There's some human medicine that is safe to give dogs under veterinary supervision. However, there are far more medications that are toxic to pets. Below is a list of 27 most common suspects of unsafe human medicine for dogs and why you must never give them to your pooch, and even avoid having them lying around the house.
Table of Contents
- 1. Advil / Motrin (Ibuprofen)
- 2. Aleve (Naproxen)
- 3. Aspirin (Acetylsalicylic Acid)
- 4. Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
- 5. Diaper Rash Creams
- 6. Xanax (Alprazolam / Benzodiazepines)
- 7. Ambien (Zolpidem)
- 8. Any Medication with Pseudoephedrine
- 9. Vitamin D (Supplement)
- 10. Eye Drops Containing Benzalkonium Chloride
- 11. Valium (Diazepam)
- 12. Melatonin
- 13. Codeine
- 14. Alcohol-Based Ear Treatments
- 15. Human Multivitamins
- 16. Hydrogen Peroxide (Topical Application)
- 17. Ginkgo Biloba (Supplement)
- 18. Ginseng (Supplement)
- 19. Any Medications Containing Xylitol
- 20. Lunesta (Eszopiclone)
- 21. Garlic (Supplement)
- 22. Beano (Alpha-Galactosidase (α-GAL) and Invertase)
- 23. Human Diabetes Medications
- 24. Ex-Lax (Senna Glycoside)
- 25. Psoriasis Creams (Calcipotriene)
- 26. Calamine Lotion
- 27. Excedrin (Aspirin/Acetaminophen/Caffeine)
Some of the below mentioned toxic meds and supplements are more or less dangerous than others, but it's best to stay away from them all. Instead, stick with drugs made for pets specifically, or other types of non-toxic human medicine that are safe for dogs.
1. Advil / Motrin (Ibuprofen)
Also known as: NSAIDs
Toxicity: Moderate to severe, life-threatening
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that's particularly toxic to dogs and should be avoided at all costs. Among all the human medicine for dogs that pet owners often consider, Iboprofen is the most popular one.
When dogs ingest a medication containing Ibuprofen, they may experience diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, bloody vomit, bloody feces, stomach ulcers, perforation of the stomach, seizures, incoordination, decreased urination, increased thirst, increased urination, coma, or death. Ibuprofen most commonly causes death through dog's kidney damage, abnormal bleeding, and gastrointestinal damage.
2. Aleve (Naproxen)
Also known as: Midol, NSAIDs
Toxicity: Moderate to severe, life-threatening
This is another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that humans normally use as an analgesic and antipyretic to treat pain associated with arthritis, gout, cancer, lupus, and musculoskeletal injuries, but it should not be given to dogs.
Similar in its toxicity and symptoms to ibuprofen mentioned above, the effects of naproxen last longer than those of ibuprofen, thus increasing the chance of death.
3. Aspirin (Acetylsalicylic Acid)
Also known as: NSAID, ASA, Salicylic Acid, BenGay, Salicylates, HEET, Icy Hot, Pepto-Bismol, Oil of Wintergreen
Toxicity: Moderate to severe
While aspirin is sometimes prescribed to dogs by veterinarians and can be safe in very specific circumstances and doses, it can also be accompanied by extremely serious side effects; reactions to aspirin in dogs is exceptionally common.
For this reason, aspirin is one of the most popular unsafe human medicine for dogs to avoid and ideally should never be given to your pooch without direct supervision of your vet. Side effects of aspirin ingestion are similar to those of ibuprofen and include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ulceration, stomach or intestinal bleeding, hemorrhage, seizure, coma, and death.
4. Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
Also known as: Paracetamol, APAP, Percocet, Panadol, Excedrin, Feverall
Toxicity: Moderate to severe
Tylenol or Acetaminophen is very popular for people to use but it's very toxic to dogs and within 30 minutes of ingestion, your dog’s liver and red blood cells will rapidly become damaged. It's among the most popular unsafe human medicine for dogs that pet owners often have lying around.
Symptoms of acetaminophen toxicity in dogs include vomiting, brown gum discoloration, blue gum discoloration, lethargy, a decrease in appetite, abdominal pain, facial or paw swelling, shock, collapse, and death.
