man from Des Moines, Iowa, who crashed his car into a utility pole in late 2007, told the court he mistakenly took medication that was not prescribed to him.
Blood tests confirmed he was driving under the influence. A drug used to control seizures was in his system, and a bottle of the medication was found at the scene.
But it was the name on the label that caught the attention of police: Saturn. The drug had been prescribed for the man’s Jack Russell terrier.
How often do humans ingest medications intended for pets?
More often than you think.
According to the National Poison Data System, there were 825 reported cases of people who took veterinary nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in 2007. Veterinarians commonly prescribe NSAIDS to treat inflammation, pain, and fever in pets.
Most of these poisonings were unintentional, though 32 were considered suspected suicide, misuse, or abuse. The ages of the victims ranged from six months to 88 years. No deaths were reported.
Alvin C. Bronstein, MD, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, Colo., says half of all poisonings involve children under the age of five.
“The peak year is around age two,” Bronstein said. “That’s when kids are getting mobile and their primary sensory organ is the mouth.
“The child sees the parent give [medication] to the dog, the parent leaves the pill on the table, and the kid grabs it.
“Another common scenario is the parent will put the drug out and the phone rings. When the parent is distracted, the child will swallow the pill.”
But children aren’t the only victims. “Frankly, adults don’t pay attention to the medicines they put in their mouths,” Bronstein said. “And sometimes they just get confused.
“The bottles and child-resistant caps for pet medicines look the same [as those for humans], and the pills may look similar too.”
Become familiar with what your pet’s medications look like and always read the labels. It is a good idea to store pet medications away from family members’ drugs and in properly-labeled bottles, rather than envelopes, which a child can easily open.
According to Bronstein, the risk of poisoning is higher if you keep pills in envelopes, but even medication kept in bottles should be stored out of the reach of children.
“Child-resistant caps are child-resistant, not childproof,” Bronstein cautioned. “The cap will only delay the child.”
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 3 Issue 5, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.