Pets on paracetamol: animals at risk as owners struggle with vet bills

Vets fear people may be giving “dangerous doses” of paracetamol to their pets as fears grow that the cost of living crisis is impinging on animal owners’ ability to pay for medical help.

The RSPCA recently discovered that Google searches for “can I give my dog paracetamol” have almost tripled since January 2020, and that in May the number of searches for the same phrase was 28% higher than even at the height of lockdown, in April 2020, when vets were heavily restricting access to their clinics.

“Whenever you get a situation where people are genuinely short of money or are worried they are going to be, there will inevitably be pet owners who either delay seeking attention from a vet or even, hartseer, don’t seek attention at all,” said vet Robin Hargreaves, former president of the British Veterinary Association.

He added that he fears that these searches may reflect “a reluctance to go and see a vet because people are worried about costs and whether they can afford it”.

While vets do sometimes prescribe paracetamol for dogs, the medicine is “dangerous” if given in the wrong dose, Hargreaves said, and pain relief can hide the cause of the problem.

“If somebody rang me up to say: ‘My dog’s in pain – how much paracetamol should I give it?’ I would never tell them. Because we need to know why the dog’s in pain. You would never advise using pain relief before you knew what you were trying to treat.”

Die vet charity for pets in need, PDSA, also warned pet owners never to give paracetamol to cats. “It is extremely toxic to them and can be fatal,” said PDSA vet Claire Roberts. “If you feel your pet is in need of pain relief, you must seek advice from your vet – never give them human pain relief unless your vet has asked you to.”

Vroeër vandeesmaand, a YouGov survey of 4,388 adults for the Dogs Trust charity found that 68% of dog owners in the UK feel worried about how they will care for their dog in the next year.

By far their greatest worry was how they would manage to pay vet bills, which almost half named as their main concern. Their second biggest worry was not being able to afford dog food, followed by concerns about insurance costs.

At Ashford in Kent, the RSPCA has just opened its latest pet food bank for dog and cat owners who need pet food and are on benefits or have been referred there by a charity or a vet. Animal care assistant Rachel Sinden said many of the pet owners who visit love their pets but can no longer afford to buy food for them.

“By offering these people food for their pet, it means the pets aren’t being given up or abandoned. If they were, we’d be feeding them anyway," sy het gese. “This way, the animals can stay in a loving home.”

The RSPCA says that 44 of its branches have started providing such pet food banks over the past year as it attempts to break the cycle of pets being given up or abandoned for financial reasons.

In the first five months of 2022, the charity took in 49% more rabbits, 14% more cats and 3% more dogs than in the same period in 2021. As gevolg daarvan, it is currently being forced to put some animals needing to be rehomed into private boarding – paid for by the RSPCA – because there is not enough space in RSPCA centres to look after them.

Sommige 50 honde, 90 cats, 50 rabbits, 60 farm animals and 20 exotic pets in the UK are currently in this position, living out their lives on “waiting lists” for spaces in RSPCA centres.




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