My Dog Swallowed My Medicine – What Do I Do?
Prescription medications are found in millions of households. Your dog can be exposed to and even ingest some of these medications. Many drugs can be toxic for dogs, resulting in severe illness or even death. If ingestion occurs, prompt treatment can be crucial in preventing serious illness.
What to Do if Your Dog Swallowed Your Medicine
If you witness ingestion of a medication, do the following:
- Call your veterinarian, local emergency facility, or animal poison control hotline.
- Be prepared to provide information about the medication. They will want the name of the medication, milligram strength, how many tablets were ingested, and the time when ingestion occurred.
- Provide information about your dog. Critical information includes their weight, a description of any abnormal symptoms they’re displaying, underlying health problems, and any prescription medications they’re currently receiving.
- Follow their instructions. Without proper care, some medications can result in devastating illness or death. Don’t try to treat your pet at home.
- If ingestion was witnessed, the first recommendation may be to induce vomiting to remove any residual medication. After your pet has vomited, you may be instructed to seek medical care, as some medication may have been absorbed into the body and can have serious or even life-threatening effects on dogs or cats.
Commonly-Ingested Human Medications
Some of the most commonly-ingested medications for pets are:
- Anticoagulant medications (Coumadin and Eliquis)
- Antidepressants (Zoloft and Prozac)
- Antihistamines (Claritin)
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (Aspirin and Naproxen)
- Behavior modifiers (Ritalin)
- Blood pressure medicine (Norvasc)
- Cholesterol-controlling medications (Lipitor)
- Diabetic medications (Metformin)
- Over-the-counter pain medications (Acetaminophen)
- Prescription pain medications (Hydrocodone and Oxycodone)
- Respiratory inhalers (Albuterol)
- Sleep medications (Ambien and Valium)
These medications may affect your dog in the following ways:
Anticoagulant drugs, commonly known as blood thinners, are common prescription medications prescribed to people with a history of stroke or heart disease. Ingestion can cause life-threatening bleeding. Signs vary based in where the bleeding develops, such as bruising on the skin, bleeding from the gums, bloody urine, collapse, or trouble breathing if the bleeding is into a body cavity.
Ingestion of antidepressant drugs can cause several different symptoms that depend on the specific drug. Symptoms can begin in 15 to 20 minutes and include agitation, nervousness, tremors, vomiting, trouble walking, collapse, coma, and even death.
Some antihistamines can be used therapeutically in dogs, but when ingested can cause toxicity. Symptoms of toxicity include behavioral problems like agitation or aggression, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, seizures, and death.
There are various anti-inflammatory drugs on the market including aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and prednisone. These drugs can cause gastrointestinal side effects such as vomiting, ulcerations, kidney damage, and liver disease.
Medications used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) contain amphetamines, which can cause symptoms like restlessness, pacing, tremors, seizures, increased body temperature, and death in as little as 15 minutes.
Blood Pressure Medicine
Blood pressure medications, such as drugs in the class of beta blockers or ACE inhibitors, can cause alterations in heart rate and blood pressure. Symptoms may include lethargy, weakness, trouble walking, collapse, coma, and death.
This commonly-prescribed class of medication is not very dangerous for dogs, but its toxicity depends on the dose ingested. The most common side effects are diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive gas.
Medications for diabetes work to lower blood sugar, and symptoms of ingestion include lethargy, weakness, tremors, seizures, and possibly death.
Over-The-Counter Pain Medications
Tylenol is very common and sold in both over-the-counter and prescription formulations. Ingestion of high doses can cause anorexia, vomiting, lethargy, and damage to the liver.
Prescription Pain Medications
Symptoms of some narcotic medications include sedation, stumbling, slower respiratory rates, and respiratory arrest. Ingestion can even lead to death.
Dogs access inhalers by knocking them off counters or getting them out of purses. They can puncture the canister with their teeth, causing immediate exposure to the entire contents of the bottle. Symptoms include agitation, restlessness, panting, vomiting, elevated heart rates, and death.
Medications prescribed for sleep can cause lethargy, weakness, stumbling, trouble walking, and depression.
Final Thoughts for Concerned Pet Parents
Side effects of human medication intoxication are dependent on the specific medication, dose ingested, and size of your dog. If you did not witness ingestion, but have evidence that your dog may have ingested medication (missing tablets, chewed prescription bottle), contact your veterinarian immediately. Based on the medication ingested and signs of illness, you may be instructed to seek medical care. If your dog is not yet showing any signs of illness, you may be given a list of signs to look for and instructed to observe your dog for a period of time. Don’t assume that just because a medication isn’t dangerous for you, that it isn’t dangerous for your dog.