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Pills next to a puppy

Pet ingestion of antidepressant

Q: My doctor prescribed Effexor for my depression and anxiety, which has worsened during the pandemic. I left one pill on the counter, and my cat Sunshine ate it. She is now being treated at the animal hospital.

Sunshine once needed an oral antibiotic, and she fought me when I tried to pill her. What would make her jump onto the counter and swallow an unflavored pill intended for people?

A: No one knows, but veterinary toxicologists report that cats are attracted to Effexor, known generically as venlafaxine, and readily eat it. Not surprisingly, it's a common cause of poisoning in cats.

Even a single pill of the lowest strength available is very dangerous to a cat. Toxic signs include dilated pupils, loss of balance, vomiting, agitation and vocalization, elevated blood pressure, racing heart with abnormal rhythm, rapid breathing, tremors and seizures. These problems can persist for days.

Thank you for reminding people to secure all medications in cabinets or drawers. Even childproof containers are no barrier to determined cats and dogs with teeth.

Best wishes for Sunshine's speedy recovery.

Editor’s Note: Each year over 100,000 pets are inadvertently exposed to toxins, resulting in calls to poison control centers or visits to veterinary hospitals. These pet poisoning prevention tips can help you reduce those chances.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

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