 reports of accidental ingestion.

The most common types of medicine ingested were painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, prescribed medicines for conditions such as heart problems or diabetes, contraceptive pills, antidepressants and sleeping tablets. The majority of animals that had ingested medicines were dogs (76%), but cases involving cats, rabbits and guinea pigs were also reported.

In the survey, vets described several cases where owners had given their pets paracetamol in the belief it would help conditions such as arthritis and limping. One cat died after its owner gave it a quarter of a paracetamol every day for its pain.

If a pet is taken to a vet within two hours of consuming human medicines, the vet may be able to induce vomiting with an injection and then feed the animal charcoal to soak up toxins. If the medicine has been in the system longer, the pet is usually given fluids to flush out the toxins, and in some cases an antidote may be required. If complications are already being experienced, the animal will then need to be admitted for intensive treatment.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 18 October 2014, Vol 293, No 7832;293(7832):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066765

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