There are currently more than 100,000 cases per year of pet poisoning in the United States. Human over-the-counter (OTC) medications are the most common cause, according to the ASPCA. Proper counseling and client education can be extremely beneficial in avoiding these toxicities.
With OTC medications, brand names do not necessarily indicate active ingredients, which can be confusing for clients. One example of this is that in Benadryl™ labeled products, the active ingredient is not always diphenhydramine.
Some OTC products, especially liquids and chewable tablets, may also contain xylitol.
Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and poses a danger to many other animals, including birds and guinea pigs. It is important to warn clients about this danger or write them a prescription to show the pharmacist indicating they require a product without xylitol. Pharmacists are trained to counsel their human patients on OTC products; however, they do not receive education on how these products work in animals.
Legally, pharmacists are not allowed to make recommendations to clients asking about human OTC products for their pets. This is because all human OTC products are considered to be prescription products in animals. You should counsel all of your clients to never get human OTC products for their animals without speaking to a veterinarian first.
Pharmacists are a great resource for human OTC products, but they are not a substitute for calling the veterinarian about medication use in animals.
This month’s column is from Alex Gochenauer, PharmD, FSVHP.