The call came on a Saturday afternoon after we had closed. I believe there is a universal law that whatever trouble your pet gets into, you won’t become aware of it until your veterinarian’s office has closed for the day. The caller (who just happened to be my sister Jane) was staying at a beach house in Delaware with some friends. Returning from lunch, they were greeted by a damaged bottle of Rimadyl Chewable Tablets lying on the floor, next to the open carry-on bag they’d been stashed in. All of the pills were missing.
The medication belonged to one of the friends’ dogs, a Westie named Sophie. But Sophie’s owner insisted that her well-behaved terrier would never have pilfered the pills. All eyes turned to Sherman, my sister’s adorable English cocker spaniel, who has an innocent face but has been known to rummage through suitcases.
Rimadyl, like aspirin, is an NSAID. I determined that the dose that had been ingested could cause stomach and intestinal ulceration and bleeding, so I prescribed a regimen of Prilosec and Pepcid. One quick trip to the drugstore, and Sherman was dosed up and looking good.
The incident prompted me to consider that although we worry about pets accidentally ingesting human medication, we seem to get more phone calls about pets getting into their own meds.
Flavorful chewable pet meds are a double-edged sword. Pet owners and veterinarians alike hate wrestling with their pooches while giving pills, so these drugs are a boon. But when your pet eagerly gobbles his or her medication, there’s a potential for trouble. A pet can easily sniff out his favorite chewable pill right through the bottle. And that bottle, although childproof, is no match for the sharp teeth and claws of a dog or cat.
So what measures can you take to avert medication mishaps? Of course you’ll want to store the containers in a cabinet that’s out of reach of the pet. I once had a 20-pound cocker spaniel who reached a cake by jumping from the kitchen chair to the table, and from there made what must have been a very impressive-looking vault to the countertop. So keeping your stash of pet meds on a counter isn’t good enough.
An article on WebMD suggests never shaking your pet’s pill bottle when it’s medication time, because it might draw undue attention to the actual bottle of pills. Make sure that you keep human and dog meds in different places, so you don’t mistakenly give your pet a human drug (or vice versa).
Traveling is particularly tricky, as illustrated by the above Rimadyl debacle. Carefully go through the rooms where you’re staying and make sure all meds, pet and human alike, are safely zipped up in luggage and placed out of reach. Close doors to bathrooms and bedrooms if possible. And do a little research before you travel: Grab your smartphone and enter the numbers for Vernon Hills Animal Hospital (847-367-4070), the local animal emergency clinic, ASPCA Animal Poison Control ASPCA Animal Poison Control(888-426-4435) and the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680). Pet Poison Helpline .
Finally, don’t assume that your pet wouldn’t eat medication just because she has never done it before. Although Sherman was implicated as the culprit at the beach house that day, it was Sophie who ended up with bloody vomiting and diarrhea that night, and with a bill of over $1,500 at the emergency clinic!