A survey by a pet insurer More Than indicates that almost 10% of pet owners in the UK treat their cats and dogs with human medication in order to save on veterinary bills. I find that shocking to be honest for the obvious reason that treating your cat or dog with human medication is clearly fraught with danger.

Is paracetamol toxic to cats? Yes. Photo of Persian cat copyright Helmi Flick.

The most common human medication given to pets are antihistamines, Ibuprofen, aspirin, paracetamol and antiseptic creams.

Paracetamol or antihistamines can cause liver or kidney damage. An estimated 1.4 million people in the UK have given their pet human medication when injured or sick.

On average these people have given their pets human medication seven times over the past year. A third of them say that they do it to avoid veterinary costs while 25% believe that medication to humans is safe to use on their cat or dog.

Sometimes human medication is appropriate for a cat or dog but the owner needs to be aware of which are, and which are not, suitable and importantly have knowledge of the amount of the dose and delivery which are very important. Realistically, only veterinarians are qualified to know the safe quantity of any particular medication to administer to a companion animal.

In addition, in the insurer’s survey of 1000 dog and cat owners in the UK, 5% of participants said that they have given their pet protein shakes and bars, vitamins, exercise supplements, diet pills and other such products which are meant for humans.

Far from me to be overly critical, but it does seem that a good percentage of cat and dog owners have a rather cavalier attitude to their companion animal’s welfare and health. Either that or they appear to be unaware of the specialist digestive system of the domestic cat and the harm that can be done in giving, for example, painkillers to a cat which are designed for people.

Pet owners should budget for vet visits. Pet owners should have sufficient funds to take proper care of their cat or dog’s health. If not they should not own a cat or dog.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • What if you are watching a family members cat who has not one ounce of caring after being told several times over please take cat to see a professional or stop being selfish and put it to sleep, I have a heart and have spent monies on food and natural homeopathic remedies to help a cat with FAD and now it's stomach is desdended, it's not lost it's appetite, and his stomach bloat needs an X ray for a vet to decide whether laxative should be administered to help the blockage of intestinal gas or in past ive seen blood on cat feces and told owner that it's not something to take lightly, could be worms I collected a sample of stool and stored it for over a month made endless calls to vets who refused a payment plan to help me and again it's not my cat I am watching during a family amidst moving out of state, but it seemed to just be a long road as I changed the 4 year old cat from kitten food because of constant vomiting projectile, and then saw a few incidences of blood in feces a website had said that their food could be to blame and symptoms abated after weaning off its original kitten food to a natural cat food, it still displayed FAD Flea allergic dermatitis which I purchased the natural earth from pet store to treat bedding and purchased a cat lidocaine hydrocortisone spray, as it would overgroom and gnaw at its skin until raw and hotspots all over poor animal, this spray healed cat within days and I was soooo worried for a secondary infection from the cuts it was giving itself, now it's finally coming to where a vet which what may have one cost $100 would now be $500 and I did not then and do not now have that type of money, I've spent a good $50 on earth and the spray but have in dribs and drabs with coupons-her stomach is now descdended and I want to administer activated charcoal in helps to side the digestion or alleviate a gas pocket but these comments make me sound barbaric--Ive read countless vet forums and spoken to vet techs over phone explaining my now current situation so I beg if anyone could help please let me in on something I can do because I cannot afford pet meds I ordered capstar and I will not administer until the cats stomach bloat goes away, I was told worms would be visible to the eye in its feces and it was not so please don't judge me, as I've said I'm watching the cat and owners keeping cat alive selfishly if she has no intention on giving it veterinary care.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and difficulties, Eline. I hope you have success with your request.

  • With the knowledge of a competent vet, there are several human medications that are safe and helpful for cats. They can, actually, have small amounts of aspirin. Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin can be used also if dosed appropriately.

    The problem lies when people take it upon themselves to treat their cats with the same meds that they were treated with for similar conditions, such as a runny nose, without benefit of expert advise.

    It's all very scary. These same people will sometimes, also, give these meds to their babies. Well, that would be, minimally, manslaughter and a whole other story.

    The ignorance of some pet caretakers runs rampant. The answer, ofcourse, is education. But, that would be a massive task. Perhaps it could begin with adoption centers where potential caretakers would be told to never give their cat anything that isn't vet approved.

  • I'm shocked to read about the ignorance of so many people thinking it is okay to give human meds to their pets. I am aware of a few that are safe for cats such as baby aspirin and certain antibiotics but *only* on the advice and/or written Rx from a veterinarian.
    Also, there are numerous indoor plants and chemicals that are toxic.
    I recommend using only non toxic cleaning products and no artificial plants or flowers in the home because cats will chew and ingest them.
    Another issue is the sale of so many cat toys which have great potential to cause harm. For example, the little metal ball usually seen hanging from cat collars with something inside that makes a sound when movement occurs. Cats can easily swallow and choke on this resulting in death.
    Too many small toys exist that cats chew which can easily cause an intestinal blockage resulting in death or the need for very expensive surgery to remove.

    • Hi Debra. I am pleased to see that your useful and intelligent comment has been published. Sorry that you had some problems earlier and pleased that they seem to be resolved. Thanks for commenting.

  • I can't believe so many people give their cats medication that was meant for humans. I've heard that one Ibuprofen pill can kill a cat. I would think the same is true about asprin and Acetaminophen. That's just common sense anyway. Anybody that knows anything about cats should know about that before adopting a cat.

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