5. Diaper Rash Creams
No cream should be ingested by your pooch, but some are far more dangerous than others. Diaper rash creams that contain zinc can be especially toxic to dogs. Zinc poisoning can present with vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, pale gums, yellow gums, depression, dehydration, yellowing of the eyes or skin, anemia, kidney damage, liver damage, seizures, cardiac complications, and death.
If your dog ingests anything containing metal – pennies, creams containing zinc, etc., do not induce vomiting. Contact the Pet Poison hotline and transport your dog to the emergency veterinarian immediately.
6. Xanax (Alprazolam / Benzodiazepines)
Also known as: Clonazepam, Klonopin, lorazepam, Ativan, midazolam, Versed, nitrazepam, oxazepam, pinazepam, prazepam, zolazepam
Toxicity: Mild to severe
Same as Aspirin, Xanax is sometimes prescribed by veterinarians for anxious dogs, but it should never be administered without direct supervision of a veterinarian. Additionally, the human form of Xanax should always be kept far out of reach of your dog because the slightest overdose of Xanax can cause severe side effects.
There are separate anxiety aids for dogs that can be used safely. Side effects of Xanax, when prescribed under vet supervision, may include a lack of coordination, sedation, fatigue, and increase in appetite. An overdose of Xanax may contribute to confusion, liver damage, CNS excitement, extreme sedation, and coma.
7. Ambien (Zolpidem)
Also known as: Lunesta, eszopiclone, zaleplon, Sonata
Toxicity: Mild to moderate
Ambien does not have the sedative effect in dogs that it does in people and should never be used to calm down your pooch, or for any other reason. Yet somehow it's often researched and even tried by pet owners, which makes it yet another popular unsafe human medicine for dogs you should not have lying around.
Ingestion of Ambien by a dog can cause elevated heart rate, increased body temperature, tremors, hyperactivity, aggression, panting, drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures. Oddly, Ambien poisoning in dogs may also present with sedation, slow heart rate, slowed respiration, incoordination, and lethargy.
8. Any Medication with Pseudoephedrine
Frequently used in cold medications, pseudoephedrine is a decongestant used commonly by humans. When ingested by dogs, however, pseudoephedrine can result in agitation, restlessness, tremors, hyperactivity, tachycardia, hyperthermia, high blood pressure, panting, dilated pupils, the inability of the blood to clot, the breakdown of muscle, and kidney damage.
9. Vitamin D (Supplement)
Although vitamin D is present and necessary in your dog’s diet, exorbitant levels of vitamin D through ingestion of human supplements or rat poison is exceptionally dangerous.
Symptoms of vitamin D poisoning include vomiting, depression, weakness, increased thirst, loss of appetite, increased urination, blood in the feces, blood in the vomit, constipation, weight loss, seizures, abdominal pain, muscle tremors, drooling, inability of the blood to clot, kidney failure, coma, and death.
10. Eye Drops Containing Benzalkonium Chloride
Same as with creams, no eye drops should be ingested by your dog, but certain types are more dangerous to dogs than others. Benzalkonium Chloride is frequently used in human eye drops and it's one of the unsafe human medicine for dogs that pet owners might have lying around.
When your pet ingests eye drops, they may experience numerous mild to moderate side effects. These side effects may include vomiting, salivation, oral ulceration, muscle weakness, hyperthermia, and chemical burns.
11. Valium (Diazepam)
Also known as: Alprazolam, clonazepam, Klonopin, lorazepam, Ativan, midazolam, Versed, nitrazepam, oxazepam, pinazepam, prazepam, zolazepam
Toxicity: Mild to severe
Diazepam is sometimes prescribed to dogs by veterinarians to soothe anxiety, treat seizures and relax muscles; however, it does have the potential for causing serious side effects.
If mixed with certain other medications or taken in larger than necessary doses, Valium can result in severe symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, loss of coordination, sedation, lack of appetite, increased appetite, slowed respiration, slowed heart rate, aggression, lethargy, coma, and death. Do not give any Valium to dogs unless advised by your veterinarian.
