Sharing the Medicine Chest with your Dog

Which drugs in your home are safe for both you and your dog? Which are most definitely not?


You might share the medicine cabinet mirror with your dog while you shave or apply your makeup, but some of the medicines you have inside the mirrored door are very, very toxic to your pet and should at all times be kept out of paw’s reach. Says the American Veterinary Medical Association, “about one quarter of all phone calls to the Animal Poison Control Center are about human medications. Your pet can easily ingest dropped pills or may be given harmful human medications by an unknowing owner, resulting in illness, or even death, of your pet.”

At the same time, some medicines that you have in the house can do double duty for both you and your pet.

How can you tell which drugs you keep on hand for yourself are okay to share with your dog and which he should never take? And for those medications that can be shared, is the dose you dole out for yourself the right amount for Fido? Herewith, the answers for drugs you are most likely to have on hand.

Note: While we call the following medications “safe,” never administer any of these drugs to your dog without finding out first from your veterinarian if they are safe for your particular pet. Also, go over dosages with your vet very carefully. What’s right for a 150-pound person may not be right for a 35-pound dog, especially since dogs and people don’t metabolize drugs in exactly the same way.

Pepcid AC (famotidine) For a dog with a bout of diarrhea or other manifestation of tummy upset, famotidine can work wonders. The dosage definitely depends on the dog’s weight, along with any other drugs he may be taking and his overall health condition. By all means keep it on hand, but consult with your vet to make sure your dog gets enough to help solve the problem but not so much that it does him harm.

Triple antibiotic ointment If your dog has a wound, you can apply this topically upon direction by a vet in order to inhibit bacterial growth and subsequent infection.

Hydrocortisone cream Again, applied topically, it can reduce itching caused by insect bites and allergies. It’s “good for a once or twice application,” says Armelle de Laforcade DVM, DACVECC, an emergency and critical care veterinarian at Tufts. More itching, and you need to bring your dog to the doctor.

Artificial tears Products like Genteal and Soothe XP quell minor eye irritations and help clear up mild conjunctivitis, too. They will not help if your dog has colored discharge (including the color white), extreme redness or swelling, or pain (your dog will wink or keep his eye closed). In such cases, get your pet to the doctor right away.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) This drug can relieve itchiness in dogs, but proper dosing is critical. The standard dose for Benadryl taken orally is 1 milligram per pound of body weight, three times a day. Since the standard tablet in many drugstores is 25 milligrams, it’s appropriate for a 25-pound dog.

Zyrtec (cetirizine) An antihistamine, Zyrtec can be used to treat dermatitis, a condition in which a dog’s skin becomes itchy. It’s frequently turned to when Benadryl doesn’t do the trick.

Styptic pencil or powder You might have it on hand for yourself in case you nick yourself shaving. For a dog, it might stop a nail from bleeding if you have cut it too close to the quick.

Hydrogen peroxide (10 percent strength, easily available over the counter) This can induce vomiting in case of poisoning, and your vet or poison control center should be able to tell you the correct dose. Be aware, however, that induction of vomiting is not always appropriate. Sometimes it can worsen the poisoning, depending on the toxin. You should confer first with a veterinarian.

Antifungal products For a dog with a fungal infection, an antifungal spray, gel, or cream that contains miconazole will keep him comfortable until he comes in for a doctor’s visit. In uncomplicated cases, the product may even clear up the infection.

This list of human drugs that are unsafe for dogs is by no means exhaustive, but these medications are among those about which the American Poison Control Center receives the largest number of complains.

Ibuprofen Ibuprofen, often sold under the brand names Advil and Motrin, is the most common human medication ingested by pets, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA. Why? The organization says it’s because many brands have a sweet outer coating that makes it appealing to pets. “Think M&M,” but a potentially deadly one,” they warn. That’s because ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers or even kidney failure in a dog.

Xanax (alprazolam) Prescribed for people as a sleep aid as well as an anti-anxiety medication, these pills are commonly ingested by dogs because people put them out on the nightstand so they remember to take them, says the AVMA. Most pets who ingest the drug will become sleepy and wobbly, but a few will have a paradoxical reaction and become very agitated instead. More importantly, large does of alprazolam can cause blood pressure to drop and lead to weakness or collapse.

Adderall A combination of four different amphetamines used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, Adderall acts as a stimulant in dogs, causing elevated heart rate and body temperature, hyperactivity, tremors, and seizures. Make sure this children’s drug and your dog don’t cross paths.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) Cats in particular are extremely sensitive to acetaminophen, but dogs take a hit, too. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage and also damage your dog’s red blood cells — the cells that carry oxygen to all the body’s tissues.

Aleve (naproxen) This over-the-counter pain reliever can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure in dogs, even in small amounts.

Cymbalta (duloxetine) While for people it’s an anti-depressant, in dogs duloxetine can cause agitation, vocalizations, tremors, and seizures.


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