Believe it or not, one of the top pet poison bandits is hanging out right in our homes, probably in that medicine cabinet you last opened to find a band-aid or your daily vitamins. Yep, human meds, even those that seem totally harmless to us, can be super poisonous to our pets. Ready for a peek into the usual suspects? Here are the top ten human medications poisonous to pets, how much of this stuff we're selling each year in the U.S., and a guesstimate of the households that might unknowingly be harboring these potential pet hazards.
We often consider our homes the safest place for our pets. However, one of the leading causes of pet poisoning is often found right in our medicine cabinets. Human medications, even those seemingly benign, can pose serious health risks to our pets. Here, we take a look at the top ten human medications most poisonous to pets, how much of these are sold each year in the U.S., and an estimate of the households likely to have these medications.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are commonly used to manage pain and inflammation. Yet, they can cause serious harm to our four-legged friends, resulting in ulcers, kidney failure, and even death. Approximately 30 billion NSAID tablets are sold annually in the U.S., meaning that most households likely have these pills in the medicine cabinet (Consumer Healthcare Products Association, 2020).
Used in Tylenol and other pain relievers, acetaminophen can lead to liver failure in dogs and red blood cell damage in cats. A whopping 27 billion acetaminophen tablets are sold each year in the U.S. (Statista, 2021), and given its widespread usage, most households likely have acetaminophen-containing medication in their pet’s reach.
Medications such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, while helpful to humans, can cause neurological issues in pets like sedation, agitation, loss of coordination, and seizures. With over 36.7 million Americans using antidepressants (CDC, 2021), many households likely have these pet-harming medications.
Stimulant medications, such as Adderall and Ritalin, can cause tremors, heart problems, seizures, and potentially fatal temperature elevation in pets. The CDC estimates that 9.4% of U.S. children have an ADHD diagnosis, suggesting many households have these drugs.
Benzodiazepines and Sleep Aids
While intended to reduce anxiety and help sleep, drugs like Xanax and Ambien can have the opposite effect on pets, causing agitation, severe lethargy, and weakness. With 20% of Americans using sleep aids (CDC, 2021) and these medications being made into gummies and tasty medications, many households could have these medications, and the risk of pets getting ahold of these substances are very high.
Birth Control Pills
Ingesting large amounts of estrogen and progesterone can lead to bone marrow suppression. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that 65% of women of reproductive age use contraceptives, making these medications prevalent in many households.
Used to control blood pressure, drugs like Zestril and Altace can cause symptoms like lethargy, weakness, and very low blood pressure in pets. Approximately 103 million Americans have high blood pressure (AHA, 2021), suggesting these medications poisonous to pets are common in U.S. households.
Like ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers control blood pressure but can cause severe drops in blood pressure and heart rate in pets. About 103 million Americans have high blood pressure, making beta-blockers likely prevalent in U.S. households.
Pets ingesting thyroid supplements can suffer from muscle tremors, nervousness, and panting. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease (ATA, 2020), suggesting these medications poisonous to pets are present in many households.
While statins like Lipitor and Zocor have a wide margin of safety for pets, ingesting large amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially severe intestinal blockage. With over 35 million Americans using statins (CDC, 2021), many households have these medications poisonous to pets.
Keeping our pets safe requires us to be mindful of the hidden dangers within our homes. Always keep medications out of reach of curious pets, and if you suspect your pet has ingested a harmful substance, contact a vet or pet poison helpline immediately.
Let's make our homes the ultimate safe haven for our pets! By being aware of medications poisonous to pets and keeping them stashed safely away from our curious friends, we're already winning half the battle. If you ever suspect that your pet may have gotten into medications or anything else poisonous for that matter, reach for ReadyRESCUE™ to act fast, then contact your vet or poison control hotline.
- Consumer Healthcare Products Association. (2020). NSAIDs Factsheet.
- Statista. (2021). Sales of Top Analgesics Brands in the U.S. 2019.
- CDC. (2021). Antidepressant Use Among Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2015–2018.
- CDC. (2021). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Data and Statistics.
- CDC. (2021). Sleep and Sleep Disorders: Data and Statistics.
- Guttmacher Institute. (2021). Contraceptive Use in the United States.
- American Heart Association. (2021). High Blood Pressure Facts.
- American Thyroid Association. (2020). General Information/Press Room.
- CDC. (2021). Cholesterol Medications.
- Pet Poison Helpline. (2021). Top 10 Human Medications Poisonous to Pets.