Melatonin is popular among people to help with sleep issues. There is some controversy over whether or not melatonin is safe for dogs, but until the things are clearer, it's best to keep it as one of the popular unsafe human medicine for dogs that should never be given to them without direct veterinary supervision.
Mostly it's because some brands of melatonin contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs (mentioned below). That said, even without containing xylitol, melatonin can result in digestive upset, rapid heart rate, insulin resistance in diabetic dogs, and confusion.
In some cases, codeine is used to control pain in dogs that have reactivity or sensitivity to morphine. It may also be used to treat coughing. While it's rare for pet owners to find this drug lying around their house, there's data showing that people consider it as one of the potential human medicine for dogs to try.
Codeine should never be given without direct veterinary supervision, and human medications containing codeine should be kept out of reach of your Fido. There are better pain meds for dogs to try first. Codeine can also react negatively with other medications and may cause vomiting, nausea, constipation, intestinal obstruction, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing.
14. Alcohol-Based Ear Treatments
There are a number of alcohol-based ear treatments on the market, but these should be avoided at all times when it comes to using them on or around your dogs. While alcohol will dry the ear, it will also cause irritation to the delicate tissue inside your dog's ears which can result in swelling.
Alcohol will also sting any open wounds inside the ear. Instead, use pet-friendly ear treatments for dogs and discuss any issues with a veterinarian for a prescription based treatment if needed.
15. Human Multivitamins
Human vitamin needs and canine vitamin needs are not the same and many human multivitamins contain toxic ingredients to dogs. Because many people do take artificial multivitamins in pill form and often have them lying around in the kitchen, this is one of the more popular unsafe human medicine for dogs (though technically not meds).
But more importantly this doesn’t just include the vitamins themselves – many human vitamins also contain Xylitol, a sweetener that’s toxic to dogs too. If your dog is in need of a multivitamin, talk to your vet to find an appropriate canine vitamin for them, there's plenty of options you can safely give to your dog.
16. Hydrogen Peroxide (Topical Application)
Hydrogen peroxide is a product that can be used in some instances to induce vomiting in dogs (always consult pet poison control before making your dog vomit), and that's about the only reason to ever use it, after discussing that with a veterinarian or Pet Poison hotline professional. When it comes to topical use, however, stay away from this bubbling antiseptic as it can seriously damage tissue and inhibit the growth of new tissue in dogs.
17. Ginkgo Biloba (Supplement)
Ginkgo biloba is sometimes recommended by veterinarians for dogs with canine cognitive disorder, improved ocular blood flow, and increased blood vessel dilation. There are also suggestions that it may be useful in a number of other illnesses; however, because ginkgo affects the ability of the blood to clot, has sometimes been known to cause spontaneous bleeding, and interacts with a number of other medications, you should never attempt to supplement your dog with ginkgo without direct vet supervision.
18. Ginseng (Supplement)
Like ginkgo, ginseng does have it’s uses and has been prescribed by veterinarians when treating dogs with cancer as a supplementary treatment. Ginseng has been shown to increase survival times for cancer patients, decrease tumor size, and bolster the immune system. That said, ginseng also thins the blood, may cause stimulation in some patients, and impairs the ability of the blood to clot. Ginseng also interacts with a number of medications and should never be given without direct veterinary supervision.
19. Any Medications Containing Xylitol
Also known as: Sugar-free, sugarless, gum, mints, breath mints, toothpaste, chewable vitamins, Trident, Ice Breakers, Orbit, Nicorette, sugar alcohol, acute hepatic necrosis, hypoglycemia, liver failure
Toxicity: Mild to severe
Human medications (as well as human candy) are often sweetened using xylitol, a substance that is toxic to pets. Even some peanut butter (a popular doggy treat) can contain xylitol.
Even the smallest amount of xylitol can cause a dog’s blood sugar to drop, cause seizures, induce liver failure, cause coma, and cause death. By now, this is the most well-known substance among pet owners, but not many are aware that it can also be added into meds which originally might have been safe human medicine for dogs.
20. Lunesta (Eszopiclone)
Also known as: Sleep aid, eszopiclone, Ambien, benzodiazepine, Valium
Toxicity: Mild to moderate
Like Ambien, Lunesta can cause a number of the same side effects including agitation, sedation, aggression, hyperactivity, panting, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, respiratory depression, cardiovascular depression, hyperthermia, coma, and death.
