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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines human medications or drugs as a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. It is a substance (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body. These chemical compound formulas are also referred to as medications, medicinal drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, or medicaments.
There are a few human medications that can be given to pets. However, there are several precautionary measures that must be observed to ensure that the desired effect/s is achieved without any adverse side effects to the animal patient.
Some human medicines can be given to dogs on a regular basis (of course, with your veterinarian’s advice). Beware, there are other human drugs that can be very toxic. Even when over-the-counter (OTC) human medications can be purchased without a prescription, it doesn’t always mean that they’re safe for your dog.
Determining how much human medicine to give to your dog is not simply obtained by extrapolating and estimating the dose. The possibility of drug interactions can be dangerous and before your veterinarian can give you the proper dose, there is a need to review your pet’s medical record to prevent any adverse reactions.
Humans and dogs differ in the way their bodies process and react to medications. Your best bet to ensure the efficacy of human medication in dogs is to ask your veterinarian for the right dosage. It is also the best way to minimize or altogether prevent potential side effects.
Always make a habit of checking product labels when buying human medicines for use in pets. There are human medications that should never be given to dogs.
There are several types of human medicine that are safe for use in dogs. These include the following:
Antihistamines – At the first sign of hives, itching, and other allergy symptoms, giving antihistamines can help ease the flare-up. For some pets, antihistamines have sedating effects. This is particularly true in dogs that are also taking mood-altering medications, and certain pain relievers, and seizure drugs.
NSAIDs -Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed for pain, inflammation, and fever.
Antidiarrheals and Antinauseants – These medications are given for digestive upsets (diarrhea and vomiting). They contain ingredients that can help soothe upset stomachs. If diarrhea does not resolve after a dose, you should contact your veterinarian.
Antacids – These drugs act to inhibit the production of acids in the stomach and are often prescribed for pets experiencing excess gastric acid production, such as stomach inflammation (gastritis). Famotidine and cimetidine are the most common antacids given to pets.
Steroids – Topical steroids are often applied to itchy red patches and hot spots. The most common active ingredient is hydrocortisone. The steroid prednisone has a stronger anti-inflammatory activity than hydrocortisone. It is often administered in emergency situations, like anaphylaxis, trauma to the spinal cord, and certain types of shock.
Steroids can also be prescribed by veterinarians for immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, some types of cancer, disorders of the central nervous system (CNS), skin diseases, specific endocrine disorders, allergic reactions, and many other health issues.
Topical antibiotic ointment -These products are often used for minor cuts and abrasions and are applied for a day or two onto clean skin. When buying antibiotic ointments, be sure to read the labels. Steer clear of products that contain hydrocortisone, tetracaine, and other ingredients. Instead, choose one that contains only the antibiotic. Steroids can actually delay the healing process.
Antifungals – Uncomplicated fungal infections can be resolved with miconazole and other antifungal medications. Antifungal sprays, gels, and creams are often recommended by veterinarians for use in pets with fungal infections until they can be brought to a veterinarian clinic.
Joint supplements – Glucosamine and chondroitin are the most common human joint supplements that are given to dogs to promote joint health. Since joint supplements are not created equal, you should ask your veterinarian for a product that is safe and effective for use in dogs.
Anti-anxiety medications – These medications are often prescribed for dogs that are prone to anxiety attacks and/or have behavioral issues. There are several triggers of anxiety and fear in dogs like being in a new and strange environment, psychological stress, loud noises, and even being left home alone for considerable lengths of time frequently.
Hydrogen peroxide – Hydrogen peroxide can be applied topically to clean superficial wounds. It can also be given orally to induce vomiting in dogs. However, you should contact your veterinarian before administering an oral dose of hydrogen peroxide to your dog to find out if it’s safe to do so and how much to give.
Artificial tears and lubricants – These preparations are used for minor eye irritations and very mild conjunctivitis. They can help relieve eye redness and inflammation of the conjunctival membranes.
