Case Study Analysis: A pup’s accidental ingestion of human medications.
Our pets are naturally curious creatures. Often times, if given the time or accessibility, some will take that curiosity as an opportunity to get into substances or materials that could be harmful to them. Ellie is a 6-month old fun, loving, poodle mix that ingested an unknown quantity of human prescription medications. Luckily, Ellie’s owner was able to get her to Leesburg Veterinary Hospital within 30 minutes of ingestion of the medications.
As shown in the image below, there are numerous everyday household foods, plants, and medications that can be seriously harmful to our pets. Some of these might suprise you! (For a more detailed list please visit – https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control).
Veterinarians take every toxicity case very seriously. Consequences of toxicity can include digestive upset, organ damage, neurologic abnormalities, and even death if not treated appropriately. There are multiple factors that play into each situation:
- Characteristics of the poisonous substance
- Amount ingested/animal exposure
- Time ingested/length of exposure
- Species of pet, age, breed
- Medical history of your pet
Ellie was treated immediately upon arrival to the hospital. Vomiting was induced to help recover as much of the ingested medication as possible. While making an animal vomit can be ideal in certain cases, it is not always warranted. This is because certain substances can actually be harmful if the body attempts to force them back up. For instance, for a pet that ingests and chews up a large amount of chicken bones or drinks a caustic substance, vomiting would not be recommended. Additional damage to the esophagus or oral cavity could result.
We were able to find numerous tablets of various sizes, colors, and consistencies in Ellie’s vomit. In a veterinary hospital setting, we have the ability to induce vomiting by administering a specific medication intravenously. Within 30 seconds, animals will typically vomit about 40-70% of the contents in their stomach at best. Unfortunately vomiting alone may not always be enough treatment for a serious toxicity.
Because of the amount of medications and types of medications that Ellie ingested, she was treated very aggressively to have the best possible outcome. After contents from the stomach were recovered, her bloodwork was assessed for any immediate abnormalities and she was hospitalized. Her hospitalized treatments included multiple administrations of activated charcoal, fluid therapy, liver/digestive protectants, and regular blood pressure checks. Ellie was hospitalized with critical care monitoring for two days straight. She was constantly monitored for any changes in behavior, appetite, urination output, and bloodwork.
After 48 hours of hospitalization Ellie was discharged and continued on outpatient treatment at home. At home, she was kept on a very strict schedule of medications to aid in her recovery. These consisted of anti-nauseas, gastric protectants, liver protectants, anti-oxidants, and anti-diarrheals. Ellie was rechecked at 72 hours after ingestion and then again one week after ingestion to ensure that no further delayed abnormalities originated.
Due to quick action by Ellie’s owners to get her to Leesburg Vet as fast as possible post-ingestion, this sweet pup’s story has a happy ending. Nearly 50% of all pet poisonings involve human drugs and unfortunately, many pets aren’t as lucky.
As Ellie’s story shows, pets metabolize human medications very differently than people. Even seemingly harmless over-the-counter medications may cause serious poisoning in pets. Never give your pet any medications unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian, give them human medications, or change the dosage amount. Be mindful of species-specific insecticides (such as spot-on flea and tick preventatives); never apply dog-specific products on cats, or vice-versa.
If your pet has ingested a human medication, please call us immediately. If we are closed, we recommend calling the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center’s hotline at 866-426-4435. Please be aware, a $65 consultation fee may apply to the phone call.
When calling us or the hotline, be prepared with the following information:
- Species, breed, age, sex, weight
- Symptoms and signs of your pet’s poisoning
- Name, strength, and amount ingested (have the product container or packaging available for reference)
- The time elapsed since the time of the exposure
Leesburg Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. Rachael Dunn provided the workup and treatment for Ellie’s case and contributed to this article.