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What’s safe for humans isn’t always safe for pets. Each year, nearly half of the calls to Pet Poison Helpline are from pet owners and veterinarians concerning pets that have ingested potentially toxic human medications. Utilizing information from a recent report that details the top selling human medications, the veterinarians and pharmacists at Pet Poison Helpline offer this information about the potential dangers these drugs pose. For an interview with one of Pet Poison Helpline’s veterinarians regarding this or any pet‐related topic, please contact me. My best, Kathy Wahlers 952‐852‐9503,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Top 5 Selling Human Medications and What Happens When Pets Eat Them
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (May 23, 2011) – The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics recently
an prescription (Rx) drugs dispensed in the
“Nearly half of the calls we receive are for pets that have accidentally ingested human
medications,” said Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC and the associate director of Veterinary
Services at Pet Poison Helpline. “Recognizing the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S.
and how they affect pets can help pet owners be more cognizant of potential dangers associated
Pet Poison Helpline is a division of SafetyCall International, the world's largest industry poison
control and adverse event management center, handling both human and animal calls. The
veterinarians and pharmacists work side-by-side to provide multi-disciplinary expertise to the
veterinarians and pet owners they assist.
According to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics report, which was released in April
2011, the top five human drugs dispensed in the U.S. are Lipitor®, Nexium®, Plavix®, Advair
Diskus® and Abilify®. Because Pet Poison Helpline’s call volume is high for dogs and cats that
have ingested arians are sharing how these drugs
typically affect pets that ingest them. As explained below, some drugs cause only minor
symptoms and some can be potentially life threatening. Awareness of these drugs and how they
affect pets can save lives. Likewise, in cases where a pet has ingested a non-life threatening drug,
awareness can save the pet owner a great deal of heartache.
Used to reduce cholesterol levels, U.S. citizens spent $7.2 billion on Lipitor in 2010, making it
the top selling drug in the country. Generally when pets get into Lipitor, only mild side effects
are seen, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore, Lipitor is not considered to have high toxicity
levels for pets. While some human drugs are utilized in veterinary medicine, Lipitor is not.
During 2010, Americans spent $6.3 billion on Nexium. It is an anti-ulcer medication and proton-
pump inhibitor that results in decreased gastric acid secretion. While it is utilized in veterinary
medicine for some pets, mild side effects can include vomiting and diarrhea. Pet owners of dogs
or cats that get into this drug should watch their pet closely, but not be alarmed since symptoms
In third place is Plavix, which is a drug that affects platelets in humans, inhibiting clot formation
and reducing the risk of stroke. Rarely used in veterinary medicine, $6.1 billion was spent on this
drug for humans last year. When pets get into Plavix, it has a wide margin of safety and
generally is not considered to be acutely toxic. Only mild vomiting or diarrhea may be seen.
#4 – Advair Diskus® (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol)
Often used for treating asthma and administered through an inhaler, Advair Diskus contains beta-
agonist drugs that expand the lungs and steroids that decrease inflammation in the lungs.
Americans spent $4.7 billion on Advair Diskus in 2010, making it fourth top selling drug.
Because inhalers contain many doses, dogs that chew into them are exposed to massive amounts
of the drug all at once. This often results in heart arrhythmias, an elevated heart rate, agitation,
vomiting and even acute collapse. Severe electrolyte abnormalities such as very low potassium
levels are likely and can be life-threatening without immediate veterinary treatment.
The fifth top-selling drug is Abilify. It contains aripiprazole, an atypical antipsychotic agent that
is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and clinical depression. It is important to keep this
drug out of the reach of pets, as ingestion can result in profound lethargy, vomiting,
hyperthermia, significant changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and seizures. If a pet ingests
this drug, immediate veterinary attention is needed.
In order to keep pets safe from ingesting these and other dangerous human medications, the
veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline offer these recommendations.
• Keep human medications stored in a different location from pet medications. Pet Poison
Helpline often takes calls from pet owners who accidentally give their human medications
• Weekly pill holders are irresistible to some dogs, as they resemble chew toys and rattle.
The danger is that a dog could ingest a full seven days’ worth of medications, significantly
• Avoid putting medications into plastic storage baggies before traveling – these are not pet
proof (or child-proof), and can easily be chewed into by dogs.
• Hang your purse out of the reach of your pets. Inhalers, medications, sugar-free gum, and
other items that are dangerous to pets can be easily snatched out of a purse by a curious dog
or cat. Pet Poison Helpline recently produced a video titled “Handbag Hazards” available
Remember that what is safe for humans isn’t always safe for pets. If you think your pet has
ingested something poisonous, it is always better (and less expensive) to get help immediately.
Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline
at 1-800-213-6680 for life-saving help. Pet
Poison Helpline is the most cost-effective animal poison control center in North America
charging only $35 per call, including unlimited follow-up consultations.
About Pet Poison Helpline
service based out of Minneapolis available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and
veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff can
provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small
mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison
control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $35 per incident includes unlimited follow-up
consultations. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680.
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