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Topical pain meds may harm pets

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Administrators with the United States Food and Drug Administration recently alerted pet owners, veterinarians, healthcare providers and pharmacists that pets are at risk of illness and death when exposed to topical pain medications containing the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) flurbiprofen.
Flurbiprofen is used for the treatment of inflammation and pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, as well as soft tissue injuries, such as tendinitis and bursitis.
People using these medications are advised to use caution when applying them in a household with pets, as even very small amounts could be dangerous to these animals.
The FDA has received reports of cats in two households that became ill or died after their owners used topical medications containing flurbiprofen on themselves to treat muscle, joint, or other pain. The pet owners had applied the cream or lotion on their own neck or feet and not directly on the pets. It is unclear at present how the cats became exposed to the medication.
The products contained the NSAID flurbiprofen and the muscle relaxer cyclobenzaprine, as well as other varying active ingredients, including baclofen, gabapentin, lidocaine or prilocaine.
Two cats in one household developed kidney failure and recovered with veterinary care. Two cats in a second household developed signs that included reluctance to eat; lethargy; vomiting; melena, black, tarry, bloody stools; anemia; and dilute urine. Despite veterinary care, these two cats died. A third cat in the same household also died after the owner had stopped using the medication.
Veterinarians who performed necropsies on the three cats found evidence in the kidneys and intestines that were consistent with NSAID toxicity.
Therefore, the FDA recommends that people using topical medications containing flurbiprofen should not expose their pets to the medication - even in ways that may seem unlikely to cause problems. Ways of preventing pet exposure to flurbiprofen include:
• Storing all medications safely out of the reach of pets.
• Safely discarding or cleaning any cloth or applicator that may retain medication and avoid leaving medication residues on clothing, carpeting or furniture.
• Consulting a health care provider on whether it is appropriate to cover the treated area.
If a pet of an owner who uses topical medications containing flurbiprofen becomes exposed, it is advisable to bathe or clean the pet as thoroughly as possible and consult a veterinarian.
If a pet exhibits lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, or other illness, the owner is advised to consult a veterinarian and provide the details of the exposure.
Additionally, although the FDA has not yet received reports of dogs or other pets becoming sick in relation to using topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen, these animals may also be vulnerable to NSAID toxicity after being exposed to these medications.
Veterinarians with patients showing signs of NSAID toxicity should ask whether anyone in the household has used topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen.
Health care providers who prescribe topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen and pharmacists who fill these prescriptions should advise patients with pets to take care to prevent exposure of the pet to the medication.
Pet owners and veterinarians are urged to report any adverse events to the FDA.
FDA advice to consumers on pet exposure to prescription topical pain medications containing Flurbiprofen is available at http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm443332.htm.