21. Garlic (Supplement)
Garlic is often used as a supplement in humans for cardiovascular and circulatory system health. Garlic should not be used as a supplement for dogs, however, because it is known to cause hemolytic anemia.
Hemolytic anemia is characterized by the bursting of red blood cells throughout your dog’s body. Symptoms related to HE in dogs include lethargy, weakness, vomiting, lack of appetite, disorientation, dizziness, pale gums, labored breathing, and rapid breathing.
You may notice that there are trace amounts of garlic in some dog foods – these amounts are minute and can actually have positive effects on your dog’s health. Garlic in any larger quantity, however, is toxic, and because many people have it or garlic supplements lying around, it becomes one of the most common unsafe human medicine for dogs to watch out for. But how much garlic is too much for dogs? It depends on your dog’s size, their breed, and their existing health
22. Beano (Alpha-Galactosidase (α-GAL) and Invertase)
While some human medications to treat gas can be used in dogs, Beano is not one of them. Beano is formulated using enzymes developed for the human digestive system and is not an effective solution for your dog’s gas. It's one of the more popular unsafe human medicine for dogs pet owners might have around but should be careful about their canines ingesting it.
Technically, eating a canine-formulated diet, your dog should not have a need to “pre-treat” for gas. If your dog does experience gas following meals talk to your veterinarian about possible health conditions that could be causing it, as well as any changes that need to be made to your dog’s diet to prevent gas in the future.
There are also digestive supplements for dogs that are safer. If you do need any strong medication to help your dog with serious gas due to gastric upset talk to your veterinarian about suitable alternatives that are safe and effective for dogs.
23. Human Diabetes Medications
Many human diabetes medications are not approved for use in dogs and they are not designed for the canine body. Your dog requires canine diabetes medication tailored to their anatomy, size, condition, and symptoms. Using human diabetes medication in dogs can result in a number of side effects including high blood sugar, low blood sugar, vomiting, lethargy, seizures, increased thirst, increased urination, coma, and death.
24. Ex-Lax (Senna Glycoside)
Ex-Lax is developed for human use and is just too powerful for your dog. If your dog is experiencing constipation, consult your vet not only to get a prescription for a canine-friendly laxative but also to find out why your dog is experiencing constipation. If your dog accidentally ingests Ex-Lax, side effects include low blood sugar, diarrhea, abdominal pain, rash, dizziness, and a drop in blood pressure.
25. Psoriasis Creams (Calcipotriene)
Also known as: Calcipotriol, Vitamin D3, cholecalciferol, Taclonex, Dovonex
While dogs can get psoriasis just as people can, human psoriasis creams are not safe for use on dogs as they contain calcipotriene – a source of vitamin D. When ingested, calcipotriene creates incredibly high levels of calcium which lead to kidney failure.
If a dog ingests calcipotriene side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, seizures, excessive thirst, excessive urination, loss of appetite, lethargy, coma, and death. If you have psoriasis and use creams for it (or other eczema creams), remember that it's one of the most unsafe human medicine for dogs to have lying around with easy access.
26. Calamine Lotion
Calamine lotion is another topical lotion that contains zinc oxide and should not be used on dogs. For a list of possible side effects in your dog from consuming calamine lotion see the side effects related to diaper cream that include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, pale gums, yellow gums, depression, dehydration, yellowing of the eyes or skin, anemia, kidney damage, liver damage, seizures, cardiac complications, and death.
27. Excedrin (Aspirin/Acetaminophen/Caffeine)
Also known as: Tylenol, paracetamol, APAP, Percocet, Panadol, Feverall
Toxicity: Moderate to severe
Excedrin is a combination of multiple medications that are toxic to your dog – aspirin (which we’ve already noted), acetaminophen (which we’ve already noted), and caffeine (which causes the same effects as overdosing does in humans, but dogs are significantly more sensitive to caffeine ingestion). The last on the list but by no means the least popular among unsafe human medicine for dogs, pet owners often research if excedrin or other caffeine substance is fine for their pets, but it isn't.