Household Medications That Are Safe (or Not) to Give Your Pet
As a pet owner, it’s sometimes necessary to give your pet immediate relief from pain or a minor illness, and you may be tempted to give it human medications. You want to help your furry friend in every way you know how and in every way you can. Before you give it what you would take, here are medications that are safe to give to your pet and some you should NEVER give it. To find out the dosage, call your veterinarian because most drugs require a much lower dosage than humans need. Always consult your vet before treating your pet yourself.
Medicines you CAN give your pets
Buffered aspirin includes an ingredient to reduce the acid in your stomach and is completely different from regular aspirin. Before you give aspirin to your cat or dog, be sure it’s buffered. It’s used to treat pain and as an anti-inflammatory medication.
Benadryl is a standard medication given to both dogs and cats in small doses. It’s used to treat itching or allergic reactions, but it also works as a motion sickness remedy by preventing the impulses which cause a pet to vomit. Keep in mind that some pets may become hyperactive after taking Benadryl.
While Dramamine may be used on both dogs and cats, many vets don't recommend ingestion by cats as there are better alternatives. This medication is used to prevent motion sickness and to keep pets from moving, especially after surgery. Some pets may experience dry mouth while on Dramamine, so have water nearby.
Hydrogen Peroxide 3%
Hydrogen peroxide is a topical antiseptic used on both dogs and cats. If your pet gets a scratch or a wound, it’s safe to clean the injury with hydrogen peroxide 3%. This medicine is also used as an emetic, meaning it causes vomiting. You should never give your pet hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting without contacting a veterinarian first.
Imodium AD is used in dogs to treat mild diarrhea, whether in tablet or liquid form. This drug is not recommended for use on cats. It’s important to note that if your dog shows a loss of appetite, frequent vomiting, and signs of abdominal pain, you should take it to the vet immediately. Be sure to read the ingredients carefully, as some Imodium may contain aspirin.
Bismuth subsalicylate is not recommended for cats but can be used safely on dogs in low doses to treat diarrhea, gas, and vomiting. It’s important to read the label carefully before giving your pet this medication, as not all bismuth subsalicylate products have the same ingredients. Read the label to be sure the active ingredient is only bismuth subsalicylate, and check with your vet about the strength and dosage needed for your dog.
Kaopectate may also be called “kaolin” or “pectin.” This medicine, when given in small doses, can be safely used to treat diarrhea in both dogs and cats. It should only be used for one to two days because if diarrhea lasts more than 48 hours you should see a vet immediately. Read the label carefully to be sure it doesn’t contain bismuth subsalicylate before administering it to your cat. Dogs can consume bismuth subsalicylate but cats cannot, and it’s advised not to give your dog unnecessary medication.
Medicines you CANNOT give your pets
Acetaminophen is in many common pain relievers such as Tylenol and Excedrin. It may also be in some cold medications. This drug is unsafe for both dogs and cats. Animals that ingest acetaminophen can end up with liver or red blood cell damage.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include medications such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. You may also know this type of medicine as ibuprofen, or in Aleve’s case, naproxen. NSAIDS are pain relievers but harm both cats and dogs (aspirin is also an NSAID, but buffered aspirin is safe for pets). NSAIDs metabolize slowly and can cause ulcers in the digestive tract, which may result in bloody stool, increased thirst, stomach upset, and seizures.
Pseudoephedrine is commonly found in cold medicines to prevent congestion and is the active ingredient in Tylenol Cold, Sudafed, and Nyquil. Most states require you to show identification to a pharmacist or have a prescription to purchase it, so it's difficult (but not impossible) to accidently feed it to your pet. Since pseudoephedrine is a stimulant, it can raise your pet’s heart rate, rapidly raise its body temperature, and also cause seizures.
Giving your pet caffeine is never a good idea, no matter how tired it seems or how longingly it looks at your chocolate or coffee. For both cats and dogs, caffeine can be life threatening and cause restlessness, vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures, and death. Avoid giving your pet or allowing it to consume caffeine in any amount.