Friday, May 8, 2015

Beware: pets and topical medications

pets topical medications cat groom
Did you know topical medications for humans can be toxic to pets? Cats in particular may groom these products off themselves or their owners.

Are you careful to protect your pets against accidental exposure when you apply medicated creams to yourself or family members?


The FDA issued the warning after receiving reports of probable flurbiprofen toxicity in cats in two households where the owners used these preparations on themselves to treat pain. In the affected households, the owners applied the cream or lotion on their own neck or feet.

While it is not known how the cats were exposed to the medication there are a couple of possibilities. The drug may have been groomed directly off the owner, or the owner’s clothing or bed-linnn. Alternatively it may have been indirectly exposed to the cats’ fur when they sat on or near the owner, or on or near objects that had been in contact with the owner’s treated body parts, then groomed the drug off themselves. Or it may have been absorbed through the skin.

In addition to flurbiprofen the products implicated contain muscle relaxants (cyclobenzaprine and baclofen) and analgesics (gabapentin, lidocaine or prilocaine). Flurbiprofen is used in eye preparations for companion animals in some countries, but at very low concentrations. The concentrations on the topical product used to treat muscle pain in humans are much, much higher.

In one household two cats developed renal failure and recovered with treatment. Somehow this was associated with the flurbiprofen as the FDA included this in the alert.

In another household, two cats died after showing signs including inappetence, lethargy, vomiting, melena (black, tarry stools), anaemia and dilute urine – consistent with renal failure. A third cat died after the owner had ceased using the medication – although it’s not known if this was delayed onset or due to ongoing exposure by some route. Necropsies showed evidence of renal and gastrointestinal pathology that were consistent with NSAID toxicity. Pretty devastating for these owners.

The FDA has provided thefollowing consumer advice for uses of topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen, but this is good advice to follow in general when it comes to topical medications.

This is not the first time topical preparations for humans have been implicated in companion animal fatalities. Minoxidil, the active ingredient in a hair growth promotor, has been associated with fatal acute heart failure in cats. Diclofenac gel which is commonly used in humans is also toxic to companion animals.

Always wash your hands after applying topical preparations, don’t let your pets groom you after applying any sort of topical preparation, and avoid leaving residues on clothing and furniture.


Remember that companion animals are not small humans. What is an appropriate dose of a drug in a human might be a highly toxic dose in an animal.

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