Can I give Human Medicine to my Pets?

November 1, 2022
cat and dog meds

When considering using human medications for your pet always AYV: Ask Your Vet.

Imagine our surprise when we heard someone ask this question. After all, don’t they make medication specifically for pets for a good reason?

Well, just because we were surprised doesn’t mean we don’t want to take the time and set the record straight. However, buckle up and get ready to become really familiar with the words that make up the acronym AYV: Ask Your Vet.

So, in this short blog, we’re going to cover whether you can give human medication to pets, and what types of certain medication classes are safe for pet consumption. 

Well, let’s get into it! 

Quick facts about giving human medication to pets

  • Most human medications should never be given to pets under any circumstances
  • You should only ever consider giving a pet medication made for humans if you’ve already discussed this decision in detail with your veterinarian and received his/her blessing.
  • Some medications for humans have pet equivalents that, when administered properly, can be successful at reducing pets’ anxiety.

Can you give human medicine to your pets?

human medicine to pets

It’s NEVER a good idea to assume that all over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are OK for your pet.

The short answer is: probably not. The longer (and more frustrating) answer is: probably not, but you should consult your veterinarian. 

There’s really nothing more to say about this very vague question, so we’re going to dive into questions that are about specific types of human medication.

Are over-the-counter medications safe for pets?

While veterinarians might recommend some  over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for your pet, it’s never a good idea to just assume that it’s Ok for all medications. 

Even if you’re pretty confident that you can just give your pet an OTC human medication, don’t. Ask your veterinarian first. Blindly giving your pet over-the-counter human medication can easily cause more harm than good. 

Now, that’s not to say there’s no OTC treatments or solutions that you can give to pets. Some medications including artificial tears may be okay to give your pet in some instances. Different OTC medications, moreover, require different dosages for different pets.  And, not to be redundant but to emphasize a point, it’s best not to risk it…just ask your veterinarian before giving your pet any OTC medication. 

Can you give over-the-counter human pain medicine to pets?

cat medicine

Never give aspirin or tylenol to your cat. They don’t have the enzyme needed to metabolize salicylic acid.

It’s natural to want to help relieve our furry friends’ pain. However, our instincts to help might accidentally be doing more harm than good. Here’s the information you need to know about giving human pain meds to your pets. 

NSAIDS and Pets 

Although they’re one of the most common OTC human pain relievers, drugs such as ibuprofen, Motrin, or Aleve can be very harmful to pets. 

These brands belong to a class of drug known as NSAID – short for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug – and they can cause a variety of bad side effects in pets. When given to pets, human NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, and drowsiness. In more severe cases, NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers, bloody stool, vomiting, seizures, and even liver or kidney failure in pets. 

Unfortunately, even if your pet doesn’t experience the above side effects, it can still complicate things at your Vet’s office.  Once you have given your pet an NSAID, your vet will have to factor in those medications when preparing his prescription for your pet in order to prevent an overdose. 

Additionally, some types of NSAIDs are just not okay to give certain types of pets. For example, you should never give aspirin or tylenol to your cat. Cats don’t have the enzyme needed to properly metabolize salicylic acid which is the active ingredient in these drugs. 

For all of these reasons, you should never give human NSAIDs to pets without discussing with your veterinarian first.

 Pets and Gabapentin

dog pills

Gabapentin is made with Xylitol, which is toxic to pets.

Gabapentin is a common anticonvulsant and analgesic drug for humans. Though it’s not FDA-approved for veterinary use, vets will often prescribe Gabapentin to treat seizures, pain, and anxiety in pets. 

However, just because it is often prescribed in a veterinary setting doesn’t mean it’s okay just to give your pet some Gabapentin. Because Gabapentin is available at different dosage rates in  over-the-counter meds, you run the risk of exacerbating Gabapentin’s primary responses and that’s drowsiness. Furthermore, one of the more common oral forms of Gabapentin is made with Xylitol, which is toxic to pets. Xylitol is also found in some brands of peanut butter—be sure to inspect the peanut butter label particularly if the brand advertises itself as NEW or LOW SUGAR.  

Veterinarians will often start pets off on a low dose of veterinary-safe Gabapentin, as a safety precaution,  to see how your pet reacts. So, as with NSAIDs, don’t just give Gabapentin to your pet without talking to your veterinarian first. 

Opioids and Pets 

Make no mistake: you should never give opioids to your pet unless specifically directed by a veterinarian. As it is with humans, opioids can quickly become a severe threat to your pet’s health.. 

