Use Medications Safely

We must be very careful with medication.

In a recent discussion on pharmaceutical safety we made the statement, “There is no such thing as a 100% safe drug.

Take this recent discussion that occurred in our examination room: “Dr. Randolph, Tylenol isn’t safe for dogs, is it?”

“No, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, just as it can damage the liver of humans in excessive doses, even small doses can be harmful for dogs and in cats it takes little more than a whiff to be fatal.”

“I thought so,” our client responded. “I wouldn’t want to give Sweetie anything that would harm her, so I just gave her one dose of Benadryl.”

“That’s a safe drug in the right dosage range. Did you use liquid or a capsule?” I inquired.

“It was a capsule.”

“And what was the strength?”

“Gee, I don’t know, just the ‘regular’ size, I guess,” our flustered pet owner stammered. “I think it was 25 milligrams.”

“That would be a double dose for a dog Sweetie’s size,” I said, concerned.

“That would explain why she was so sleepy last night.”

I’m a big fan of the saying, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” BUT, I like the saying because it’s funny, not because I think it’s a good idea. When it comes to medication we must know what we’re giving, whether it is safe for dogs, cats, both or neither and we must know what the potential side effects are. If you don’t know those things, do nothing rather than administer medication that might be harmful.

Too often I hear pet owners say, “It was the middle of the night. I had to do something.”

Too often the proper response is, “Maybe so, but you didn’t have to do that.” Too often “that” makes the situation worse.

Some appropriate alternatives to doing the wrong thing include:

  • Call and/or visit your local veterinary emergency hospital. Some simple questions can be answered over the phone. Recognize, however, that complicated medical advice can’t be given over the phone. Not only might it constitute malpractice, we rarely have the details we need without seeing the patient.
  • Call your veterinarian. Do you know your pet’s doctor’s office hours? Many clinics have extended hours, opening earlier than traditional times in the morning and staying open later in the evening. If the office is closed your veterinarian may take emergency calls and may be available to see your pet or answer a question that will tide you over until tomorrow. If he doesn’t take his own emergencies he will have an answering machine or service to direct you to emergency care.
  • Call an animal poison control center. While some charge a reasonable fee, the cost is inconsequential to the health of your pet.
  • Do not rely on dosages you find online. Remember, 64% of the medical information on the Internet is either outdated or outright wrong.

Fortunately, Sweetie was fine from her Benadryl overdose and we were able to treat her skin lesions appropriately. By using the proper medications we dispensed she will be fine in two weeks.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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