Monthly Archives: October 2016

5 Common Human Medications That are Dangerous to Pets

You are a fantastic pet parent. Your fur babies are always clean, well groomed, well feed, and loved.  So when a pet family member becomes sick or injured, you want to make them feel better ASAP, just as you would want for your children.  It’s only a swollen paw — I can give my animal kids a pain killer from my home medicine cabinet, right?  As easy as it would be to reach for a people pill, it’s not such a good idea.  In fact, you can end up causing more problems for pets.

There are other ways pets can get their mitts on human meds, like if you leave a bottle of headache pills or a prescription medication out on the table where pets can reach, or you unknowingly drop a pill on the floor and your dog sniffs it out and eats it.  Both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs can potentially be dangerous to our animal friends, therefore, we must take care in securing all medications at home and refrain from giving without consulting a veterinarian.  In no particular order, here are five common human medications that are dangerous to pets:


This common household medication called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are ibuprofen and naproxen meds like Motrin, Advil, Aleve, and Naprosyn.  These medications are safe for people, but a single pill or more can cause serious harm to pets. Smaller type animals including dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, and hamsters may develop very serious stomach and intestinal ulcers, even kidney failure.  “The only pain pill we ever recommend is aspirin,” says  Dr. Justine Lee, associate director of veterinary services at the Pet Poison Hotline.

2. Acetaminophen

Tylenol, a popular type of pain medication containing acetaminophen, has been around for a long time, trusted by generations.  While acetaminophen is generally safe for children and adults, it is not for pets.  Even the smallest amount of this med ingested by a cat can cause damage to red blood cells, which leads to the inability to carry life needing oxygen. In large doses, dogs can also suffer from red blood cell damage as well as liver failure.

3. Benzodiazepines and Sleep Aids

Is your pet having trouble sleeping or seem panicky?  Do not give them human medications like Xanax, Ambien, and Lunesta, which are made to reduce anxiety and help people to sleep better.  Pets may experience completely reverse effects.  Dogs appear to be agitated and wired after ingesting sleep aids, and cats could go into liver failure when certain forms of benzodiazepines are ingested.  These drugs can also cause lethargy, disoriented walking, and labored breathing in pets.

4. Cholesterol Drugs

With label names such as Crestor and Lipitor, cholesterol medications are typically not prescribed to pets, but pets can find a way into your pill bottle.  Fortunately, if a pet swallows these meds, they will likely only experience mild vomiting or diarrhea.  But still, keep drugs out of reach as serious side effects from these drugs can come around in cases of frequent use or ingestion.

5. Antidepressants

Antidepressants must only be prescribed to pets by a professional.  A single pill has the power to cause poisoning related illness or death.  Pets overdosing on people antidepressants, like Cymbalta and Prozac, can lead to serious neurological problems including seizures and varying degrees of tremors and elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.

These are just five common human medications dangerous to give to pets or for pets to ingest.  You must remember that any people medication purposely or accidentally ingested in little to excess can pose potential harm or even death to your pet.

If you know or believe your beloved pet has consumed any type of over-the-counter medication, contact your veterinarian immediately.  There are also national poison control hotlines you can call with people who are ready to help you in such an emergency.

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Thinking About Adopting a Pet? Here are Some Useful Tips to Keep in Mind

Congrats!  You’ve decided you’re ready to share your life with an animal.  Get ready for one of the most rewarding experiences on the planet.  There is nothing else like having a non-human companion to share life’s ups and downs with.

When bringing a pet into your family, we cannot stress how important it is to adopt.  Every day, perfectly healthy animals are euthanized to create more room in shelters and purchasing from breeders gives homeless animals less opportunity to have a home.  Pet stores are possibly the worst place to get an animal, as the animals are obtained through horrible, abusive conditions.  If you love animals, adopting from a rescue or animal shelter is the best option.

Now that you’ve made the decision to adopt, you have many things to consider and prepare for.  While rewarding, taking care of an animal is challenging and can be stressful at times.  The more you understand about life with a pet, the less stressful it will be.  Keep all these things in mind to make life great for you and your pet.

Living Space

Consider the size of your home or apartment.  It should go without saying that a Great Dane is not suitable for a studio apartment.  Think about the size of your space and if you intend to stay there.  You could be living in a spacious place now, but have to downsize later.  Does your living space come with a backyard to play in and explore?  Your living situation is a big component in your pet’s comfort.

Daily Schedule

Your lifestyle has a huge effect on your pet.  If you’re away from home often, a dog isn’t the best pet choice.  With a pet, your schedule is no longer yours.  Feeding time, bathroom breaks and exercise must be incorporated into your daily routine.  Not only that, but you will need to keep to the schedule to accommodate your pet’s needs.

Animal’s Activity Level

Puppies and kittens are adorable, but they have a TON of energy. It can be exhausting just keeping up with them every day.  If you lead a more laid-back lifestyle, opt to adopt an older animal with less energy than a puppy or kitten.  If your lifestyle is active, a young animal might be a great companion to have.

With activity levels, you also need to consider various breeds.  There are many dog breeds that are known for their high energy, even after they grow out of their puppy stage.  Dogs known for athletics and endurance like Cattle Dogs, Coonhounds, Huskies, and Terriers are best for high-energy people.

