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Medicines for people are top cause of pets being poisoned

LOS ANGELES — Human medications including dropped pills sickened more pets in the United States last year than any other toxin.

It's the third year in a row that human medications top the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' list of top 10 toxins, released Friday.

Over-the-counter medicines with ibuprofen and acetaminophen, antidepressants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medicine topped the list.

Janet Hardie in Groveland, Calif., knows the danger well: Earlier this year, she brought home incontinence pills and set them on a table beside her chair in the living room. A while later, she looked down and Priscilla, her year-old Lhasa apso, was tearing into the blister pack.

"She had eaten three. At least I couldn't find them," Hardie said.

She and her neighbor called the ASPCA hotline in Urbana, Ill. A veterinarian had them weigh the dog and read the prescription information, then feed the dog a half a piece of white bread and two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide. Then they kept Priscilla active so the contents of her stomach would fizz and she would vomit within 15 minutes.

"The doctor was on the telephone for about an hour," Hardie said. "It was like having her here, she was so precise."

About a quarter of the 168,000 calls received by the hotline in 2010 were about pets who had swallowed human drugs, said veterinarian Tina Wismer, senior director of veterinary outreach and education at the center.

The Pet Poison Helpline in Minneapolis, Minn., run by SafetyCall International, has handled more than 750,000 calls since 2004, said veterinarian Justine Lee, the helpline's associate director of veterinary services. She estimated half their calls are about human medicine.

The poison centers do not track deaths because there are too many variables.

Pet owners won't always know what their animals have gotten into — they just know they are showing symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, depression, seizures or refusing food.

Insecticides, rodenticides, people food, veterinary medications, chocolate, household toxins, plants, herbicides and outdoor toxins (like antifreeze and fertilizers) round out the top 10.

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