Abusing Your Pets’ Medications: The Dangers of Pet Prescriptions

Medically Reviewed

Individuals struggling with substance use disorders may seek drugs from an unlikely source. Experimentation and curiosity are enough to drive people to misuse drugs and alcohol. For example, young adults might experiment with inhalants and solvents because of the availability.

However, those struggling with addiction note that it’s the driving force behind them misusing substances from specific sources. As you’ll find with humans, your pets can be treated with various medications, and some of these will work in people. It’s important to know that taking your pets’ medication is harmful to you and to your pet who needs treatment.

If you’ve ever wondered what kind of medication humans can tolerate that we give to our animals, it’s important to continue reading.


You might be under the impression that pets are prescribed medications that are different from humans. In most cases, they are, but when it comes to managing pain, opioids are also an effective means of treating dogs and cats. Your animals have opioid receptors in their vertebrates, and they have endorphins that bind with the receptors to mitigate pain. For those reasons, when a pet is in pain, they’ll be given opioid medications like morphine or tramadol.

Although the dosage may differ, these are the same opioids that a doctor will prescribe a person in pain. In some cases, it might place veterinarians in a peculiar situation due to the public health crisis. The opioid epidemic continues to destroy our society from within. A 2019 survey from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health describes that 0.6 percent of individuals over the age of 12 had an opioid use disorder. The year prior saw 46,802 deaths caused by opioid overdose.

Those with an opioid use disorder might take opioids that are prescribed to their dogs or cats. When addictions become so severe that a person loses all control, they get desperate and do anything to satisfy their intense cravings. This is especially true if they have no other sources to obtain their medication, leading to illicit opioid abuse. Drugs like heroin and fentanyl are more potent and cost much less, which may lead many to take the turn. In rare cases, a person may even injure their pet to get an opioid prescription.


The most commonly abused pet prescription is ketamine, which is an anesthetic used in surgery. The drug was widely used in humans during the Vietnam War, and it’s still used all over the world today, despite the other options available for anesthesia. There are many street names, such as Special K, Meow Meow, and Cat Valium. The drug can cause severe hallucinations, sedation, depression, and audio and visual distortions when it’s abused. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) describes the drug as used in some sex crimes as a date rape drug.

Ketamine has the potential to cause nausea, vomiting, and severe dizziness, tremors, or seizures. High doses for extended periods may also lead to liver and urinary toxicity, meaning it can lead to organ failure and possibly death. The misuse of ketamine can also be detrimental to your mental health. If you’re predisposed to schizophrenia or psychosis, ketamine could cause a worsening of symptoms.



Anabolic steroids are usually overlooked drugs of misuse. When administered, they don’t cause intoxication, so they’re not typically viewed as a dangerous drug. Still, they can cause adverse effects on your health. Veterinarians that treat horses commonly use these drugs to treat musculoskeletal problems, but humans can misuse steroids to reshape their muscles or enhance physical performance. Misuse of anabolic steroids is frequently linked with body image problems or other mental health issues.

Abusing steroids can also cause other side effects relating to your hormones. It might cause muscle strains, ruptures, reproductive issues, severe bodily acne, and rage. It can also lead to life-threatening problems with your liver, heart, and certain cancer types.

Cough Medicines

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and some people harm their animals to get pain medication. Cough medicines commonly contain hydrocodone, a potent opioid derived from codeine, and milder opioids relieve the irritation caused by a cough.

Although hydrocodone for your pet might be a much smaller dose than you’d expect, those with addiction problems might go doctor shopping to get more doses, meaning they visit multiple vets to get drugs without raising suspicion. Fortunately, stricter opioid regulations have made this more of a challenge in recent times.

Not all cough medications contain opioids, and some over-the-counter drugs can be used to treat dogs and cats. Dextromethorphan is used to treat humans, and in large doses, it can cause fatal side effects like heart attacks.

Why Abusing Your Pets’ Prescription Is Dangerous

Whether it’s for your pet or a friend, using a medication intended for someone else can be dangerous. When a doctor writes a prescription, it’s a thoughtful process based on many factors, such as your medical history, size, and other conditions that might be affecting you. Without that supervision, it’s impossible to determine a sufficient dose, leading to overdose or different adverse reactions that could have been prevented. Keep in mind; doctors do this for your safety.

Abusing animal prescriptions is even more dangerous because they are unpredictable in humans. Although some of the active ingredients are the same, they might include a different formulation and dose. Our physiology differs significantly from that of our pets, and their medication might be too weak or strong for you. Animal medications are far less regulated than human medicines. The process of testing is much lower, just like you’ll find between our food and our pets.

It is even more dangerous to use prescriptions intended for larger animals. A large dog may use medications at a much higher dose than its average-sized human counterpart. Larger mammals like cattle and horses have prescribed much higher doses than a human would expect. An opioid given to a horse, for example, will cause an overdose in humans because of the differences in size. You must never use medications that aren’t prescribed to you because consuming them can be unpredictable or deadly.

If any of the above text sounds like you, it might be time to consider treatment. Addiction is a disease with no cure, and we understand that some of these actions are not you. Still, it could be time to take the next step toward a better life. Treatment will provide you with the tools you need to cope with stress or anxiety that could be fueling your addiction. Reach out today for the help you need.

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