News & Events

News and Events

Dangers Cold and Flu Medications Pose to Your Pet

Sneezing and sniffling are very common during the winter months as more and more people come down with a cold or the flu. This means that many households have stocked up on common cold and flu medications. These medications can pose hazards to your cat or dog. VRC is here to break down some of the most common ingredients in these human medications and the risks they pose to pets.


Acetaminophen is a common pain reliever and fever reducer. It is toxic to both cats and dogs, but its effect on cats is especially dangerous. Acetaminophen can cause a condition called methemoglobinemia, which causes decreased levels of oxygen in body tissues. It can also cause liver failure. In cats, acetaminophen can cause swelling in the face and paws.

Ibuprofen and Naproxen

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be very dangerous to pets. Both ibuprofen and naproxen are NSAIDs that could lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, kidney damage, and liver damage. In cold and flu medications, these drugs are often combined with decongestants. Carprofen is another NSAID that you should be cautious of around your pets.

Phenylephrine and Pseudoephedrine

Decongestants, such as phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine, can cause big problems for our pets. While pseudoephedrine causes symptoms like restlessness, agitation, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, increased blood pressure, and seizures, it can lead to death if a large amount is ingested. Most cold medications containing a “D,” like Mucinex-D, contain pseudoephedrine.

Phenylephrine can cause similar symptoms as pseudoephedrine, but it is considered a bit less dangerous. If your cold and flu medication has “PE” on the package, it likely contains phenylephrine.


This medication is a non-addictive opioid. It is used in cold and flu medications to help with coughing. Pets who ingest medication containing dextromethorphan commonly exhibit symptoms including vomiting, lethargy, agitation, tachycardia, tremors, and seizures. Typically, vomiting is only treated when it is severe. In these cases, IV fluids can help. Tremors and seizures will likely be treated with benzodiazepines. Similar to humans, pets could be allergic to the drug and might battle hives and facial swelling. An allergic reaction is usually treated with antihistamines and corticosteroids.

Cough Drops

Cough drops can be problematic for two reasons. First, cough drops can be a choking hazard for dogs and cats. On the other side, certain ingredients can cause health problems for pets. Ingredients like sugar, eucalyptus oil, menthol, and colors and flavors might cause stomach problems for your pet, but this is mild compared to other ingredients.

Xylitol is an extremely toxic artificial sweetener that is becoming more and more common in cough drops. It can lead to hypoglycemia and liver damage.

Benzocaine is another ingredient that could be problematic. It is a local anesthetic used to numb the throat. Generally, it just causes gastrointestinal upset, but in large doses, it can be metabolized into compounds that can cause methemoglobinemia. Since it is a numbing agent, it can also cause aspiration.

Eye Drops

A common symptom of colds and the flu is red eyes. Since treatment for irritated eyes is generally eye drops, they make the list for pets, too. Pet owners also don’t tend to think of eye drops as being a dangerous substance for pets. However, when ingested, eye drops can lead to bradycardia, hypotension, and depression.

What to Do If Your Pet Ingests These Medications

If your pet has ingested any of the above drugs, it is a good idea to contact your local 24/7 emergency pet hospital or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Either of these resources can help you determine what course of action you should take. You should reference the product’s packaging and try to determine just how much of the medication your pet has ingested.

If one of these centers advises for emergency medical care, contact an emergency veterinarian right away. If you are in the Malvern, Pennsylvania, area, contact VRC in the event of cold and flu medication poisoning in your dog or cat. When you come in for emergency care, bring the medication packaging with you for the veterinarians to reference.

VRC’s emergency hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If your pet has ingested any dangerous medication, our emergency team can help. If you are unsure of whether you should come in, give us a call at 610-647-2950. We would be happy to answer any questions you have about pet drug ingestion.

Dec 12: Holiday Pet Safety & Dessert Social

Holiday Pet Safety & Dessert Social With Dr. John Anastasio

Wednesday, December 12, 2018 


The Black Cat Cafe
42 Berkley Rd, Devon, PA 19333

Join us for a dessert social, holiday safety lecture, pet CPR demonstration, “Ask a Vet” Q&A with Dr. John Anastasio, and a holiday raffle supporting PALS Pet Adoption and Lifecare Society. Assorted desserts and warm holiday beverages will be provided throughout. Limited space available so RSVP via the link below today!

While this event is free to attendees, please consider bringing a monetary donation or an item from the PALS registry below to help support the many cats in their care.


Let people on Facebook know you’re coming!

Exciting Service Update: Emergency Ultrasound Available 7 Days a Week

Emergency ultrasound is now performed 7 days a week by either Sarah Fatula, VMD or John Anastasio, DVM, DACVECC.


What is an ultrasound and how does it work?

Ultrasound uses sound waves at an extremely high frequency to produce pictures of internal structures without radiation. Ultrasound images are also able to show internal movement in real time, including blood flowing through vessels. Ultrasound is often essential in the diagnosis of internal conditions like pancreatitis or symptoms like abdominal pain. It is also used to guide needle biopsies, which are performed to assist in the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer.

