Since 2004, drugs designed for use by people have been the leading source of poisonings among companion animals, according to the national Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill.
Among cats, Adderall a medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has quickly become one of the most common and dangerous of these pharmaceutical threats*.
According to Salem Sreenivasan, Adderall is currently the most widely prescribed medicine for ADHD in children, with almost 23 percent market share, in the United States. This probably explains, he says, why the incidence of accidental consumption by pets has been rising steadily.
Adderal seems to appeal the feline palate, unlike most human meds. 152 cases of feline intoxication with the drug were called into the poison control center between January 2002 and June 2009. That number is probably the tip of the iceberg because it’s likely that most instances of Adderal poison are not called in to the center.
Once part of the University of Illinois, the centers 24/7 poison hotline is now run by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It learns about intoxications when vets call into the crisis center to inquire about any risks posed by ingestion of a particular substance and, when its a poison, how to treat it.
Most poisonings cases that the ASPCA’s center learns about involve dogs, Gwaltney-Brant says, because theyre fairly indiscriminate about what theyll eat. Not cats. Out of curiosity, they might sample a pill or capsule but seldom finish it, she says. As soon as they bite in and find its flavor objectionable, they tend to walk away.
But that’s not the case with Adderall. Cats not only bite in but readily finish every bit which suggests that there’s something about it that cats find unusually enticing.
And thats bad news. A single 20 milligram capsule can kill the average size cat.
Owners may initially discover a cats intoxication by its distressed vocalizing. Then they may pick up on its anxiety, agitation, pacing, disorientation even tremors. Cats can quickly become overheated and unusually disturbed by any type of sensory stimulation sound, light, even physical touch. Vets will typically notice the poisoned pets excessively rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
With quick, aggressive treatment, many cats recover. If owners call the center before symptoms develop (usually within 30 minutes of ingestion), they’ll be instructed to induce vomiting, then to take the cat to the vet for additional treatment, including the administration of activated carbon. With the extended release formula, treatment may need to be repeated.
If a cat comes in with symptoms of amphetamine poisoning, the docs will have to begin a more aggressive treatment, starting with sedatives (to control agitation and possible seizures), a cooling bath, and possibly medication to block one of the three neurotransmitters (serotonin) whose activity is enhanced by Adderall.
Always keep your medications (including Naproxen, Ibuprofen and other non-prescription drugs) out of reach of pets, and call the poison control center (888-426-4435) immediately if you suspect your cat has ingested your meds. Most consultations and it provides an average of 140,000 each year will come with a $65 fee.
* Reported by Aiyasami Salem Sreenivasan at the 2010 Society of Toxicology annual meeting.