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Protect children from pet medications

Q: Our old dog resists taking his many pills, so I hide them inside a tiny peanut butter sandwich and add it to his food bowl. Normally he swallows the pills without noticing them.

Yesterday, though, I must have skimped on the peanut butter, because he spit out the pills, still hidden inside the mini peanut butter sandwich. Then, when I wasn’t watching, my toddler picked up the sandwich and ate it. After a trip to the emergency room, my daughter is fine.

How often do pets’ medicines poison children?

A: Each year, U.S. poison control centers receive a million calls about childhood poisonings. The first study of children exposed to veterinary drugs was published this year in the medical journal Pediatrics, in time for National Poison Prevention Week, which starts March 19.

Researchers reviewed one poison control center’s records of 1,431 calls about accidental exposure of children to veterinary products. The majority involved children up to age five who, while exploring, discovered medication intended for the family dog.

Other cases involved accidental exposure of the child while the parent was attempting to medicate the pet, and inadvertent use of the pet’s medicine when the parent intended to give the child a human medication. Most children were exposed to heartworm and flea products, antibiotics, anti-parasite drugs and pain medicine.

Almost all of the children suffered no or minimal health effects, which is consistent with earlier studies on unintentional exposure of children to human pharmaceuticals.

To prevent veterinary medications from poisoning your children, keep all drugs in child-resistant containers with the original labels. Store pet and human medicines separately to avoid confusing them.

Keep children away while you are medicating your pets, and monitor pets until all food and medicine have been ingested. Consider medicating pets before the children awaken in the morning and after they’ve gone to bed at night. Be sure topical liquids, such as flea and tick preventives, are dry before children play with pets.


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

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