Artificial tears and lubricants should not be used if your pet has eye discharges of whatever color (white, green, or yellow), extreme redness or swelling around the eyes, or if there is pain and discomfort affecting the eye. You should bring your pet to your veterinarian immediately for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Antihistamines are human allergy medications that can be given to dogs. These medications are commonly used for the relief of allergy symptoms or to counteract hypersensitivity reactions. Just like in humans, some antihistamine preparations can make some dogs drowsy, while others can become hyperactive.
Antihistamines are generally safe but there are preparations that may contain decongestants and other drug combinations. Talk to your veterinarian to make sure that you’re giving an antihistamine that’s suitable for your dog.
The most common human antihistamine medications that are also used in dogs include:
Aside from being used in dogs for allergies, diphenhydramine, (Benadryl®) can also be used for motion sickness in dogs. Benadryl is contraindicated in pets with high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, or glaucoma. Some diphenhydramine formulas contain alcohol or combine with cold or flu medications– these variants should not be given to pets.
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol) should not be given to dogs except under the close supervision of a veterinarian. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used for fever, pain, and inflammatory conditions in humans. Like other NSAIDs, ibuprofen treats inflammation by blocking certain reactions and enzymes in the body.
Ibuprofen poisoning occurs when a toxic dose is ingested by a dog. Although NSAIDs can be relatively safe in humans, they can be extremely harmful to dogs when misused or consumed by accident. Take note that even small doses of ibuprofen can have adverse effects and can be toxic.
There are factors that can increase a dog’s risk of ibuprofen poisoning as well as the severity of the side effects. These include:
Aspirin can only be given to dogs under the supervision of a veterinarian. Aspirin is a common painkiller in humans. It is also used for inflammation and fever. It also acts as an anti-coagulant. Just like ibuprofen, aspirin is classified as an NSAID.
When it comes to treating inflammation, NSAIDs have fewer side effects compared to steroids. But the possibility of side effects from aspirin and other NSAIDs is still very much present. Aspirin is prescribed by veterinarians for dogs suffering from inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis. Aspirin provides relief from pain and inflammation associated with these problems.
An important fact that dog parents should always keep in mind is that adverse reactions associated with aspirin use in dogs are relatively common. This warrants the need for pet owners to be aware of the risks and the signs indicating an adverse reaction or overdose.
You should stop giving your dog aspirin and seek immediate veterinary attention if your dog is showing any of the following symptoms:
If your dog has an aspirin overdose, the following symptoms may be exhibited:
If your dog is in pain, you might be tempted to reach into the medicine cabinet for the aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or any other pain reliever that you and your family are using. But you should never give human pain reliever to your dog without consent and instructions from your veterinarian.
The most common human pain medications that can be given to dogs are NSAIDs, such as meloxicam, carprofen, and etodolac. An important thing to remember when giving NSAIDs to dogs is that these drugs are associated with adverse reactions that can sometimes be life-threatening without appropriate veterinary attention. Sometimes, even when a correct dose is given, hypersensitive dogs can develop dangerous side effects to NSAIDs.
Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are just some of the common examples of NSAIDs. They act by inhibiting the action of an enzyme that produces prostaglandins that promote inflammation, pain, and fever. By inhibiting these prostaglandin-associated issues, NSAIDs also inhibit the positive actions of prostaglandins, which is maintaining adequate blood supply to the kidneys, promoting normal blood clotting, and stimulating mucus production to protect the inner surface of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT).
As a result, inappropriate dosing of NSAIDs in dogs can eventually lead to the development of ulcers in the stomach and intestines, vomiting and diarrhea that often has blood, appetite loss, kidney dysfunction, bleeding disorders, and in some cases, liver damage.
As with all medications, human and specifically designed for dogs, it is extremely important to consult with your vet first. Even a small dose could end up causing adverse reactions in your dog if it’s the wrong medication.
The medical, nutritional, or behavioral advice we provide is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Our editorial content is not a substitute for formal or personalized medical advice from a veterinary professional. Only board-certified veterinary specialists who have examined your pet should diagnose medical conditions, provide personalized treatment, or prescribe appropriate medication. For questions regarding your pet’s health, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of illness, injury, or distress, contact your veterinarian immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.