No one likes to see their dog in pain. You want to do something to help your dog feel better and if the veterinary clinic’s closed, you might consider giving them human medicine. But some human medicine — prescription and over-the-counter — can have harmful effects on your dog’s kidneys (and other organs). Your good intentions may actually be hurting your dog. Dogs can also be very resourceful and can often find a way to get into something they shouldn’t, leading to accidental ingestion of human medicine.
In this article we’ll discuss some of the human medicines that can make your dog ill, focusing on those that can cause acute kidney injury in dogs. We’ll also go over what to do if your dog ingests human medication, how to safely store medicines and why you should always follow prescription directions from your veterinarian.
Pause on People Pills
You should never give your dog any human prescription or over-the-counter medication without talking to your veterinarian first. You may think that because human medication is labeled safe for adults, children or babies, that it’s also safe for your dog. But dogs don’t metabolize drugs the same way as people. Medications that are generally safe for humans in the correct dose, like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, can be harmful or even deadly to your dog.
Act Quickly if Your Dog Ingests Human Medicine
If your dog has ingested human medication or you suspect that they have, immediately call your veterinarian, an after-hours emergency veterinary clinic or one of the two animal poison control centers in North America.
You should also seek immediate veterinary advice if your dog has ingested too much (overdosed on) medication that was prescribed for them (or another pet). Overdosing on veterinary medication can also be harmful for your dog.
Human Medications Can Cause Canine Kidney Problems
The toxicity of drugs depends on the medication type, your dog’s size and the strength of the medication. Here are some common human medications that can cause kidney failure in dogs.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include familiar names like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, carprofen and meloxicam, are used to treat pain and inflammation in people and pets. But according to Pet Poison Helpline, toxic amounts of NSAIDs can cause acute kidney failure in dogs as well as gastrointestinal ulcers.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for dogs that regulates their calcium and phosphorus balance — but too much vitamin D can be toxic to dogs. Vitamin D3 (also called cholecalciferol) is used in some mouse and rat poisons, which are common sources of poisoning for dogs when consumed in toxic amounts. Other products containing vitamin D that dogs could be exposed to include vitamin supplements and psoriasis creams and ointments. VCA Animal Hospital veterinarians explain that high doses of vitamin D cause elevated levels of calcium and phosphorus which can cause kidney failure and tissue mineralization (along with other symptoms), and that without treatment it can be fatal.
According to PetMD, some antibiotics can cause kidney failure in dogs including kanamycin, neomycin, polymyxin B and amikacin.
Pet Poison Helpline explains that beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, used to manage heart disease and regulate blood pressure in humans as well as cats and dogs, have a narrow safety margin. An overdose of these heart medications can cause heart failure, a very slow heart rate and very low blood pressure, which can result in acute kidney failure.
Follow the Prescription
Along with human medication, you shouldn’t give your dog medication that was prescribed for another pet without talking to your veterinarian first. You may give them the wrong dose, or your dog may have an underlying health condition or be on medications that aren’t compatible with that medication. It’s important to let your veterinarian know what other medications your dog is taking so they can check for possible drug interactions. When your dog is taking medication, you should watch them for potential side effects.
Always make sure you have specific instructions from your veterinarian on how much medicine to give your dog and how often — and make sure you understand the directions. If you have any questions about the medication, be sure to ask your veterinarian for clarification. Too much medicine could cause harmful side effects, while not enough medicine may not relieve your dog’s symptoms. Here are some tips for giving your dog medication.
Keep All Medications Away from Your Pets
Pets ingesting medication they shouldn’t is probably more common than you realize. Human medications are many of the top 20 toxins that Pet Poison Helpline receives calls about. Human medicines are often kept in child-proof bottles, but child-proof doesn’t necessarily mean dog-proof. They don’t have thumbs and fingers to open the bottle, but they do have strong teeth and jaws. Some dogs can easily get into the bottle by gnawing on the lid or crunching down on the bottle itself.
Make sure you keep all medication out of reach from your dog. Think about the places where medications may be within easy access for your dog — in a purse, on the kitchen counter, on a nightstand, on the bathroom vanity. Easy places for your dog to quickly pluck a pill bottle away when you’re not looking.
It’s also a good idea to keep pet and human medications separated so they don’t get mixed up accidentally. If your dog does take prescription medication, it’s important to keep that out of their reach too, so that they can’t potentially overdose on their medication. Prescription medication for dogs is often meat-flavored, which gives your dog an extra incentive to try to break into the bottle if they get a whiff of that meat smell.
Take your own medications in a separate room from your dog so that if you accidentally drop a pill on the floor, you can pick it up before your canine vacuum cleaner has a chance to. Dogs don’t tend to stop and ask what the food is that’s on the floor, which could have deadly consequences.
People have to be careful with what medication they take and how much, and it’s the same for dogs. Medication that’s safe for humans or other pets may not be safe for your dog. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication, to help keep their kidneys (and other organs) safe.