Your Pets’ Medications Can Poison Your Kids Interview with:

Kristi Roberts, M.S., M.P.H. Research Project Coordinator Center for Injury Research and Policy Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus, Ohio

Kristi Roberts

Kristi Roberts, M.S., M.P.H.
Research Project Coordinator
Center for Injury Research and Policy
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, Ohio What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

  • We know that 74.1 million US households own at least one pet and one-half of households have a child age 19 years or younger living in the home so there is a potential for unintentional pediatric exposure to pet medication.
  • We realize that pets are common and an important part of families, especially those with young children. However, pets often require medications to keep them healthy and these medications could be dangerous to a child if the child is exposed (gets a hold of or swallows the medicine).
  • We looked at 15 years’ worth of data and found that over 1,400 children were exposed to a veterinary pharmaceutical product. That is about 95 each year or 2 children every week that are being exposure to medications intended for pets.
  • Children under 5 years old are the age group most frequently exposed to medications intended for pets. These young children typically ate or swallowed the medication after they found it when climbing on the counter or while the parent was trying to give the medication to a pet. Most of the calls were for medications intended for dogs.
  • Teenagers were also exposed to medications intended for pets but for different reasons. Many teens mistakenly took pet medication instead of human medication.
  • The majority of exposures occurred at home (96%) and were not expected to result in long-term or long-lasting health effects (97%).
  • While many people don’t think of their pet’s medication as harmful some medications, both human and veterinary, could be highly dangerous even at low dosages, especially for small children. What should readers take away from your report?

Parents and caregivers can take a few simple steps to keep their children safer from medications intended for pets:

  • Keep all medications safely stored until it is time for the next dose.
    • Keep medications up, away, and out of sight. Store pet medications where children cannot see or reach them – in a locked cabinet is best.
    • Store away from human medicine. It’s easy to grab the wrong container and mix up pet medicine with human medicine. Help prevent this mistake by storing medicine for humans and medicine for pets in different locations.
    • Keep in original containers. Keep all medicines, including those for pets, in their original, child-resistant containers with the label attached.
  • Plan to give pets their medications away from children. Consider giving pets their medication in another room and make sure they finish it (and don’t spit it out), or their fur has dried before allowing children to play with the pet again.
  • Check for a clean bowl. Many vets recommend mixing pet medicines with food so they will eat it. If you need to do this for your pet, keep the medicine/food mix out of the reach of children and make sure the pet has finished all the food (and hasn’t spit it out somewhere) before children are allowed to play with the pet again.
  • Know how to call the Poison Help Line. Save the national Poison Help Line number, 1-800-222-1222, in your cell phone, and post it near your home phones. Call right away if you think your child has swallowed pet medication. You don’t need to wait for symptoms to develop to call.Veterinarians can also play a role in helping to prevent some of these exposures by encouraging parents and caregivers to follow these guidelines and by making sure to dispense all medications in child-resistant containers. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The data in this study represent one poison center, which covers only part of Ohio. This is really just a snapshot of what’s happening across the country. Future research could look at a nationally representative sample of poison centers. Is there anything else you would like to add?


Response: We know that our results are an underestimate of pediatric exposures to veterinary pharmaceutical products because these data only examined calls to one regional poison center which serves part of Ohio and these do not include calls to other centers. Additionally, other pediatric veterinary pharmaceutical exposures might have sought medical care at a health care facility or private physician offices without reporting the data to the Central Ohio Poison Center. Alternatively, some cases may have chosen to not seek any form of medical advice or treatment. Although this is just a snapshot, these exposures were significant enough to utilize Central Ohio Poison Center (COPC) resources and cause the parents to be concerned.

The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

The authors have no conflicts of interest relevant to this article to disclose. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Pediatric Exposures to Veterinary Pharmaceuticals
Suzanne Tomasi, Kristin J. Roberts, Jason Stull, Henry A. Spiller, Lara B. McKenzie
Pediatrics February 2017


Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on February 8, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD