My opinion: I actually was not expecting a story like this - I've heard of people who take their pets' medications on purpose, rather than by accident. I think it's important to consider both situations in order to understand the depth of the problem. Also, this makes me wonder how often an individual's medication is mixed up with another human's medication. With households of multiple people, this could potentially be disastrous. Though the elderly might be more likely to do so, they probably aren't living with as many people, so I'm not sure how common this is among them. If their sight is too poor to read the label, pet medications could come in different bottles and colors than human medication. Also, to avoid taking another family member's pills, large labels could be placed around each container. Since not all medicines come in the same orange bottle, these labels may be especially helpful for distinguishing any type of container. Any other solutions? Should doctors warn patients about this? Feel free to comment.
People taking their pet’s medicine?
Most people consider their pets as part of the family. But just like you wouldn’t want to take another family member’s medicines by mistake, you don’t want to accidentally take your pet’s medicine either. Who would ever make that mistake? You’d be surprised how often it happens.
Our colleagues at ISMP in Canada heard from a consumer who reported that an elderly relative had accidently taken the family dog's deworming pills. Someone had placed the dog's pills on a bookcase. Later, the elderly relative moved the dog's pills to a bedside table, where other medicines were being stored. For several days the elderly relative then took the deworming pills, instead of a regularly prescribed medicine. The mistake was discovered when it was time to give the dog a dose of deworming medicine. The family member found the empty container on the bedside table and realized that the elderly relative had taken all of the dog's pills!
When the mistake was discovered, the elderly relative mentioned having felt sick for a few days earlier in the week, without knowing why. Fortunately, no serious harm occurred, but some pet medicines can be harmful if taken by humans.