Wednesday, December 03, 2014

When Dogs Take Their People’s Medicine...

Occasionally, we will get calls at the hospital when dogs (puppies in particular) accidentally take their owner’s medication.  This can be dangerous depending on the medication, and the size of the pet, compounded by the fact that certain medications are metabolized differently by dogs than by people.
While most animals are not particularly interested in pills or medication, some have an odor and/or size and shape that make them curious to our dogs.  Dogs are also often interested in trying things that we consume, as sometimes they aren’t half bad! ;) 

A recent episode involved a 10 month old puppy that presented seizuring, and the owner had recently had surgery and was on a fair amount of pain medication, and lived with an elderly person who was also on a fair amount of medication.  The potential for a toxic reaction with multiple medications is even greater.  Another incident involved an owner who had her medication and the dog’s heartworm medication on the counter for the morning doses, and when she looked down to take her own, she realized she almost took the dog’s and hers was missing. It happens.  Rule of thumb should be to separate all human and pet medications during administration, as well as where we keep these medications.

It is also important to remember that dogs metabolize medication differently than we do, so even when they are prescribed medication that people take, the dose is often different.   Recently with changing state laws on the use of both medical and recreational marijuana, cannabis related products are more available.  By far the most dangerous exposure for dogs is related to accidental ingestion of an owner’s supply, or food cooked with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis.  According to Dr. Lee, a consultant for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, signs can include incontinence, low or high heart rate, respiratory depression, seizures, agitation, pneumonia and even unconsciousness.  The truth is that we do not know enough about how cannabis can affect dogs, and several dogs have died from ingesting baked goods containing THC.  According to Dr. Robert Silver, chief medical officer for a veterinary nutraceutical company, literature shows that dogs “have the same endocannabinoid receptors that let humans benefit from the therapeutic effects of cannabis,” but that “dogs have a higher concentration of these receptors in the hindbrain, which is why they develop more severe neurologic effects…”   At this time and until more research is done, we cannot safely recommend marijuana for pain relief or any other use in pets.

The point is we just don’t know enough about how many things, pharmaceutical or nutraceutical, will affect our four legged companions.  Even something that may seem very mild like green tea or green tea extracts are potentially harmful in dosages inappropriate for our pets.  So please, be careful not to share too much with your pet, even accidentally!