9/28/2000 – Learning from Fido’s accidental use of SSRIs

Thanks once again to Robin Eisner for another insightful article about SSRIs.

Warning: Be very careful of your pets around medications and read closely to
see what you might learn from the effects of SSRIs on Fido. This will leave
you asking why these drugs are intentionally given by vets to our pets.

Ann Blake-Tracy

Accidental Antidepression
Dogs Hurt Inadvertently Swallowing Popular People Pills

More dogs these days are unintentionally chomping down their owners’
serotonin-enhancing antidepressants, such as Paxil and Prozac, than they were
five years ago. (Pat Wellenbach/AP Photo)

By Robin Eisner

N E W Y O R K, Sept. 28 Pooches across America are developing a dangerous
drug habit accidental consumption of their owners¹ Prozac-like drugs.
The National Animal Poison Control Center of the American Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty says more dogs these days are chomping down
unintentionally, that is their owners serotonin-enhancing antidepressants,
such as Paxil and Prozac, than they were five years ago.
Dogs are very dogged, explains Dr. Steve Hansen, director of the
Control Center, which is located in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. They will crush a
bottle of pills with their back molars and lap up the drugs or they will
quickly eat a tablet that an owner inadvertently dropped on the floor.

Established in 1978, the fee-for-service National Animal Poison Control
Center is the only 24-hour emergency telephone hotline staffed by 20
full-time veterinarians and five board-certified veterinary toxicologists in
North America.

Unintended Use

While veterinarians now prescribe antidepressants to dogs to treat canine
sadness, separation anxiety and other behavioral problems, the increasing
problem with unintended ingestion of these drugs by dogs is due, most likely,
to the rising popularity and use of this class of drugs by humans, Hansen

In 1995, 50 percent of the antidepressants accident cases were of the
Prozac type, according to Jill Richardson, a veterinary poison information
specialist at the animal poison center. By 1999, that number jumped to 80
percent of 500 total antidepressant case calls.

The danger antidepressant drugs pose to Fido depends on the amount
wolfed down, the size of the dog and whether the dog had any pre-existing
medical conditions that might make it susceptible to an overdose, Hansen

Danger Depends on Many Factors

Lethargy, vomiting and disorientation are among the symptoms a small dog,
such as a Chihuahua, could experience with a large dose of a Prozac-like
drug. The animal will walk around with its front legs not in sync with its
back legs, looking drunk, Hansen says.
If the owner calls the poison control line before these symptoms develop,
the hotline veterinarians might recommend the owner induce regurgitation with
hydrogen peroxide easily found in most medicine cabinets. The dose with a 3
percent peroxide solution is one milliliter per pound of the dog, which
translates into 2 ounces for a 50-pound dog.

If the dog already is tipsy, however, the vets will probably ask the
owner to take the animal for emergency care, since the animal might need more
specialized treatment. The telephone vets also will suggest an older dog with
kidney disease get to a vet as soon as possible.

Homes Need to Be Pet-Proofed

To prevent an animal from accidental consumption of drugs, owners need to
dog- and cat-proof their house. Medications should be kept in a closed
cabinet beyond their reach, Hansen says. The No. 1 problem drug accidentally
consumed by pets are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or medications
like acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen.

While drugs can poison animals, pets also are susceptible to
insecticides, rodenticides and will drink spilled antifreeze and gasoline.
The antifreeze propylene glycol is less toxic to pets than ethylene glycol,
Hansen says.

Cat owners also should not use dog products containing the anti-flea
chemical permethrin on their felines. Owners should not assume because it is
OK for dogs, it is OK for cats, Hansen says. Cats may experience tremors
and seizures from the insecticide.

Why Vet Line Charges?

Pet owners must pay a $45 fee to get assistance from the vets at the
Animal Poison Control Center. The amount covers subsequent calls to the

Unlike human poison control centers which are free because they receive
funding from federal, state and local government sources, the animal line
must charge because it only receives partial funding for its operation from
manufacturers of pet care products. The phone number is 1-888-426-4435.

Because large emergency veterinary centers are usually located in large
communities, a pet owner or a veterinarian in a rural community may only have
the hotline to get important toxicological information in a emergency
situation, according to Sharon Granskog, spokeswoman for the American
Veterinary Medical Association, in Schaumberg, Ill. They play a vital
service, she says.

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