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Beware of OTC meds for pets

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With today’s tough economic times, households are trying to save money by often self-treating their pets with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Caution should be exercised when considering using an OTC for the family pet. Acetaminophen is a very common OTC drug often found in household medicine cabinets. Either as an anti-Robin Maurillo, of Auburn, has worked for many years as a veterinary technician and as an animal cruelty investigator y, it is out there as Tylenol, Nyquil, BromoSeltzer, Excedrin, Pamprin, Midol, Anacin, Percoset or Tempra - just to name a few.

Despite numerous publications regarding companion animals and the dangers of OTC medications, many pet owners are unaware of the devastating results administering acetaminophen to your pet can cause. Dogs show signs of toxicity when doses exceed 75 milligrams per kilogram. The much more highly sensitive cat can develop toxicity at doses as low as 10 milligrams per kilogram. Cats should never be given acetaminophen in any dosage. It can be fatal!

Dogs typically are the victims of accidental consumption of OTC medications, resulting in toxicity. Chewed pill vials and punctured tubes are often the results of inappropriately stored medications that have been voluntarily ingested. Cats, however, usually have a more disconcerting pallet. Cats are more commonly administered harmful medications by their very well-intentioned owners, with sometimes fatal results. Acetaminophen toxicity can cause severe liver damage and damage to the red blood cells, which are vital to circulate oxygen throughout the animal’s body.

Symptoms of acetaminophen ingestion include vomiting, difficulty breathing, lethargy, anorexia, hypothermia, weakness, drooling and brown-colored gums. Twelve to 24 hours after ingestion, symptoms include swelling of the face, lips and limbs, uncoordinated movements, convulsions and coma. Twenty-four hours or more after initial ingestion, liver failure symptoms begin, such as a painful abdomen, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes, gums and skin) and an inappropriate mental state, often resulting in death.

Treatment for acetaminophen toxicity requires an emergency trip to your veterinarian or animal emergency center, and hospitalization. If ingestion recently occurred, vomiting will be induced followed by treatment of activated charcoal to absorb any remaining medication. Acetylcysteine, cimetidine and vitamin C may be administered to aid the body in recovery from the poisoning. IV fluids, oxygen therapy and blood transfusions are given as necessary.

Acetaminophen toxicity is an emergency situation. If you suspect acetaminophen ingestion, contact your veterinarian immediately. Prompt veterinary care is crucial to your pet’s survival. There is a greater chance of survival if treatment is instituted early. Always consult your veterinarian before administering any medication to your pet. It may be less costly in the long run. What may appear as a safe medication to humans, or other species of pets, could be lethal to your pet.

Keeping your veterinarian’s, emergency clinic’s and poison control numbers conveniently located by your phone; it can help expedite medical treatment for your pet.

Robin Maurillo, of Auburn, has worked for many years as a      veterinary technician and as an animal cruelty investigator


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