Over-the-Counter Medications

Venier portrait by Dr. Tracy Venier Over-the-counter medications are so commonly used by people for anything from allergy and pain relief to upset stomachs, diarrhea and constipation, but are they safe for our pets? While there are some “safe” OTC medications that can be administered to our dogs and cats, there are also many that can be ineffective and more importantly dangerous. Did your dog play a little too rough or seems sore after going on that long hike with you? You noticed that your kitty seems to be favoring one of his legs? What to do now? While it may be tempting to reach into our medicine cabinets for some Ibuprofen (an NSAID) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) just like you would take for aches and pains, these are two of the most common pet poisons. Aspirin, once commonly recommended by Veterinarians is now on the “do not give” list of OTC medications as it had been found to potentially cause gastrointestinal (GI) ulcerations, bleeding or even kidney failure. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) also potentially toxic to our canine companions can be lethal if ingested by cats. Even Pepto-Bismol which can be tempting to use for stomach upset and diarrhea contains bismuth salicylate which is similar to aspirin and can also cause toxicity in dogs and cats. While most pain medications (NSAIDs and Tylenol) and most medications that are ingested orally are the most common culprits, even some topical medications can be problematic. Allergies are a very common ailment in our dog and cat patients and rashes/hives on skin often accompany allergies. Topical creams that contain steroids should be avoided as they can potentially make certain skin conditions worse, and can be problematic if your pet is able to lick the spot where the cream was applied. Other things best to avoid are topical ear and eye medications, as many products contain additives that may not be safe, or can be alcohol based (ear cleaners) that can burn and make ears even more sensitive. Pain management, allergy relief and soothing an upset stomach are very important but it’s always best to check with your Veterinarian before administering any medication-even if it’s something you’ve used before or had left over from another pet in the house. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!