A young dog died in Poland, Ohio, recently after ingesting a cream prescribed for a human in the family.
The cream, Fluorouracil, is intensely toxic to dogs. There seems to be no warning on the drug insert.
The family members claim they were not informed by anyone in the medical community about the risk to their dog if he ingested the cream — not the physician, not the pharmacy and not even the product warning insert. Nothing. So, sadly, the dog died, despite intense emergency veterinary care.
Who Is to Blame?
Is there blame in this situation? Who is at fault or not at fault? Must physicians or pharmacists or pharmacists’ assistants spell out exactly what may happen in any given situation? Do they need to ask the following questions?:
- Do you have children or pets at home who might eat your prescription?
- Are there children or pets at home who could take all your pills?
- Do you have an immunocompromised person at home who could be at risk if exposed to medications?
- Is there a drug addict at home who will abuse your medication?
Keep Drugs and Medications Away From Children and Pets
Almost all medications carry elongated and frightening warnings about side effects, toxicity and more. The warnings almost always say, “Keep away from children and pets.”
Are these warnings enough? Should certain medications not be prescribed unless a physician makes the disclaimer that this medication could kill your pet?
This Can Happen to Anyone
I’m not sure if we can place blame on the medical community or ourselves when these sad toxicities occur. After all, we are all only human. And they are animals. We think we keep a clean house, but our pets will jump at any opportunity to ingest something and attempt to kill themselves.
I said “a clean house.” Oy vey, what does that mean? We want to clean up after ourselves, but do we always do a thorough job?
- Do we make sure our purses are never left out where Pywacket can get into our prescription pill vial?
- Do we leave ADHD meds out on the counter for our son but Brewster the Beagle self-medicates instead?
- Does our loving aunt come and visit and leave all her medications open in the bathroom so Gigi the poodle can overdose on Trazadone?
This poor pup in Ohio who died after ingesting this cream is a tragedy.
It also hit home hard in a big way. This could have happened to my pup. My mom was dying in my home under hospice care. We all did the best we could, but it was a stressful time. Among the many medications she had for cancer and pain, she was also prescribed this Fluorouracil cream so toxic to dogs.
I was as organized as possible at the time. Hospice workers in and out, all of us watching over my mom. Her bedside held many medications, including that cream. My wonderful dog, Wally, slept beside my mom day and night. My sweet pup could have crept over to her bedside, taken a bite of this topical, deadly cream and I would never have known.
Vigilance Is Key
I don’t care what anyone says — you must keep your pets away from prescriptions as well as over-the-counter meds. But if you heed warnings, it’s still hard to read through the fine print.
Imagine you are leaving your doctor’s office and being told your prescription has been called in to your pharmacy. About 30 minutes later, you arrive at your pharmacy, wait in line and are in a hurry. You need to sign privacy waivers, perhaps get out your insurance cards and also look over the exorbitant price of the medication not covered by your plan. Stapled to the prescription are pages of warnings.
The drug insert with the really fine print is . Do you read it all? Can you find the tiny line that says “Keep out of reach of pets and children?” Is it even there?
I’m not sure where due diligence begins or ends for the medical as well as veterinary communities where warnings are concerned, but if a small amount of a topical cream could kill your pet, it would be nice to be told that immediately and in person.
But I don’t think that’s the way customer service is going. So we have to know that our pets might always eat the most unappetizing — and sometimes toxic — things that they can. And it’s our duty to protect them from themselves.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Oct. 13, 2018.