Click HERE to learn more about VRC’s diagnostic capabilities.

John Anastasio, DVM, DACVECC, Medical Director
Sarah Fatula, VMD

Dangers E-Cigarettes Pose to Pets

E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular among people who formerly smoked cigarettes because of the belief that these devices, as well as vapes, are safer than cigarettes. There has been a lot of debate about the safety of battery-powered smoking devices, and now, that debate is extending to our pets. While it is true that these devices reduce health risks for people, that isn’t necessarily true for animals. VRC wants all pet owners to understand the risks that e-cigarettes pose to their pets.

Dangers of Nicotine to Pets

Nicotine toxicity is a major problem for pets in homes where there is any kind of smoking or nicotine products. Pets that are exposed to nicotine through cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, nicotine patches, nicotine gums, and any insecticides that include nicotine are at risk for nicotine poisoning. However, e-cigarettes contain a lot more nicotine than most of the other products that contain the substance. This means that e-cigarettes can actually be more dangerous for pets than regular cigarettes.

Mild nicotine poisoning can lead to drooling, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, agitation, and increased heart rate. Severe poisoning may cause tremors, seizures, depression, lethargy, ataxia, coma, as well as elevated heart and respiratory rates. Without treatment, cardiac arrest and respiratory failure may occur, which can be deadly. Symptoms can appear within 15 to 60 minutes of ingestion of nicotine.

Dangers of E-Cigarettes

Nicotine in any amount can be dangerous, but nicotine gum, nicotine patches, cigarettes, and loose tobacco can cause severe nicotine poisoning. However, e-cigarettes contain liquid nicotine that can be absorbed through your pet’s digestive system as well as the skin and mucous membranes. When nicotine is absorbed through mucous membranes or skin, it doesn’t pass through the liver, so more nicotine enters the bloodstream, which increases the risk for nicotine poisoning.

The way e-cigarettes are packaged could also contribute to problems. The liquid nicotine cartridges carry between six and 24 milligrams of nicotine, which is equivalent to one or two traditional cigarettes. The cartridges are then sold in boxes of five to 100 cartridges. This means that your pet could potentially have access to a very large amount of nicotine. Further, consider the size of your pet. If you have a large pet who gets into one cartridge, there may not be much of a problem. If you have a small pet who gets into a whole pack, you are going to be looking at a severe poisoning. In fact, in very small pets, even one cartridge could lead to a serious illness.

Refilling these cartridges can further complicate matters. Some people purchase nicotine solutions where they can refill their own cartridges. This liquid is generally concentrated, and the user can dilute it as they see fit. That means that these refills could contain larger doses of nicotine. Additionally, if your pet gets into liquid before it has been diluted, there could be dire consequences for your pet. The large concentration of nicotine poses a much bigger threat to pets than a single cigarette or even a regular e-cigarette cartridge.

In addition, nicotine cartridges are often flavored which can be another dangerous aspect. The flavoring can make the liquid smell and taste desirable to pets, which might draw your pet toward investigating the liquid.

While nicotine is the biggest threat to your pet when it comes to e-cigarettes, there are other potential hazards as well. Pets are curious, and often use their mouths to explore. Your curious pet might bite or ingest the casing or battery of the e-cigarette. These materials can cause gastrointestinal blockages and irritations. The rechargeable batteries can cause burns due to the caustic substance found inside.

Second-hand smoke is a big problem for pets in smoking households, but not enough research has been conducted to know if e-cigarettes pose any similar problems for pets. It is always a good idea to stay away from your pets while you are smoking.

Treating Nicotine Poisoning

Treating nicotine poisoning can be successful, but seeing a veterinarian right away is necessary. A veterinarian will attempt to decontaminate your pet by inducing vomiting. Once decontamination has occurred, your pet will be given fluids to ensure that they are hydrated. Additional medications could include anti-vomiting, anti-seizure, blood pressure, heart, and sedation medications. Your dog or cat may also have heart and blood pressure monitoring.

Nicotine poisoning can be fatal for dogs and cats. Only nine to 12 milligrams of nicotine can be fatal to pets regardless of what the source of the nicotine is.

Preventing E-Cigarette Problems

The best way to protect your pet is to prevent ingestion of any part of an e-cigarette. To do this, you should keep e-cigarettes and nicotine cartridges away from your pets. To ensure your pet can’t get into anything harmful, consider placing these items in a drawer or cabinet that is inaccessible to your pet. If your pet is a skillful snooper, you might want to buy childproof locks for the cabinet or drawer. While you are at it, keep all products that contain nicotine in this spot.

Even a pet with the most diligent owner might find a way to get into something containing nicotine. If your pet starts displaying the symptoms of nicotine poisoning, you should seek veterinary care right away. If you are in the area, give VRC a call today at 610-647-2950 or stop by with your pet. Our emergency clinic is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide emergency medical care to pets no matter what time it is.