Pets & meds

Pet talk

Dear Vets:

My cat Daisy goes outdoors sometimes and likes to climb trees.

The other day she jumped out of the tree and started limping on her back leg. Is it OK to for me to give her some human pain medication? I know if it happened to me I’d take a Tylenol or aspirin.

It is very good that you recognise the signs of pain in your pet cat. Animals are capable of feeling pain just like you or I do, but because they are unable to vocalize their pain, it often goes unnoticed. Pain control is a very important topic in veterinary medicine, since it is part of a veterinarian’s job to provide pets with relief from pain and suffering when possible.

Cats typically are quiet, depressed and motionless when painful and may growl or hiss at their owners. Dogs may appear less active, disinterested in food and other leisure activities. Cats may continue to purr and dogs may continue to wag their tails even though they are feeling a great deal of pain. It can be assumed that all traumatic, medical and surgical conditions create pain and require treatment.

Unfortunately, most pain medications available over-the-counter for people are not recommended for cats and dogs. In fact, some can be lethal, even in small doses! This is because the physiology of our pets and the mechanism of action of these drugs is not the same as it is in people. For instance, people regularly take ASA or aspirin for mild to moderate pain. ASA is not metabolised well by cats and persists in the blood stream for more than 44 hours. It causes severe ulcers in the stomach, is toxic to the liver, and will cause coma and death within a few days of ingestion.

Acetaminophen or Tylenol is another common drug found in most households. Just like ASA, small amounts of this drug can cause vomiting, difficulty breathing, liver damage, and internal bleeding. Signs may be noticeable within one to four hours of ingestion and the pet may die within a few days of ingestion.

Over-the-counter medications are the fourth most common cause of poisoning in small animals.

If you suspect that your dog or cat is painful, take him or her to a veterinarian to be examined as soon as possible.

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