Making sure your family stays healthy is always a priority but keeping your four-legged family members in tip-top shape is difficult because they cannot tell you when they are not feeling well. Our instinct may be to head to the medicine cabinet for a common over-the-counter remedy, particularly when symptoms are mild. However, as a general rule, you should avoid treating your pet for any medical condition, no matter how minor, without consulting with a specialist. Moreover, never give your pets human medicine without consulting a veterinarian. While some human medications are safe for pets, many are toxic to animals and it is very difficult to ensure proper dosage.
Like humans, our pets can suffer from allergies, have minor aches and pains, get cuts or scratches, an upset stomach or catch a common cold. Fortunately, mild symptoms due to these medical conditions can sometimes be treated with over-the-counter medication after consulting with your veterinarian. More severe symptoms will need stronger medication, which your veterinarian can prescribe. Of course, with the right pet health care plan from Pets Best, keeping your pet healthy is even easier, so make sure to select the best plan for your dog or cat.
Like humans, pets can have allergies. For the most part, pets have allergic reactions to food, insect bites, or the environment. Symptoms include a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. Food allergies need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian, and the best cure is simply to avoid feeding your pet the food or ingredient that causes an allergic reaction. While symptoms are typically mild, your pet is at risk of anaphylactic shock. While rare in cats and dogs, it can be very serious. Interestingly, pets with allergies are treated with antihistamines, but a veterinarian must determine the proper dosage. Many over-the-counter antihistamines may contain other ingredients such as decongestants that are dangerous or toxic to animals. Pets may also exhibit the same side effects as humans, which include drowsiness or hyperactivity.4 Make sure to consult with a veterinarian before giving any over-the-counter allergy medicine to your dog or cat.
Sometimes, a pet may experience mild pain for any number of reasons such as a minor injury to a toenail, achy muscles or joints, toothache, or ear infection. The greatest difficulty may be in identifying the source of pain and ruling out any serious medical condition. Some pets may exhibit obvious signs of pain, but many dogs and cats are able to hide discomfort. Any unusual behavior or sudden change in routine may be a sign of discomfort. The best prevention is to pay attention to your pet’s daily habits and investigate if you think something is wrong. If your pet is recovering from surgery or a serious injury, your veterinarian will prescribe pain medication.
However, if you observe symptoms of minor pain, your veterinarian may advise you to treat your pet with over-the-counter medication. Most human over-the-counter pain medication are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, which work by reducing inflammation, fever, and pain. NSAIDs, however, are very complex and impact many aspects of the body, thus it is vital that you consult with a veterinarian before giving any amount to your dog or cat. Cats are particularly at risk for adverse effects, and improper use or dosage can lead to death.5 Because of the risk of NAIDs to pets, veterinarians may prefer to prescribe a medication specifically for pets that should safely provide pain relief to your pet.
Antibiotic Ointments for Scratches, Lacerations and Minor Cuts
Not surprisingly, cats and dogs will get scrapes and other minor skin irritations occasionally While some common household medications will be safe to use, it is always best to check with a professional first. Moreover, the recommended treatments for dogs are very different than for cats. Initially, upon observing a minor cut or scratch on your dog or cat, it is important to first wash and clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water. However, any serious laceration, cut, excessive bleeding or puncture should be seen immediately by a veterinarian.
For dogs, applying a small amount of topical ointment or spray should help prevent infections, but check with your veterinarian first because some dogs may be allergic to common topical over-the-counter treatments. These medicines generally contain three different antibiotics that kill bacteria, so there is a risk of an allergic reaction. Also, your dog will most likely want to lick the area, so you will need to prevent licking or scratching.6 Fortunately, the pet care industry has many over-the-counter pet products that can be safe and effective for mild cuts and lacerations, but be sure to follow instructions after consulting with your veterinarian to discuss the safest and best course of action.
Treating cats with minor cuts is a bit more complicated, and topical ointments or sprays should not be used on cats without a veterinarian’s direct supervision due to a risk of anaphylactic shock.7 There are some over-the-counter pet products that are safe for cats, but again, consult your veterinarian who will most likely prescribe an antibiotic to treat your cat’s injuries instead of human over-the-counter medication.
When treating a pet’s upset tummy, which may result in symptoms like diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting or blood in the stools, your veterinarian may advise you to use a common over-the-counter medicine that humans use, but that may not be the right treatment in every case. For example, cats are at greater risk for adverse effect from common stomach medicines, so in most cases, a veterinarian will suggest probiotics to address digestive trouble. More importantly, they will conduct tests to ensure there is nothing serious that needs to be treated.8 For your dog, however, your veterinarian may instruct you to use an over-the-counter medicine made for humans. But, again, make sure to consult with a professional first for proper dosage and instructions.
Common Cold Medicine
While dogs and cats don’t catch the same colds that humans do, they can have cold-like symptoms that are very similar to the symptoms that humans experience including runny nose, coughing, congestion, and watery eyes. For a dog with mild symptoms, check with your veterinarian who may suggest home remedies (eat, drink, rest) or perhaps over-the-counter cold medication; but again, it is important that a professional determines the correct dosage. If symptoms last more than a week, you should bring your pet to the vet for a check-up.9
Treating a cat with cold symptoms is a bit more complicated, and your veterinarian will most likely prescribe specific medication for cats since over-the-counter human medication is not recommended for felines.10 More importantly, to treat a cat with cold symptoms, it is important for a professional to rule out any serious medical conditions including an upper respiratory infection, which can be serious.
While your cat or dog may only need over-the-counter medication to treat mild medical conditions, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet regardless if the medicine is intended for humans or pets. Cats and dogs respond differently to medication than humans do, and it is very difficult to determine the correct dosage if the medicine is intended for humans. Also, many over-the-counter human medications contain other ingredients that are harmful to animals. Make sure your pet has adequate pet insurance from Pets Best to ensure that your cat or dog stays healthy and gets the proper care when needed.*
* Terms and conditions apply, see policy for details.
1 https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/toxicities-from-human-drugs/analgesics-toxicity2 https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/toxicities-from-human-drugs/decongestants-toxicity3 https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/poisoning/poisoning-from-human-over-the-counter-drugs4 https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/are-over-the-counter-medications-safe-for-my-dog5 https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_pain-medication-for-dogs6 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/can-you-use-neosporin-on-dogs/7 https://www.memphisveterinaryspecialists.com/site/blog-cordova/2021/01/15/treatment-for-eye-infections-in-cats-antibiotics-and-more8 https://www.drugs.com/slideshow/giving-human-medicine-to-pets-10769 https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/do-dogs-get-colds-everything-you-need-know10 https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/home-remedies-cat-colds