How to Keep Medications Safe from Pets

The Animal Poison Control Center receives more than 180,000 phone calls each year about pets that have ingested potentially harmful substances in the home. The list of toxic substances to which animals are exposed includes prescription and over-the-counter medications intended for human use only. Many medications can be attractive to pets, as they can have sugary colored coatings and can resemble bite-size snacks or pet food.

There are many ways in which a pet can have access to your medications. Often a pill will be swallowed if it falls to the ground. Pets can jump on countertops to swallow pills that are left in the organizers of pills or bowls. Surprisingly, dogs can also chew through bottles of medications on counters that you may assume are out of reach.

Many people place medications on tables or counters so they can remember to take them at certain times. Keep in mind that these locations are often within reach of your pet. It is very common for pets to eat the pills that are left on the table.

Medications to Watch out For:


These medications are used to treat pain and inflammation. Some common NSAIDs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, are available without a prescription. The sweetness of the outer layer can make these pills more inviting for pets, but for some small animals, NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure.

  • Acetaminophen

Cats lack the ability to break down this medication in their liver, which makes them more vulnerable to its toxic effects. Even a dose of paracetamol in a cat can cause damage to red blood cells and cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, lethargy, and vomiting. Acetaminophen can also cause lesions in a dog’s red blood cells and serious liver problems can also be a concern.

  • Antidepressants

Medications such as venlafaxine, fluoxetine, and escitalopram can be used in pets for behavioral problems but can be toxic if taken in an accidental overdose. Signs of overdose include drowsiness, tremors, loss of balance, and seizures. Even a dose of venlafaxine can be toxic to a cat.

  • ADHD medications.

Medications such as amphetamine and methylphenidate can cause an overstimulation of the nervous system that causes toxic effects, such as agitation, tremors, and seizures. In addition, these medications can also increase blood pressure and heart rate.

  • Benzodiazepines

Medications such as diazepam, lorazepam or temazepam are used to treat insomnia and anxiety in people. When they are ingested by a pet, they can cause excessive sedation, weakness or collapse, but they can also have the opposite effect and make your pet very agitated.

How to Prevent Pets from Consuming Human Medications

Plastic pill bottles and weekly dosing containers can be confused with chew toys, and pills stored in a loose plastic bag can be easily chewed, so keep your medication in a closed cabinet or on a high shelf out of harm’s way. Pick up the medication that fell off immediately so your pet can not ingest it and never give the medication to a pet without consulting your veterinarian. Keep your medication away from your pet’s medications so you do not accidentally give your pills to your dog or cat. In any case of accidental ingestion, always call your veterinarian!

If you have a SafeTote Rx bag that holds 12 bottles, you can conveniently store all of your medications in a locked leather bag. This will not only prevent pets from accessing your medications, but it will also prevent children and others because of the lock. After placing your medications in your bag, we recommend that you store it out of reach in a drawer or on a high shelf in order to prevent your pets from accessing it.

Helpful Tips for Pet Safety

  • Keep medications where you know your pets cannot access, preferably in closed cabinets on countertops.
  • Pick up or take any spilled medication immediately.
  • Never give your pet humans medicines without first consulting a veterinarian.
  • If you think your pet has used human drugs, consult your veterinarian immediately.
  • Keep all of your medications in one place. If you have bottles in multiple rooms of your house, you may loose track and forget to close one of them.

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