Pet Medicine and Poison Prevention: Keeping Kids Safe

For many people, pets are an important part of the family and owning a pet can have many benefits. However, if you also have children, having a pet can come with some unexpected risks.

Stop and think about your pet for minute. Think about where you keep all of his “stuff.” You may have a basket for the toys, a container for treats, and maybe a nice blanket. Have you ever thought about his medicine – the monthly heartworm pills, the flea and tick medication, or the pills he needs to recover after his surgery? Where do you keep those?

We’ve heard many stories of people keeping the medicine for their pets out on the counter, or in a basket on top of a crate. The problem with this is that these medicines can be dangerous if you have children in your house. As adults we wouldn’t think about eating a pill we find on the floor that had been stuffed into a piece of cheese so our dog would eat it but to a curious child that might look like a tasty snack.

As a mom of both kids and animals, I know that sometimes things get a little busy. Thinking about how your pet’s medicines could be a risk for your family might not have ever crossed your mind. The good news is that by taking a few simple steps like storing medicine for pets and humans in different places that are up and away and out of sight and only giving medicine to pets when the children aren’t in the room, you can help keep everyone in the family a little safer.

We recommend the following tips to help parents and caregivers keep their children safer around pet medications.

  • Keep all medications safely stored until it is time for the next dose.
    • Keep medications up, away, and out of sight. Store pet medications where children cannot see or reach them – in a locked cabinet is best.
    • Store away from human medicine. It’s easy to grab the wrong container and mix up pet medicine with human medicine. Help prevent this mistake by storing medicine for humans and medicine for pets in different locations.
    • Keep in original containers. Keep all medicines, including those for pets, in their original, child-resistant containers with the label attached.
  • Check for a clean bowl. Many vets recommend mixing pet medicines with food so they will eat it. If you need to do this, make sure your children are in another room before giving your pet the medicine/food mix and make sure the pet has finished all the food (and hasn’t spit it out somewhere) before children are allowed back in the room.
  • Allow fur/skin to dry. For medication that you apply to the pet’s skin or fur, put it on when the children are in another room and allow the fur to dry and the medicine to be put away before children play with your pet.
  • Know how to call the Poison Help Line. Save the national Poison Help Line number, 1-800-222-1222, in your cell phone, and post it in a visible spot in your home. Call right away if you think your child may have swallowed pet medication. You do not need to wait for symptoms to develop to call.

Make Safe Happen contains room by room safety tips for your family. Click the link for more information or listen to our PediaCast.

Henry Spiller
Henry Spiller is the director of the Central Ohio Poison Center. He has spent more than 30 years in toxicology, with more than 300 publications in the field. Henry is the proud father of five (3 girls, 2 boys) and an avid soccer player when his aging knees let him play.
Kristi Roberts, MS MPH
Kristi Roberts, MS MPH, is a Research Project Coordinator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her research focuses on child safety, home safety, and behavior modification, and she is a certified pediatric sleep consultant. As a mother of two young children, she implements her research into her family’s daily life. When she’s not at work, you can find Kristi finger-painting with her kids, spending time outside, and exploring Columbus with her family.

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