During IVECCS, I heard many stories from other veterinarians about owners treating their pets with human medications to save money. Unfortunately, this happens every time the economy slows. This practice may be harmful to the animal and result in large veterinary bills to undo the damage. It is essential to understand that physiologically, pets are not miniature humans! Just because a drug works well for us does not mean it is safe or effective in animals.
The best example is ibuprofen. This drug causes renal, gastrointestinal and central nervous disease in acute overdoses. The most common symptoms I have seen are anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, black tarry stools, depression, seizures and coma. In some cases, the diagnosis is made at necropsy when perforations are found in the gastrointestinal tract. (A necropsy is the veterinary equivalent of an autopsy.)
Please do not give ibuprofen to dogs, cats or ferrets. While it works well in humans, ibuprofen is not used in dogs because of its narrow margin of safety. Even at low doses, gastric ulceration and perforation may occur. Cats are even more sensitive than dogs because they are deficient in glucuronyl transferase, an enzyme needed for excretion of the drug. Ferrets are susceptible to ibuprofen because of their small size. One 200mg tab can be fatal.
What should you do if your pet accidentally ingests a human drug? Call your veterinarian immediately. Fast action is the often the difference between life or death. You should also know how to reach Pet Poison Control should your veterinarian be unavailable.