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Drug Side Effects–The Risks Pet Parents Often Don’t Ask About

drug side effects and cats

Photo credit: Pixabay

Do you remember the last time you took your cat to the vet for an illness or health issue of some kind?  It can be a very stressful thing for cats and cat parents alike.  Because we’re not trained veterinarians we often blindly accept whatever diagnosis, drugs, or recommendations without question.  Granted, most vets have the best intentions and truly care.  However, there’s one very important issue I feel they rarely cover:  drug side effects. Medication is supposed to help improve a condition; when you start to observe the opposite happening something is wrong.

I wholeheartedly agree that there is a time and place for emergency medicine.  In fact, it has saved my own cats more than once in serious kidney failure situations. However, when it comes to non life-threatening situations too often a drug is a vet’s first go-to:  “Let’s put Fluffy on drug “X” for this symptom and see how she does.”  

Me, on the other hand, I have trained myself to look for a cause.  If you don’t treat the cause of the symptoms it can be like a Wack-a-Mole game.  You’ll always be in reaction mode, and it’s so easy to get sucked in to the vicious cycle of chasing symptoms with drugs.  There is never a cure, only masking symptoms.  

Medications are not risk-free!

Let’s not forget that pharmaceutical drugs DO have side effects!  When was the last time you remember your vet telling you about the side effects of the drug they want to put your cat on?  Do they send you home with a list of symptoms to watch for?  Do they show you the actual drug label where these are listed?  If they do, GREAT!  However, that has rarely been my experience.

Adverse reactions, or drug side effects, are the undesired effects that can potentially develop when using a given drug.  Before choosing a drug a veterinarian must decide if the good outweighs the bad or potentially harmful effects.  To further complicate matters, a drugs’ side effects can require additional medication to address those, and you end up with a concoction of drugs that may or may not interact well. 

It’s also important to remember that all medications are filtered through the liver and kidneys.  When these organs become sluggish and weakened due to the toxic load they lose their ability to function optimally.  As a result it makes it harder on the body to filter these toxins out of the body.  Therefore, it’s extremely important to monitor these organ values with regular blood panels while on medications.

medications and adverse effects

Photo credit: Pixabay

Identifying symptoms and drug side effects

I worked with a client recently whose cat is taking a daily concoction of up to 5 medications.  Over a year ago she had been treated for a fungal infection which cleared up.  Unfortunately the treatment sent her into renal failure, too.  When I energy tested the symptoms she’s been having over the past year they resonated with the drugs.  My heart sank.   Interestingly, so many of her symptoms match the drugs’ adverse effects and her family didn’t recognize this. 

I also discovered that none of the medications even agreed with the cat!  In fact, the cat had even developed a sensitivity to one of them.  It was the medication used to treat the fungal infection that she no longer had.  Because the titer test came back positive the vet put her back on the drug. 

Note:  a positive titer test just means that the body is having a normal immune response and can still fight the disease.  It doesn’t mean the disease is back and more drugs are necessary.  (Thank you Dr. Wil Falconer, DVM, for that valuable piece of knowledge!)

Based on the information I found I recommended the owners discuss these finding with their vet and to discontinue using the drugs.  It will be interesting to see how the cat responds without the daily stressors of medications that are no longer helping her.

Cat Issues & Popular Drugs, Side Effects 

I decided to look up some of the most commonly prescribed drugs for various feline health issues and take a closer look at some the side effects. How many of these drugs does your cat take on a regular basis?  Are you familiar with the symptoms of adverse effects?

Cat Medications & Side Effects

MedicationUsesDrug Side Effects
CapstarTo kill parasites/fleashyperactivity, panting, lethargy, itching, vocalization, vomiting, fever, decreased appetite, nervousness, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, salivation, incoordination, seizures, pupil dilation, increased heart rate, and trembling.
VerafloxAntibioticvomiting
AmoxicillanAntibioticallergic reactions (labored breathing, hives), vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, drooling, lack of appetite
LactuloseLaxativebloated belly, abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, dehydration
Maropitant (Cerenia)VomitingDrowsiness, drooling, lethargy, diarrhea, anorexia
CisaprideDigestive Tract Motilityvomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, changes in heart rhythm
FamotidineReduces stomach acid, gastritis, GERDlow heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, headache, dry mouth, dry skin
MetronidazoleDiarrheaallergic reaction (labored breathing, hives), drooling/gagging, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, blood in urine or dark urine, liver damage
FluconazoleFungal infectionsworsening skin rashes, anemia, diarrhea, loss of appetite, jaundice
DiphenhidramineAllergieshyper excitability in cats, dry mouth, decrease in urination, sedation, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite
MelozicamPain reliefvomiting, soft stools, lack of appetite, kidney damage
PrednisoloneInflammationincreased thirst and urination, increased hunger, loss of energy, development or worsening of skin infections, vomiting, nausea
MethimazoleHyperthyroidismdepression, vomiting, lack of appetite, low blood cell counts

Source:  PetMD.com, VCAhospital.com

Symptoms of adverse effects of medication in cats

Photo credit: Pixabay

Steps for intervention

First, before you leave the vet’s office get a list of all the potential adverse reactions to each medication your cat is prescribed and be vigilant. If you begin to notice any drug side effects call your vet or local animal emergency hospital immediately.  Some conditions can be potentially life-threatening, and every minute counts.  You can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680.  

Secondly, if your cat is taking medication on a long-term daily basis it’s a very good idea to routinely detox for 14-21 days with an herbal milk thistle product.  I like the ones from Pet Wellbeing and Animal Essentials.  I’ve also used the Kidney Support Gold herbal product from Pet Wellbeing, too.  

Finally, never be intimidated to ask your vet specific questions about the drugs they prescribe your cat.   If you’re not satisfied with their answers, do your own homework.   At the end of the day you are your cat’s best advocate!  Never feel pressured to give your cat ongoing medications without truly understanding the risks, and be ready to act quickly when you start to see a decline in your cat’s condition. 

Has your cat ever experienced drug side effects?  Share in the comments below!



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