More Than Skin Deep: Human Topical Medications Can Have Serious Effects on Pets

Topical medications (creams, gels, sprays, patches) are commonly prescribed and used for many conditions in human medicine. They are often incredibly effective for the conditions they treat, but if pets are inadvertently exposed to them (through casual contact/petting, or by the pet ingesting the product), they can be hazardous. The following list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but contains some of the more common and/or dangerous medications.

  1. Fluorouracil (Efudex®, Carac®, Fluoroplex®): This topical medication, usually supplied as a cream, is used to treat human skin conditions including solar and actinic keratosis, as well as some superficial skin tumors. It is particularly dangerous for dogs and cats exposed to it, as it is very rapidly absorbed, and low doses may be fatal. It causes seizures, stumbling, tremors, vomiting, heart rhythm abnormalities, diarrhea, and respiratory issues, usually within an hour of ingestion. If the pet survives the initial illness caused by this medication, they aren’t out of the woods yet – bone marrow suppression may occur and persist for up to three weeks.


  1. Calcipotriene (Dovonex®): This topical psoriasis treatment causes high blood calcium levels if ingested and may result in kidney failure, heart failure, and may lead to death. Lethargy, weakness, and decreased appetite are usually seen within one to two days of ingestion.


  1. Hormonal preparations (Evamist®, Estrogel®, Divigell®, Estrasorb®): Hormone replacement creams and sprays are often prescribed to lessen the adverse symptoms associated with menopause. They typically contain estrogen and/or progestin, which may be absorbed by pets after the product is applied – usually to the owner’s arms or legs. The pet can then exhibit signs of “feminization” – including enlarged nipples, mammary glands, and vulva, and possibly vulvar bleeding in female pets, or enlarged nipples and mammary glands in males. Pets may also exhibit patterns of hair thinning or hair loss. These effects are reversible once the exposure is halted, but it can take up to several months for the pet to fully recover.


  1. NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories): Used for topical pain relief, these usually contain diclofenac or ketoprofen, and may be supplied as a cream or a patch. If a dog ingests only a small amount, the only sign may be gastrointestinal upset; however, if a larger amount is ingested, or if a cat ingests some of the product, then gastrointestinal bleeding, perforating stomach/GI ulcers, kidney failure, and death are possible.


  1. Patches: Used transdermal patches generally still contain significant amounts of drug, so proper disposal is crucial to preventing unintentional exposure to pets.
    1. Nicotine – These smoking cessation aids can be dangerous. Ingestion initially causes drooling and vomiting, and can progress to high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and breathing, tremors, and seizures. Some signs can show later, and include central nervous system depression, respiratory distress, stumbling, and seizures; if enough has been ingested, it can be fatal.
    2. Lidocaine – Patches containing lidocaine are generally applied to or near painful areas. Ingestion may cause seizures, stumbling, low heart rate, low blood pressure, and cardiac arrest or death at very high doses.
    3. Fentanyl – This potent pain medication is related to morphine. Effects have been seen in small pets after they have simply licked their owner’s skin in an area where a patch was previously applied. Initially, a mildly affected pet may only appear “drunk” – sleepy, stumbling – and recover within a few hours; in more severe cases with higher ingestion/exposure, the pet may have a low heart rate and low body temperature, become unconscious and severe respiratory depression may lead to death.

If you have been prescribed any of these medications, discuss with your physician best practices to ensure no pets (or children) will be exposed. If you think your pet may be affected by or might have ingested a medication you have been prescribed, please do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian.generic-products



Obesity in Pets


We’ve all heard about the obesity epidemic in America. 36% of adults and 17% of children in the U.S. were considered clinically obese from 2011 to 2014. Around an additional 20% were considered overweight during that time. What we don’t often hear about is the obesity epidemic in our pets. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in 2015, 54% of dogs and 58% of cats were considered overweight or obese, making obesity one of the more common, yet preventable, diseases we see in our pets.

But, why does obesity matter?

Diseases that have been associated with obesity in pets include but are not limited to osteoarthritis, Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, knee ligament injury, kidney disease, urinary bladder disease, cancer, and decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years). So, if decreasing unplanned visits to the veterinarian and unwanted prescription costs sounds good to you, getting that extra weight off of your pet may be your best opportunity.

So, how do I get rid of those unwanted pounds?

First, before starting any diet or exercise program, it is important to ensure your pet is healthy by making sure he/she is up to date on his/her annual physical.

More than any other disease, obesity is one that you, as an owner, have substantial control over.  Diet is probably the easiest variable to control to start making immediate improvements in your pet’s body condition. See the table below, from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention website (, to check how many calories your pet should be eating per day and then make adjustments based on the type of food you feed and your pet’s individual activity level.  Remember to include all food sources, including treats, rawhides, Greenie-type dental chews, as well as people-food, which can all be very high in calories. If your pet is already getting an apparently appropriate intake of calories but is still overweight or obese, a good rule-of-thumb is to decrease the total daily intake of food by 25%, starting first with people food and treats. Remember, however, that some diseases, such as hypothyroidism can affect your pet’s ability to lose weight, and you should also consult with your veterinarian if you have questions or your pet continues to be overweight despite these simple interventions.


10 lbs. 180 to 200 calories*
10 lbs. 200 to 275 calories*
20 lbs. 325 to 400 calories*
50 lbs. 700 to 900 calories*


Daily Caloric Needs for Active Humans

Male 2500 Calories
Female 2000 Calories


*Please note that the calorie counts provided are guidelines for average lightly active adult spayed or neutered dogs or cats (1 to 7 years old receiving less than 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day). The caloric needs of a particular pet may differ depending on such factors as lifestyle, genetics, activity level and medical conditions. Your pet will likely be fed fewer calories if you are attempting to reduce weight and improve fitness. Note that most indoor cats receive very little sustained aerobic activity and many dogs do not receive adequate daily physical activity. We recommend a structured, routine exercise and nutritional program for your pet.

Second to diet, and maybe just as important for the control of obesity, is a regular exercise program. 20-30 minutes of moderate activity per day is a reasonable goal. For a dog, this could include brisk walking or fetching a tennis ball. For a cat, a toy mouse on a string can provide a good source of mental and physical stimulation. In winter, when it is tough to get outside for exercise, consider treadmill training for your dog. When thinking of ways to get exercise for you or your pet, consider that any amount of activity is better than none. And what a great opportunity to bond with your pet and increase their quality of life, and maybe your own too!

  • Joseph Conrad, DVM

Cold Weather Pet Care Tips


Scout W. enjoying some outdoor play time in our Daycare yard.

The first day of winter is on Monday, December 21st, 2015. After our recent bout of chilly winter weather here in Colorado, Dr. Conrad wanted to share some important cold weather pet care tips:

Outdoor Pets: Pets who spend a large amount of time outdoors or who live outdoors require more food for fuel to keep their bodies warm in the winter time. Also be sure to check those outside water bowls daily to ensure they don’t freeze.

Indoor Pets: Consider a sweater or an extra blanket for your furry family members. Just because they have fur themselves doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a little help warding off the chills during those cold Colorado nights.

If you use space heaters or a fireplace, be careful of burns. Do not allow pets to sleep on or near space heaters, and always use a fireguard screen. Be particularly careful with wagging tails near fire, and never allow pets to play near fire or heaters.

  • Joseph Conrad, DVM