Tylenol (Neo-Citron) Killed My Dog…

Pain killers can be the death of your pet…

A common human cold medication killed another local dog last week. Despite around-the-clock medical care and several doses of a counteracting drug, the sweet yellow Labrador could not be saved.

No one really knew how Kiera was poisoned until near the end, when an empty Neo-Citron box was found in her yard. The popular cold treatment contains acetaminophen (APAP), commonly known in North America by the brand name Tylenol.

Acetaminophen kills a lot of cats because their bodies don’t metabolize it the way we do. Just one 325 mg tablet can be fatal to felines. Being finicky creatures, cats don’t usually eat pills readily. The poisoning is often caused by a well-meaning owner giving the cat a tablet or two to treat pain and illness.

The drug is much less toxic to canines and is now occasionally prescribed in small amounts with careful monitoring. Please don’t give this to your dog without a veterinarian’s advice! Acetaminophen poisonings in dogs are usually self-inflicted due to their tendency to eat almost anything. Labradors are at the top of the gluttons list and they visit vet clinics often for detox treatments.

APAP overdose in dogs generally causes liver damage as it does in people. In the United States, it is the most common cause of acute liver failure in humans. Kiera had ingested a dose even beyond the threshold for affecting the liver and her blood turned brown because it could no longer carry oxygen.

The list of household items that can poison pets is long, as I was reminded while trying to determine what was killing my patient last week. Moth balls, onions, matches, gels or sprays containing benzocaine and certain dyes can all cause symptoms similar to those of APAP toxicity.

For cats, the top toxins reported to the Pet Poison Helpline last year were spot-on insecticides meant for dogs, household cleaners, human antidepressants, and poisonous plants such as lilies. APAP and other anti-inflammatories, including aspirin rounded out the list.

We see dogs poisoned most often by chocolate, mouse bait, compost, anti-freeze, human drugs – recreational and otherwise – and foods containing the sweetener xylitol.

If you suspect a pet may have been poisoned, contact your veterinarian. Information and advice is also available for a fee through two services – Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 and the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Any details about the toxic ingredients, amount ingested, the animal’s weight and the time of poisoning could be lifesaving.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital – Trenton/Quinte West
February 2013