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Dalmatian sitting on chair eyeing something on dining room table

Human allergy medications toxic to pets

Q: We found our dog lying unconscious next to my bottle of decongestant nasal spray. He apparently had chewed the bottle open and licked up the liquid. We rushed him to the veterinary emergency clinic where the staff saved his life.

It never occurred to me that an over-the-counter nasal spray could be toxic, or I wouldn’t have left it on the table. Please warn your readers.

A: You raise a good point, and it’s not just decongestant nasal sprays, but also eye drops that are toxic when ingested.

These products contain medications that constrict blood vessels to relieve nasal congestion and eye redness. Taken orally, they have a narrow margin of safety, so ingestion of even a small amount is a medical emergency.

Toxicity is marked by rapid onset of clinical signs, within 15 to 30 minutes for a large oral dose, or 4 to 6 hours for a small dose. Signs of toxicity, which persist for 12 to 36 hours, include vomiting, drowsiness, weakness, decreased heart rate, muscle tremors, collapse and coma.

Many nasal sprays also contain xylitol, often in very high concentrations. In pets, xylitol can cause profound hypoglycemia and liver failure.

Keep your pets safe by securing all medications, even seemingly innocuous products like over-the-counter nasal sprays and eye drops, where they can’t reach them.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com

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