When Fido or Fluffy is in pain, has an upset stomach, or gets a cut or scrape, we want to make them feel better as quickly as possible. But what if it’s after-hours for your vet or the weekend? In some cases, household and over-the-counter remedies can be used to help an ailing pet.
"Anytime there is something wrong with your pet, the first thing you should do is call a veterinarian,” says Dr. Jae Chang, with Farr Veterinary Hospital. In some circumstances, however, there are household remedies that can be used to help an ailing pet. You should have a conversation with your vet about safe over-the-counter and home remedies for your pet before giving them any kind of medication.”
Here are a few household and over-the-counter remedies that Dr. Chang says are typically safe for pets:
Sometimes a little pain is okay for our pets - it helps to protect them from hurting themselves even further,” says Dr. Chang. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pets are available and are often used for arthritis. Common dog-specific NSAIDs include Rimadyl, Novocox, Vetprofen, and Deramaxx and are available from your vet. Just like in humans, NSAIDs can cause side effects in our pets, too, such as vomiting, decreased appetite, and diarrhea,” cautions Dr. Chang. Also, popular human NSAIDs like ibuprofen are not recommended for pets due to toxicity. Aspirin and acetaminophen should always be prescribed and administered by your vet due to stomach sensitivity and toxicity. Aspirin can be lethal to cats.
Benadryl can be used in dogs and cats for allergies, and for motion sickness in dogs; however, check with your vet to get the okay and the right dosage. Dr. Chang advises, "Be careful not to use oral diphenhydramine liquids containing alcohol, or combination products that contain cold or flu medications like phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine or other drugs - these should never be given to pets, so check the labels.” Zyrtec and Claritin can be used in dogs, too; check with your vet for doses. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness in pets, so be sure to be alert for this and protect them from injury.
Heartburn isn't just a common human condition. Our pet’s stomach acid can shift into overdrive, too. "Over-the-counter human acid controllers, like Pepcid AC or Zantac can be useful for pets. These acid controllers bind to histamine receptors in the stomach and help block acid production,” says Dr. Farr. Your vet might use these drugs for treatment of acid reflux, canine parvovirus, or vomiting.
Some over-the-counter stomach medicines can be used in dogs for problems such as diarrhea and poor digestion. "Imodium, for diarrhea, slows down the movement of the bowel and reduces the fluid in the stool which leads to less diarrhea. Pets whose diarrhea is caused by a bacteria or toxin should not be given Imodium, so it is important to see your vet and ask for advice and dosing on this OTC medication,” says Dr. Chang. These drugs should not be used in cats, as they contain salicylates (aspirin-like agents) which can be fatal. Oftentimes the best thing one can do for the animal is cut back on a few meals. Dr. Chang suggests trying out a few unexpected natural food combinations that may help stabilize your dog. "A bland meal of boiled potato or boiled rice with a little flavoring, like bouillon or chicken stock, can help an upset stomach."
This joint protective supplement is commonly used for arthritis and hip dysplasia in both dogs and cats. "Naturally occurring substances called nutraceuticals fall in the same class as vitamins, but no supplement can reverse structural joint damage. The quality of commercially available glucosamine or chondroitin can vary, too, so ask your vet to recommend a product. The sulfate form of glucosamine seems to be absorbed the best. It can take several weeks before the benefits are seen in your pet from taking these joint supplements,” says Dr. Chang. Glucosamine is available at most pet supply stores and is now even found in some pet foods.
Mild cuts or scrapes:
These can be treated with over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin, to help prevent infection. "Pets will try to lick it off, so cover the area, if possible, or use an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking. And, owners should also make sure that the antibiotic ointments they use do not include ‘caines’, like lidocaine, or other pain relief formulas. Saline solutions or hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean wounds,” explains Dr. Chang. You should contact your vet or find an emergency clinic for serious bleeding, deep wounds, or a red or swollen surface wound.
Ultimately, your pet relies on you to make the right decisions about drug treatments and to prevent medication errors. "Human medications are not always safe for pets and owners should keep human medicines away from pets. Always consult with your vet about over-the-counter use of drugs for pets, and keep emergency contact numbers including emergency night clinics and the Animal Poison Control Center close-by,” says Dr. Chang.
Farr Veterinary Hospital is located at 3216 Enterprise Blvd., in Lake Charles. For more information visit www.farrvet.com, or call 337-474-1526.