Trust your vet, not OTC, when dealing with a sick pet

On occasion, with the guidance from our vet, we have given our dogs over-the-counter (OTC) medications for various ailments.

When Chase had itchy skin, the vet had us give him Benadryl. When a couple of the dogs had the “runs,” the vet had us give them Imodium.

Years ago, a vet had me give Ecotrin, a regular-strength coated aspirin, to one of my dogs for arthritis pain.

That’s not to say all OTC medications are safe for all dogs. It is imperative that you work with your veterinarian when prescribing any medication for your pet.

While some dogs can safely take some OTC medications, cats are a completely different animal, so to speak, when it comes to medication.

Cats are just not made at all like dogs. Cats’ digestive systems are different from those of dogs, and you should never assume that a medication that’s safe for dogs is also safe to use on your cat.

Medications that are considered safe for use in humans can be extremely toxic to cats, even in small doses.

Tylenol, for example, is quite safe for most people, and thus a popular OTC painkiller, yet a single 500 milligrams tablet can be fatal to your cat, according to

In humans and dogs, the toxic effect of an overdose of acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) is harmful for the liver.

In cats, it changes their blood composition, literally suffocating them by reducing the ability of the blood to carry vital oxygen to the body tissues.

Cats are notorious for hiding pain and disease (as are dogs), so if you actually see visible symptoms, you should always call your vet.

Treating the symptoms, even if you end up using a perfectly safe treatment, could mean the underlying condition continues to develop, causing potentially irreversible damage.

Also, beware of ointments and topical treatments, including essential oils.

Just because you apply it on your cat’s coat does not make it less dangerous. Many treatments are quickly absorbed through a cat’s delicate skin, and if that wasn’t enough, your cat is likely to lick the affected area and ingest the medication.

Some ointments might be safe for external use, but are toxic when ingested, so should not be used on cats.

When in doubt, always confer with your veterinarian first.

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.