One of the most commonly prescribed opioids is Buprenorphine.  It carries with it a variety of potential risks. Highly susceptible are very young or old animals, animals with liver, bile, heart, kidney, or lung disease, or animals with low thyroid levels.  Administration of Buprenorphine to this population should be very cautiously considered.. 

Moreover, there are a variety of medications that have potential negative interactions when used with Buprenorphine. These medications include: local anesthetics, anticonvulsants, benzos, naloxone, and tramadol. 

Making a mistake with an opioid like buprenorphine can lead to serious side effects including a severely decreased breathing rate and brutal gastrointestinal distress. So, can you guess where we’re going? That’s right: don’t give your pet opioids unless you’ve talked with your veterinarian and received approval.  It’s not a bad idea to get any approval in writing so that both parties understand the entire situation.

Can you give over-the-counter human allergy medicine to pets?

human medicine for pets

Pets who are given just a little too much antihistamine can become quiet, tired.

Generally speaking, you may be able to give your pet OTC antihistamines with relatively minor side effects. Drugs such as Zyrtec and Claritin are generally decently tolerated by pets who are dealing with itching or sneezing as a result of allergies. 

However, as we’ve said elsewhere, please consult your veterinarian first. Animals will require a much different dose of antihistamines than a human will. This mismatching of dosages with antihistamines is where trouble can arise

Pets who are given just a little too much antihistamine can become quiet, tired, or have a bit of gastrointestinal discomfort. On the other hand, pets who are given large doses of antihistamines can become hyperactive and even develop tremors. 

Furthermore, some antihistamines DO have active ingredients that are very harmful to pets when ingested. Antihistamines such as Allegra, for example, use the chemical Pseudoephedrine to deliver anti-congestion relief to humans. However, pseudoephedrine and other diphenhydramine liquids can be fatal to pets if even small doses are ingested. 

That’s why we don’t mind saying it again: don’t give your OTC meds to pets without talking to a vet. Period. 

Can you give over-the-counter human anxiety medicine to pets?

pet meds

Some human medications have pet equivalents that can reduce pets’ anxiety if administered properly .

Look, we totally get it: dealing with pet anxiety is a really big pain in the butt. Thankfully, a variety of human anxiety medications have pet equivalents that have shown great success when administered clinically. 

And therein lies the key word: clinically.  You shouldn’t just give human anti-anxiety medication to your pet. This is because of a similar problem that we’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog: dosage differences. Human medications for anxiety are usually at a much higher dosage than pet medications. Human bodies assimilate drugs at a different rate from pets. This makes it potentially dangerous for you to just give your dog, say, a Prozac made for humans.

That being said, there are certain made-for-pet anxiety medications that some veterinarians will prescribe. These include pet-formulated Benadryl, Prozac, Trazodone, Xanax, and Clomipramine. However, and say it with us this time: never give your pet these medications without talking to a veterinarian first. 

As an aside, there is one over-the-counter treatment for anxiety in pets that has shown great results. It’s called  Brave Paws.

Can you give over-the-counter human vitamins to pets?

dog medicine

Dogs can succumb to Vitamin D toxicity by consuming a few tablets made for children.

We’re going to be very blunt about this one: you should not, under any circumstances, give your pet human vitamins. Pets have different vitamin requirements than humans do, and too much of certain vitamins can quickly become toxic to your pet. 

Dogs, for example, can quickly succumb to Vitmain D toxicity just from consuming a few Vitamin D tablets that are even made for children. Go figure!  Too much Vitamin D can increase levels of calcium and phosphorus which can damage the heart and kidneys. Other fat-soluble vitamins including Vitamins A, D, E, and K can also become problematic because your pet has no way to  flush these vitamins out of the body after being ingested.

However, some veterinarians may recommend supplementation with water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins B and C, as well as other essential nutrients such as niacin and folic acid. This is because these nutrients will be readily flushed out of your pet’s body, so there is less risk of toxicity. 

As a matter of fact though, you shouldn’t need to supplement your pet’s vitamins at all.  Most commercially available, quality pet food supplies all of your pet’s essential daily requirements. If that doesn’t sound encouraging enough and you’re convinced that your pet could benefit from additional vitamins, we just encourage you to please talk to your veterinarian about pet-safe options. 

Do your homework!

In summary, and, we probably don’t need to tell you – of all people – please do your homework about how to keep your pet safe. You’re reading this blog in your spare time, after all! That’s why we hope you’ll continue to come back and visit our blog soon to learn more about how to keep your pet happy and healthy. On the other hand, if you ever wondered about other dog matters such as How long can my do go without peeing? Or why does my dog insist on drinking from the toilet? Well as you can see, we’ve got that covered too!  Enjoy!



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