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The drugs don’t work

9th October 2014 Print

More than three quarters (78 per cent) of vets treated pets that have ingested human medication in the last year, a new study from Direct Line Pet Insurance reveals.

The insurer is calling on owners to be more vigilant and not expose their animals to human medication as it can cause serious illness, or even death. Of the vets surveyed, some 243 cases of accidental ingestion in the last year were reported.

Worryingly, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of vets surveyed reported cases where owners have deliberately given their pet human medication in an attempt to help them. Some vets described incidents of owners believing paracetamol will help conditions like arthritis and limping. Giving paracetamol to a cat can cause death, as they are unable to break down the medication. In one case an owner gave their cat a quarter of paracetamol every day in an attempt to stop its pain, which instead resulted in the cat dying.

Most common types of medication ingested:

Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Nurofen

Specific prescribed medications (i.e. for heart conditions or diabetes)

Contraceptive pills


Sleeping tablets

Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse at Direct Line Pet Insurance, says: “It is concerning to see so many cases of pets ingesting human medication. Human medication is extremely dangerous to pets and often results in them being treated with medication to induce vomiting or a fluid treatment, which may cause them great distress. Any procedure carries a risk for animals, so unnecessary treatments should be avoided at all costs. If you suspect that your pet has ingested human medication, it is essential that they see a vet immediately.  If you are concerned about an illness your pet has, we strongly recommend seeking veterinary advice - do not assume that a smaller dose of human medication will suffice.”

The majority (76 per cent) of cases involved dogs; however incidents involving cats, rabbits and guinea pigs were also reported.

If a dog is taken to a vet within two hours of consuming human medication, the vet may be able to induce vomiting with an injection and then feed the animal charcoal, which is used to soak up toxins. In some cases your pet may also be given an antidote to counteract the effects of the medication. If a pet is not taken within two hours, animals are usually given fluid treatment to flush out the toxins. If a pet is already suffering symptoms or complications, such as intestinal ulceration, they will need to be admitted for intensive supportive treatment and monitored very closely. One vet reported a case whereby a Husky accidentally consumed a 40 packet of Ibuprofen and was not brought to the clinic until 16 hours later, which resulted in death from liver and kidney damage.

Direct Line recommends all pet owners follow these simple steps:

Assume all human medications are poisonous to pets

Seek veterinary advice for anything involving the need for medication

Keep all medications out of reach

Read all labels carefully and follow guidelines

Have a comprehensive pet insurance policy