Many people have the idea that pets can be treated with the same common drugs as humans because they are mammals. However, this is not a safe practice as drugs are metabolized differently among species and unlike humans, a large number of common pet medications are dosed based on the weight of the animal.
Human physiology and that of dogs and cats are different in many ways, and that’s the main reason drugs do not work the same way across the species. Physiological differences often lead to animals being under or over-dosed with human medications. Overdosing is more often the case as people assume that just lowering the dose by a half or quarter of the human dose is sufficient to treat the pet, but what is consider a low dose in humans can be a toxic dose in a dog or a cat. Dosing in animals is very specific and if it is not done correctly, your dog or cat can become sicker than they were before receiving the medication. A common misconception of many pet owners is that medications which do not require a prescription such as Tylenol and Aleve are safe to be used for pain relief in their pets; remember: over the counter does not equate to safety.
Some common human medications that pet owners give to their dogs and cats are pain relievers and meds for anxiety such as benzodiazepines. Pain relievers such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Naproxen (Aleve), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin have all been shown to have serious toxic or lethal effects on dogs and cats. Single doses of Tylenol and Aleve can be fatal to a cat. Aleve can cause serious liver damage to dogs if ingested; therefore, these medicines should always be kept safely out of the reach of curious pets. Aspirin in particular is more dangerous for cats than dogs and is one drug that illustrates the significant physiological differences between both species.
While there are some human drugs that are pretty safe to give to pets, the big issue is with dosing. You should always get the dosing instructions from your veterinarian before administering any medication to your dog or cat because the side effects of most drugs are usually dose-related. Some common drugs that work well in both humans and dogs with minimal side effects are Benadryl, Pepto-Bismol, Pepcid, and Hydrogen Peroxide but remember that higher doses can also create problems for your little ones.
When in doubt, always consult a trained animal drug expert such as a 1800PetMeds pharmacist in order to prevent unintended harm to your pets and if drug poisoning is suspected, call the poison prevention hotline right away.