Medication Safety for Pets

October 29, 2012

Last winter, in recognition of National Poison Prevention week, I wrote about how an unusual treatment used at The Animal Medical Center saved the life of Sadie, a dog who had ingested a bottle of ibuprofen.

Not all pets that accidentally ingest medications are as lucky as Sadie. The handsome Cane Corso, Agusto, shown here, died from accidental ingestion of grandpa’s drugs.

To spare your family the heartbreak of an accidental pet death, here are my tips on keeping the family pets safe from medications.

1. Childproof does not mean pet proof

Despite the fact that you cannot pry a prescription bottle open with your own two hands, I guarantee between their teeth and nails, your pet will be able to open a bottle in only a few seconds. Don’t count on the safety lid to protect your pet; keep medications stored in a pet proof area.

2. Pet proof storage

Your dresser, the nightstand, and the bathroom counter are not pet proof areas. If you have a curious kitty, be sure medications are kept in a cabinet with a tight latch. Try the childproofing aisle in your local hardware store for ideas on how to prevent unauthorized cabinet entry by your pets.

3. Don’t shake, rattle or roll

Shaking a pill bottle to get your pet’s attention or giving your pet a treat after they come for the rattle of pills in the container will make your pet very interested in the pill bottles. Promote safe behavior and clicker train your pet instead of using a pill bottle.

4. Team approach to toxicity

If you have more than one pet, keep in mind they may take a team approach when getting into the medication stash. For example, the pill bottles on your dresser are quickly knocked down by your agile cat and can find their way into the jaws of your clever dog. Once the bottle is opened everyone can help themselves to the surprise inside.

5. Worry about purses and backpacks

Granny is likely to have a pocketbook full of little boxes and vials of medications. When she comes to visit, keep her handbag hidden from your cat or dog to prevent them from popping open one of her containers and testing the pills.

6. Travel disaster

We all love to take our pets everywhere we go, but your friends and family may not have their homes pet proofed. Scout out their counters, nightstands and dressers for dangerous bottles of medication. Confine your dog in their crate or stroller if the home is filled with dangerous medications. For the traveling cat, consider a kitten playpen.

7. Keep important phone numbers handy

  • Your veterinarian
  • The closest animal ER
  • Pet Poison Hotline, 800-213-6680
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control, 888-426-4435

Managing your Pet’s Medications: The Importance of Compliance

August 22, 2011

On a daily basis, the veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center prescribe pills, capsules and tablets to cure, control and prevent diseases. We have pockets full of prescribing information, access dosing online and carefully follow guidelines to use medications safely and wisely.

Correct prescribing by the veterinarian is critical to medication success, but the other half, administering medications as prescribed is equally important. Pet owners, upset by the illness of their pet often misunderstand directions or adjust medication dosing without consulting their pet’s veterinary healthcare team. If you think no one would do this, here is summary of this week’s medication conversations.

Becky
Poor Becky had major dental surgery this week, including eight extractions and resulting in a prescription for pain medications. Becky, a dachshund, belongs to an employee of The AMC and I stopped by her office the next day to check on the dog. It just happened to be medication time and Becky’s owner was worried Becky was painful (highly likely given eight extractions) and she though she would give only half the prescribed dose of pain medications. I reassured her the amount prescribed had been carefully calculated for Becky’s size and pain level and that the entire dose should be given.

Montana
Montana is getting chemotherapy and also some antinausea pills. When I reviewed his prescriptions, his owner reported she was giving half a pill twice daily rather than one pill once daily. She thought the antinausea effect would last longer if she gave the pill more often. The problem with this logic is the antinausea medicine stays around a long time, hence the once a day dosing recommended by the manufacturer. By giving half a dose, Montana may not have gotten a high enough level of antinausea medicine in the bloodstream to have a full effect.

Harvey
Finally, there’s Harvey and his chemo pills. He started a new regimen and I called a couple days later to see how it was going. Harvey felt great. I should have listened to my inner doctor voice saying, “Hmm, seems too good to be true.” Turns out his owner made an honest mistake, misread the label and was giving only one pill instead of two. Now he is on the correct dosage and is feeling better than ever since his tumor is shrinking.

Medication Pointers

  • Read the label. Read it again and if you have questions, call your veterinarian’s office.
  • Give the medication as prescribed on the label. Don’t adjust the amount, frequency or duration of administration without talking to your veterinarian.
  • If you are having trouble administering medications, stop by your veterinarian’s office for a lesson in administration.
  • If the medication schedule does not fit with your schedule, ask your veterinarian if there is an alternative drug with a different schedule.
  • If your pet won’t take a pill, ask if the medication comes in a liquid or can be formulated into a liquid to ease administration.
  • If you think your pet is having a bad reaction to the medication, stop the medication and call your veterinarian immediately. For after hours trips to the animal ER, be sure to take all the medications with you and show them to the ER staff.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Flea & Tick Treatments: Are They Safe or Not?

June 15, 2009

You may have heard or read recent media reports about pet owners who believe their animals have experienced harmful side effects from the use of “spot on” or “top spot” flea and tick preventatives. In fact, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal states that “the number of incidents reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency which regulates these pet treatments has increased 53% over the past year.”

frontline-applicationThis statistic came from a statement issued on April 16, 2009 by the Environmental Protection Agency announcing an increase in adverse event reports associated with application of EPA approved spot on flea and tick preventatives. The statement suggests that  The EPA will be intensifying its evaluation of all approved spot on products and issued an consumer advisory.

Does this mean you should stop administering the preventative to your dog or cat? Not at all, but it does mean you need to do some legwork to be your pet’s best healthcare advocate.

First, scrutinize the data. If product A has 100 adverse events reported and product B has ten adverse events reported, does that mean product A is ten times more likely to cause an adverse event than product B? Not necessarily.  The answer depends on how many doses of both products have been administered. If 100,000 doses of product A have been administered, it has an adverse reaction rate of 0.1%. If 10,000 doses of product B have been administered, it has an equal adverse reaction rate of 0.1%. 

cat-scratchingSecond, talk to your veterinarian. Have a conversation about the risks in your community of fleas and ticks carrying an infection. An urban, apartment-dwelling pet is not very likely to get ticks, but fleas can easily be transmitted in a carpeted apartment building hallway.  During this discussion, you and your veterinarian can choose the preventative for the pests most likely to affect your pet.  Your veterinarian will also know which flea and tick preventatives work best in your neighborhood. 

Finally, successful use of any medication requires you to follow the manufacturers guidelines and flea and tick preventatives are no different. In fact, the EPA reports the majority of adverse event occur because the pet owner does not follow the manufacturer’s guideline for use of the products. These guidelines are developed with your pet’s health and safety in mind.

This announcement involves only the spot on flea and tick preventatives under the jurisdiction of the EPA. Some flea and tick products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. For additional information and a list of EPA regulated products, visit these sites:
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/prodname-reg.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/flea-tick-control.html

The EPA suggests the following resources:
• The National Pesticide Information Center has collated information for consumers in the Least Toxic Pest Control Guide
• Less-Toxic Product List, a resource guide by Our Water, Our World

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts.  Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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