Pet Medicines Linked To Child Poisoning Incidents: Study

Pet owners need to take greater care to make sure that children are not able to access to pet medicines, due to the risk of child poisoning that may cause serious health consequences, according to the findings of a new study. 

In a report published in the February issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, hundreds of problems involving pet medicine poisoning among children have been received by a single poison control center in Ohio, including 100 incidents during a single year.

Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of pediatric patients exposed to pharmaceutical drugs intended for animals. Data was taken from the Central Ohio Poison Center, a regional poison control center, from 1999 through 2013.

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The Central Ohio Poison Center received 1,431 calls that related to veterinary drug exposure among children under the age of 19. Of those calls, 87% involved children under the age of 5 years old.

Researchers said the center averaged nearly 100 calls annually that involved children. Exposures involved children ranging in ages from 1 month old to 19.

The study indicated exploratory behavior was the most common exposure-related circumstance, occurring in 61% of poison cases. In 93% of cases, ingestion was the exposure route for children. In four cases the poisoning happened when an adult was attempting to give the medication to a pet.

The most common veterinary drugs associated with child poisonings involved pet medicines with no human equivalent, which accounted for 17% of poisonings. Antibiotics accounted for 15%, 14% were anti-parasitics and 11% were analgesics.

More than 97% of exposures weren’t expected to cause long-term health problems and about 94% of poisonings were managed at home.

Unintentional poisoning is one of the leading causes of injury and death among children under 19. More than 60,000 ER visits and one million calls to poison centers occur each year for preventable poisonings in children. Of all poison center calls, 48% of annual calls involve children under five.

A total of 80 cases were referred to a hospital and two cases caused a moderate health side effect. Those two involved a child who ingested heart worm medication for dogs and another who swallowed an anxiety medication for dogs.

Researchers highlighted more than 74.1 million households in the U.S. own at least one pet and half of those households have a child under the age of 19. Researchers warn, with this many households with young children and pets, unintentional pediatric exposures to pet drugs may occur frequently.

This is the first study to focus on pet medication exposures.

Researchers warn that improperly stored mediation is one of the leading causes for child medication poisonings. That includes medications kept on the counter, kept in a purse or containers that allow children to access the drugs easily.

“Children under 5 years of age are most at risk for veterinary pharmaceutical-related exposures,” wrote the study authors. “Although most exposures do not result in a serious medical outcome, efforts to increase public awareness, appropriate product dispensing procedures, and attention to home storage practices may reduce the risk of veterinary pharmaceutical exposures to young children.”

If your child is exposed to a medication or poison, contact Poison Control at 800-222-1222. In case of emergency contact 911.


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