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There’s no doubt about it: Over-the-counter medications can ease suffering and save money. From allergy and pain relief to upset stomachs, constipation and diarrhea, these products are so helpful and so common that most of us have a difficult time imagining our life without them.
But do they have a place in your pet’s medicine chest? Some do, but some definitely don’t, and all over-the-counter medications should have you picking up the phone for veterinary guidance before you guess at the use or dosage. Just because you take something doesn’t mean it’s safe and effective for your pet — no matter what you read on the Internet.
Played a little too much soccer, weekend warrior? Spent too much time digging in the yard? Headache slowing you down? No problem! There’s always an effective over-the-counter pain-control medication that will ease your aches and get you back into the game. Seems reasonable to cut the dose down and give a pain pill to your cat or dog, doesn’t it?
Actually, it's not. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two of the most common pet poisons — which is why on any list of “do-not-give-your-pet” OTC medications, No. 1 is always pain medications. I hope the day comes, and soon, when every cat lover knows that acetaminophen can be deadly to cats. Alas, my emergency care colleagues tell me we’re far from that universal knowledge. Even less widely known: Acetaminophen is also toxic to dogs. The same is true for ibuprofen.
Never give any over-the-counter pain medication to your pet. Even aspirin, once widely recommended by veterinarians for mild pain in dogs, is now on the “do not give” list after the discovery that even this “safe” product causes gastrointestinal ulcerations. Pain management is very important in pets, but don’t take matters into your own hands: Talk to your veterinarian about which prescription medication (or combinations of medications) will best ease your pet’s suffering safely. (Related: Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth salicylate, which is similar to aspirin and can cause similar problems in cats and dogs.)
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