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When it comes to getting sick, cats and dogs are a lot like us. They get colds, stomachaches, flus, suffer skin irritation and even acne. Many of the over-the-counter medicines we take every day can also be used to treat ailing pets. Of course, it's best to discuss this with your veterinarian first, just to be certain your pet doesn't suffer from an undiagnosed kidney disease, diabetes or a liver ailment, which would make consuming medication difficult and dangerous.

Are there any human medications that are dangerous for dogs?

Yes. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrum IB) are toxic to both cats and dogs, even in small doses. Pepto Bismol is also highly toxic when used in treating cats. In general, it's never a good idea to just assume a human medication will be a safe and effective treatment for your pet. Contact your veterinarian before starting any medical therapy, to discuss your options.

Are there certain dosage regulations that should be used when administering medication?

Yes. Much like humans, pets can only tolerate a certain amount of medication. Never give your cat or dog a human dosage of anything. Pet sized dosages are much smaller than you may think. Also, never give your pet a double-dose, to make up for a dosage you may have missed.

Are herbal therapies safe to give animals?

Some are, yes, while others are highly toxic. Again, it's best to check with your veterinarian before using the family pet as a medical testing experiment. Dogs with pre-existing allergies often have trouble digesting herbal therapies.

What kinds of over-the-counter medications can my pet take safely?

If you and your family veterinarian have determined that taking over-the-counter medications will benefit your pet, there are many OTC drugs which will ease your pet's discomfort and allow him to heal.

KAOPECTATE: Can be given to dogs and cats (1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds) to help ease vomiting and diarrhea. This dosage can be repeated every four hours or until your pet is resting comfortably.

PEPTO-BISMOL: Can be administered to dogs with stomach problems. Give one teaspoon per twenty pounds of weight every four to six hours. Again, Pepto Bismol should never be given to cats.

ASPIRIN: Can be given to dogs (never cats!) to help relieve inflammation, arthritis pains and general suffering. Buffered Aspirin will be much easier for your dog's system to tolerate, but if you must, regular aspirin can be used with a small amount of food. Give one-quarter of a 325-milligram tablet for every twenty pounds of dog at most twice a day.

DRAMAMINE (or Dimenhydrinate): works well at preventing motion sickness in both cats and dogs. Medium to large dogs can take 25-50 milligrams safely, an hour before traveling. For cats and smaller dogs, give 12.5 milligrams.

TAGAMET (or Cimetidine): Can be dispensed to dogs suffering from ulcer pains or to help reduce the amount of acid irritation in the stomach. It's best to discuss a proper dosage with your veterinarian.

ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENTS: Are helpful in the treatment of small wounds, bites or minor infections. Since animals instinctively lick their wounds in an attempt to heal themselves, it's important to bandage the injured area with gauze after applying ointment, and then use clear tape to keep the gauze in place.

BENADRYL(or Diphenhydramine): Helps to relieve allergy suffering. One to three milligrams for every pound of animal is enough to relieve allergic skin irritation and respiratory discomfort.

ANTIBACTERIAL SOAP: Can help to treat ringworm and acne problems. Canine acne generally appears on the chin and cheeks, and can be washed daily with a mild antibacterial soap. Wash ringworm infected areas on dogs and cats with a mild soap twice daily to prevent further spreading and infection.

HYDROCORTISONE: Will help to relieve itchy, raw or irritated skin. It's perfect, applied in light coat directly on the animals skin, for treating hives, hot spots, and insect bites and stings. Apply a small amount up to two times daily.

ALOE VERA: Is a proven method of relieving flu symptoms in cats. Dip towlettes in Aloe Vera and use to moisten and clean mucous deposits from your cat's nose and eyes. (Cats can also be given saline nasal drops-two in each nostril-to help loosen phlegm and encourage healing.)

MOISTURIZER: Will help ease your pet's discomfort when suffering from skin irritations like dandruff. Apply a small dollop of moisturizer to your palms and then spread evenly through the animal's coat, paying special attention to problem areas of itchy, dry, irritated skin.

VAPORIZERS: Much like humans, dogs and cats do suffer colds and flus that leave them just as miserable as you and I during flu season. A vaporizer (positioned in a safe place where curious pets aren't likely to get at it) will help to relieve congestion and the discomfort of kennel cough and asthma symptoms.

Remember, you can help to ease your pet's symptoms with the use of over-the-counter medicines, but it's always a good idea to at least convey to your family veterinarian a plan of action. As with all illnesses, persistent symptoms should warrant a trip to the doctor's office.