The Vet Is In: Over-The-Counter Meds

Dr. Marvin Ordway
By Dr. Marvin Ordway December 15, 2010 14:50

Dr. Ordway and Homer

Just like people, animals suffer aches, pains and strains that make them uncomfortable but may not require emergency care. Dogs may tumble off rocks while hiking, get kicked by deer, or commit dietary indiscretions with foul consequences. Cats can also fall, get stung by bees, or experience diarrhea after indiscriminate dining.

If the animal is otherwise healthy, these may be minor problems that don’t require a trip to the vet – and may be helped by over-the-counter medication. However, great caution is required, as these drugs made for humans can cause illness or death for animals if the wrong type or dose is given.

For the dog sore from hiking, you can give buffered aspirin: dose at 5 milligrams per pound every 12 hours, for a maximum of four doses. One regular-strength buffered aspirin is 325 milligrams. For a 50-pound dog, therefore, the correct dosage would be 250mg, or three-quarters of a regular-sized aspirin.

Dogs are very sensitive to the ulcerative effects of aspirin, so it’s important not to give too much or for too long. If the animal is not able to stand or use a leg, or if you give the medication for two days with no improvement, see your vet.

Cats are even more sensitive to aspirin. For an average-sized cat of 8-10 pounds, dose at half a baby aspirin (81 mg) once every four days. That’s how long it takes cats to metabolize the drug. Again, use extreme caution with dosage and intervals, and when it doubt, call your vet.

Most people are cautious, but some don’t check a medication’s suitability for pets – with fatal results. One dose of Tylenol, for example, can kill a cat. Nor is Tylenol recommended for dogs, which can develop liver problems. Cats and dogs also cannot tolerate Advil (ibuprofen), which can cause gastric bleeding and death. Keep all medication in closed cupboards, as some four-legged “counter surfers” may eat pills with tragic results.

Cats and dogs can also suffer allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings. The pet’s face may swell up, or the animal may break out in hives. If the pet seems okay otherwise, you can give him Benadryl (diphenhydramine): Dose at 1 mg per pound; a 50-pound dog would get a 50-mg capsule (or two 25-mg capsules), every six hours.

It’s also okay to give Benadryl to cats stung by bees or wasps: The proper dose is the same as for dogs, so a 10-pound cat may be given about 1/3 of a 25-mg tablet. Repeat this dosage every six hours until swelling subsides. If the swelling progresses, or vomiting, diarrhea, or respiratory problems develop, a vet should see the pet immediately.

Spider bites are usually more localized and can be more serious. If you’re sure the animal has been bitten by a spider and the pet appears ill, contact your vet immediately.

Some cats that are hypersensitive to mosquito bites will get red sores on the nose and face. Vaseline will help prevent this – mosquitoes don’t like to bite through it – or you may use cortisone cream on the affected area to help clear it.

For dogs, hotspots are a common problem. These areas of inflamed skin can stem from a flea or tick bite, dust or pollen, or from hair matting. Dogs chew the area, further damaging the skin, which releases histamines – making it worse. For minor hotspots, oral Benadryl and topical, non-prescription cortisone cream will sometimes alleviate the problem. If it gets worse, or looks infected, the pet may need antibiotics and/or a cortisone injection from the vet.

Another frequent problem: diarrhea. This is a household emergency for obvious reasons but one that may not require a trip to the vet. If your dog ate something it shouldn’t have but is acting normal otherwise, you can give original Pepto-Bismol (the kind without aspirin!): Give 0.1 milliliter per pound, which translates to 1 ml per 10 pounds. A 50-pound dog may be given a teaspoonful, repeated at six-hour intervals. At the same time, make water available, but take him off food for 24 hours.

Cats may also be given original Pepto-Bismol (again, without aspirin) for diarrhea, at the same dose: 1 ml per 10 pounds. It’s easiest to dose them through a plastic syringe, available from a vet’s office.

Many times this will correct diarrhea, assuming the animal doesn’t have a bacterial, viral, or metabolic problem. Usually, pets dealing with more serious issues such as ingestion of foreign bodies (bones, acorns, rawhide chews, etc.) or pancreatitis appear very ill and require emergency care. However, if any diarrhea episode lasts more than 24 hours, call your veterinarian.

© 2010 Friends and Neighbors

Dr. Marvin Ordway
By Dr. Marvin Ordway December 15, 2010 14:50