Financial Responsibility


We’re just going to be upfront: vet bills are expensive.  And necessary.  If you can’t afford to take your pet to the vet, you can’t afford to have a pet.  You need to factor in vet visits, heartworm pills, and any other necessary medicine, as well as the potential for emergency vet visits and surgeries.  Medical care is only part of the financial responsibilities of having a pet, too.  Your monthly grocery bill will go up from pet food… and treats and toys are necessary for exercise and mental stimulation.  Before you adopt your pet, sit down and go through your monthly expenses and factor pet costs into your budget.


With dogs, training is a big part of the relationship between the two of you.  This is where you establish trust and dominance.  Not just that, but you will run into fewer issues with bad behavior and teach your pup basic commands that can be very important to their own safety.  There are many ways you can learn to train your dog, from books to classes taught by animal behavior specialists.  Training takes a lot of hard work and patience, but it makes for a stronger relationship between you and your dog.  While there are plenty of great resources available for training, group class are a great pick as they will help give your dog socialization skills and introduce you to fellow dog lovers!

If you have gone through this list and have considered all these items, then you are ready to share your life with another creature.  If not, take time to examine these tips and make sure you are truly ready to adopt.  It’s important to be as prepared as possible so you can enjoy every day with your new best friend.

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Setting Up a Trust for Your Pet

Photo Credit: Alan Kay

A dear friend of mine just entered hospice care.  After a courageous battle, she is finally surrendering to ovarian cancer.  In a conversation shared yesterday, she told me that she wants her beloved horse Partner to go to one of our mutual friends along with her truck and trailer and money to take care of him for the rest of his life.  When asked if all of this was in writing (my hope was that all of this was already recorded in a notarized legal document), she responded with, “No.”

So, while I’m now aware of my friend’s intentions for her horse, there’s no guarantee that her wishes will be carried out when all is said and done.  She is concerned that her husband might not be happy with her plan (he doesn’t know about it yet, nor does she want him to).  I’m in the process of contacting my friend’s attorney to see if he is available to talk with her and prepare an appropriate document.  In all honesty, I’m afraid that we are running out of time.  I’ve typed something up myself that my friend can sign today with hopes that this will suffice in terms of carrying out her wishes.

My friend’s situation is not unique.  Who the heck knows if we will predecease our pets?  Just as for our children, having certainty about how our animals will be cared for after we pass away not only protects them, but also has the potential to provide us with tremendous peace of mind.  Setting up a legal trust is the best way to make all of this happen.

What is a pet trust?
A pet trust is a legal arrangement that provides for an animal’s care and maintenance in the event of the pet guardian’s disability or death.  The “grantor” (called the “settlor” or “trustor” in some states) is the person who creates the trust.  A “trustee” is designated and holds property such as cash “in trust” for the benefit of the pet. Payments to a designated caregiver(s) are made on a regular basis.
Rules and regulations
It’s now possible to make provisions for a pet through a trust in all 50 states.  Minnesota was the last hold out and, earlier this year, became the final state to pass legislation approving pet trusts.

Rules pertaining to pet trusts vary from state to state.  In most cases the trust terminates when the animal passes away or after 21 years, whichever occurs first.  While this works well for most dogs and cats, it has the potential to be problematic for animals with longer life expectancies such as horses and parrots.  Some states allow a pet trust to continue past the 21-year term if the animal remains alive.  After the pet passes away, any remaining funds are typically distributed amongst heirs as directed by the terms of the trust.

Trust details
When crafting a trust, think about who you might want to care for your pets if you are no longer able to, and then talk to that person(s).  Better to check out the viability of your plan in advance than surprise your friend or relative with such news after you are gone.  While not necessary for the intended caregiver to sign off on the legal document, it is certainly wise to know in advance that you have their buy in.

Instruction within the trust can be very specific, including as much detail about your pet’s care as you like.  For example, you might specify preferred types of food, favorite toys, sleeping arrangements, exercise regimens, and the number of veterinary visits per year.  Consider specifying how much veterinary intervention you would want should illness arise.  Details about care of your pet’s remains following their death can be included.

Think about how much money would be needed to properly care for your pets and how the funds should be distributed to the caregiver(s).  Remember to factor in funds for grooming, boarding, and veterinary costs.

Lastly, identify your pets within the trust with as much detail as possible.  In addition to their names include details such as breed, size, identifying markings and microchip numbers.  Consider including photographs.

Making a trust happen
If you don’t already have a trust prepared for your pets, I encourage you to make this a priority.  Ideally, enlist the help of an attorney who specializes in estate planning.  If this isn’t feasible, type up a document (as I am doing today for my friend) and sign and date it.  It might be a good idea to also have the document signed by a witness or two.  I suspect there are on line templates one can follow as well.

Performing such tasks isn’t much fun, and it’s certainly no fun to think about someone else caring for your beloved animals someday.  Nonetheless, I encourage you to get a trust prepared for your pets.  Guaranteed, after doing so, you will feel some peace of mind having provided this true expression of love for your animals.

Do you have a trust in place for your pets?  If not, will you consider making this happen?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award

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