When our pets are ill or in pain we naturally want to help them as quickly as possible. However, instead of immediately seeking professional help by way of a visit to the vets, an estimated 1.4 million* cat and dog owners in the UK take matters into their own hands and actually give their pets potentially toxic medicines designed for humans.
That’s according to new research** by pet insurer MORE TH>N, conducted with 1,000 cat and dog owners in the UK. Of the one in 11 (9%) people that admitted to having given human pills to their pets, the most common medicines were anti-histamines (36%), paracetamol (28%), antiseptic creams (21%), ibuprofen (17%) and aspirin (14%) – dispensed for complaints ranging from injured paws to cuts and insect and nettle stings. In the last 12 months alone, these owners admit to having given their animals human medications an average of seven times.
Looking at the key reasons why owners are giving human drugs to their pets, 35% claimed they were trying to avoid incurring vet costs, while 21% didn’t feel the injury or ailment warranted a trip to the vets. Additionally, 33% of those polled felt compelled to give their pet some form of quick pain relief after seeing them suffering, while 27% misguidedly believed that over the counter human medications were actually safe for pets to consume.
Andrew Moore BVM&S MRCVS, pet claims veterinary consultant, MORE TH>N said: “Pet owners risk significant harm to their pet’s wellbeing by giving them medicines designed for humans with liver failure and kidney damage among a litany of potential health complications that arise from seemingly harmless over the counter products.
“Alongside medication purpose-designed for animals, as vets we may actually also use forms of human medication in the treatment of veterinary patients. However, dosing and delivery is everything, and only a veterinary professional can know the safe quantity of any medicine to administer to an animal.”
What’s more, it would seem that cats and dogs don’t need to be under the weather for their owners to feed them human health products. Indeed, according to the research by MORE TH>N, one in 20 (5%) cat and dog owners in the UK have even given their pets protein shakes and bars, as well as diet pills, vitamins and exercise supplements.
When quizzed as to why they were giving bodybuilding and human health products to their pets, 21% believed it would help their pets get in shape and improve their stamina, 40% felt it was a good idea to help the pet lose weight more quickly, a third (35%) believed it would make their pet more healthy, while 6%, admitted they did it “so my pet would look more impressive in public”.
However, as with over the counter medications, it is not recommended to supply human supplements and health products to pets. Aside from the finding that 15% reacted negatively to being giving protein powder, diet and caffeine pills and vitamins, experts warn against giving health products not found in nature due to the potential health implications.
Andrew Moore, a veterinarian, continued: “Dogs and cats do need a specific amount of protein, but they need it from certain whole food sources, such as meat. Protein shakes and bars contain sources of protein that are not found in nature and are potentially inappropriate for animals. Cats and dogs have different dietary requirements and therefore may respond poorly to being fed artificial protein and other exercise supplements. It goes without saying that diet pills and certain vitamins that are intended for human consumption shouldn’t be given to a pet, but even seemingly innocuous health products, like protein powder, should also be given a wide berth when it comes to a pet’s nutrition.”
George Lewis, head of pet insurance, MORE TH>N Pet Insurance, concluded: “Our research shows that 42% of cat and dog owners worry more when their pet is unwell than they do their partner. As such, it’s perhaps not surprising that a number of these pet owners will go to any length to help their pets, even going so far as to feed them human medications. However, many of these items can be toxic to a cat or dog, so whatever the individual reasons are for considering giving human medicines to a pet, only a veterinary professional can safely medicate an animal and it’s therefore vital that in the event of any symptoms of ill health or injury, pet owners talk to their vets as their first port of call.”