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Study: Take steps to prevent children from exposure to pet medications :

February 6, 2017

Curious toddlers are at risk of mistaking Fido’s medications for a snack, according to a new study.

While most of the symptoms reported in the study were minor, the authors noted that exposure to high doses of veterinary drugs could be dangerous.

“Prevention and education efforts should focus on appropriate product dispensing, home storage practices and proper medication delivery to help reduce the risk (of) veterinary pharmaceutical exposures to young children,” authors said in the study “Pediatric Exposures to Veterinary Pharmaceuticals” (Tomasi S, et al. Pediatrics. Feb. 6, 2017,

About 63% of U.S. households have pets, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Researchers looked at data from the Central Ohio Poison Center from 1999-2013 and found 1,431 calls related to a child being exposed to a pet’s medication. The mean age of the child was 3.2 years, and 87.6% of calls involved children under 5 years.

Roughly 61.4% of the pet medicine exposure calls stemmed from a child exploring the home and coming across the medication. Another 23.3% of the exposures were classified as unintentional delivery of medication such as a child getting medication out of a pet’s food or finding it after a pet had spit it out. In calls involving older children, often a teen had mistaken pet medication for human medication.

In most cases, the children were exposed only to a small amount of medication, and nearly 97% were not expected to have lasting health effects. However, authors stressed the importance of keeping children away from the medications.

“Despite current pharmaceutical prevention efforts and packing regulations, parents and caregivers may not recognize the potential risk of veterinary pharmaceutical product exposures in their home,” authors wrote.

They recommended several steps pediatricians can pass on to their patients:

  • Keep medications in their original child-resistant containers with the label attached.
  • Store veterinary pharmaceuticals separate from human medications and in a location inaccessible to children.
  • Make sure pets finish all food that contains medicine before a child is allowed nearby.
  • Administer topical medications when the child is not present.
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