Medication That Can Cause Liver Damage To Your Pet

Bev Saunders
March 26, 2024

Medication That Can Cause Liver Damage To Your Pet

Several medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, have the potential to cause liver damage in pets if misused or in excessive doses. Here are some medications commonly associated with liver toxicity in pets:

  1. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Common NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin can cause liver damage and gastrointestinal issues in pets, especially if ingested in large quantities or over a prolonged period.
  2. Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Acetaminophen can be highly toxic to pets, particularly cats and dogs, leading to severe liver damage and even death. Even small doses of acetaminophen can cause liver failure in pets.
  3. Chemotherapy Drugs: Some chemotherapy drugs used in veterinary medicine to treat cancer, such as certain types of alkylating agents and antimetabolites, can cause liver toxicity as a side effect.
  4. Antifungal Medications: Certain antifungal drugs, including ketoconazole and itraconazole, can potentially cause liver damage in pets, particularly if used at high doses or for an extended period.
  5. Antibiotics: While uncommon, some antibiotics, such as tetracyclines and sulfonamides, can cause liver toxicity in pets, especially if administered at high doses or for prolonged periods.
  6. Anticonvulsant Medications: Some anticonvulsant drugs used to manage seizures in pets, such as phenobarbital and valproic acid, may have hepatotoxic effects if not properly monitored.
  7. Steroids: Long-term use of corticosteroids like prednisone or dexamethasone can lead to liver damage in pets, particularly if administered at high doses or for extended periods.
  8. Anesthesia Drugs: Certain anesthesia drugs, particularly those metabolized by the liver, can cause liver damage as a side effect, especially in pets with pre-existing liver conditions.
  9. Heartworm Preventatives: Although rare, some heartworm preventatives containing the active ingredient ivermectin can cause liver toxicity, especially in certain dog breeds with a genetic sensitivity to ivermectin.

It’s essential for pet owners to administer medications only as directed by a veterinarian and to be aware of potential side effects, including liver toxicity.

Things to look out for:

  1. Itchy Skin: Pruritus, or itchy skin, can occur due to the buildup of toxins in the blood as a result of impaired liver function.
  2. Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and eyes due to elevated levels of bilirubin, a yellow pigment, in the blood.
  3. Fatigue: Persistent tiredness or weakness, which can be a sign of decreased liver function.
  4. Abdominal Pain or Swelling: Discomfort, tenderness, or swelling in the abdomen, often due to liver enlargement or fluid accumulation.
  5. Dark Urine: Urine that appears darker than usual, can indicate liver problems.
  6. Pale Stools: Stools that are lighter in color than normal, often due to decreased bile production by the liver.
  7. Nausea and Vomiting: Persistent nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite can be symptoms of liver dysfunction.
  8. Unexplained Weight Loss: Sudden or unexplained weight loss without changes in diet or exercise habits can indicate liver issues.
  9. Easy Bruising or Bleeding: Liver damage can affect blood clotting factors, leading to easy bruising or bleeding.
  10. Confusion or Cognitive Impairment: Severe liver damage can lead to hepatic encephalopathy, causing confusion, difficulty concentrating, and other cognitive symptoms.