Aside from thinking that what works for you might also work for your pet, sharing your medication would circumvent the expense of consulting with your veterinarian and the cost of pet medication. In today's economy, saving money is essential -- but not if there is risk of harm.
Human Medications Are Harmful to Pets
In 2007, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center handled more than 130,000 cases with 89,000 of the calls related to pets ingesting prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The medications included pain medications, cold medications and antidepressants.
The majority of those events likely occurred because well-intentioned pet owners gave their dog or cat medication that was actually prescribed for humans. Pets also can accidentally gain access to drugs by knocking pill bottles off of nightstands, getting into drawers, or finding pills on the floor that have been dropped.
Medications That Can Harm Pets
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including aspirin), acetaminophen, antidepressants, and vitamin D derivatives all can be found in the homes of arthritis patients and are commonly used by osteoarthritis patients. Each of those can be toxic if ingested by your pets.
NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen, naproxen, Advil, Aleve, and Celebrex, can cause major problems for pets, even in small doses. NSAIDs can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers in pets -- and kidney damage in cats.
Acetaminophen can damage red blood cells and interfere with their function of transporting oxygen in cats. The medication can cause liver damage in dogs, and at high doses, also damage red blood cells.
Antidepressants can lead to vomiting and lethargy in your pet. Certain types of antidepressants can cause serotonin syndrome which is a condition associated with agitation, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Vitamin D derivatives can cause serious, life-threatening increases in the blood calcium of your pet. Vomiting, loss of appetite, and kidney failure are signs but they may not occur until hours after ingestion.
The medications mentioned here have been used as examples because they are commonly kept in households to relieve pain and treat arthritis. Even vitamin D has become a popular supplement. But many other types of medication can cause similar problems in pets.
The Bottom Line
Pets do not metabolize medications the same way as humans. It's inappropriate to guess at a dose adjustment. By doing so, you risk serious and possibly fatal consequences. The ASPCA warns: "Many drugs that are beneficial to humans can be harmful or even deadly for pets. We strongly urge you to never give your pet any medication without first speaking with his or her regular veterinarian."
Be prepared in case of accidental poisoning too. Keep the phone number of your veterinarian handy, as well as the phone number and directions to the nearest emergency animal hospital.
Animal Poison Control FAQ. ASPCA. Accessed 7/10/11.
Top 10 Human Medications That Poison Our Pets. ASPCA. Accessed 7/10/11.