Medicines that may seem harmless, for example ibuprofen, can be extremely dangerous for pets – even fatal.

Therefore, to help keep pets safe it’s important to educate owners on the dos and don’ts in regards to pets and medicines. After all, it’s essential that we all take as much care about medicating our pets as we would if we were taking medicine ourselves or administering it to children.

Indeed, medication errors can be as harmful for pets as they can be for humans. Likewise, pets can suffer from drug interactions, toxicity and overdose.

labrador puppy | keeping pets safe

10 medicines that are poisonous for pets

While all human medication can pose a risk to a pet’s health, there are certain medicines that are common culprits. According to the Animal Poison Control Centre in the US, the following medicines cause the most complaints.

  1. Ibuprofen – This is the most widespread human medicine ingested by pets.
  2. Tramadol – While this can be prescribed for animals, it must be taken in an appropriate dose. Incorrect dosing can cause wobbliness, disorientation, vomiting, tremors and possibly seizures.
  3. Alprazolam – This can cause wobbliness or agitation.
  4. Adderall – Effecting pets differently to humans, this can cause hyperactivity.
  5. Zolpidem – Pets commonly eat these sleeping pills off the bedside table. They can elevate a pet’s heart rate.
  6. Clonazepan – This anti-anxiety, sleep promotion medication can reduce a pet’s blood pressure, causing weakness or collapse.
  7. Acetaminophen – A common pain relief medicine, cats are particularly sensitive to this drug. It can cause damage to the liver and red blood cells.
  8. Naproxen – An OTC pain relief medicine that is very dangerous to cats and dogs, causing stomach ulcers and kidney damage.
  9. Duloxetine – This antidepressant can cause tremors and seizures in pets.
  10. Venlafaxine – If ingested, can bring on tremors, agitation and seizures in pets.

brown and white dog sitting

Protecting pets from medicines

A pet owner might think there’s no way their dog could open a medicine bottle, thanks to the handy child-safety lock. Not true. There have been cases where dogs have chewed the bottom of a medicine bottle and swallowed the contents.

So, by sharing the following advice with your clients your can help them to keep their pet safe from the dangerous effects of medicines.

Tips to help keep your clients’ pets safe:

  • Keep medicines out of pets’ reach. Be extra careful when leaving tablets, for example sleeping pills, on bedside tables.
  • Store human medicine separate from pet medicine to avoid accidentally mixing them up.
  • When handling medicines, do so over a table so that if they should spill, it’s less likely they’ll fall on the floor where a dog or cat could eat them.
  • Be careful when applying topical medicine that a pet doesn’t lick the skin.
  • If someone else, for example a pet sitter, is administering medicine to a pet, always leave clear, written instructions.
  • If a pet is prescribed a medicine patch, never leave it next to a heat source as this can enhance its absorption.
  • Do not give medicine that has been prescribed for one pet to another.
  • If a pet does ingest medicine, call a vet immediately or contact your local RSPCA.

pet safe, dog lying on floor

Common causes of medication error

According to Poison Control in the US, the FDA lists the following as the main reasons for medication errors in pets.

  • The written prescription had confusing abbreviations.
  • The wrong drug was dispensed from the pharmacy.
  • Label instructions were wrong.
  • Pet owners didn’t follow the label instructions.
  • Pets were given medicines that interact with each other.
  • Owners gave human drugs to animals without first checking with the veterinarian.

Keeping pets safe – the bottom line

Medication errors in pets happen and while it’s not always the fault of the owners, owners can take action to help keep their pets safe.

Pet professionals can remind pet owners of how common pet-related medication errors are. You can also discuss some of the measures owners can take to help reduce the risk for their pet.

In addition, you can play an important role in advising pet owners on how to appropriately administer medicine to a pet to avoid errors and ensure the animal takes the medicine in the appropriate dose.


The following two tabs change content below.
Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

Latest posts by Liz Walden (see all)