Close X

Commonly Used Medicines may have Little-Known Side Effects: Part Two

Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol or paracetamol, is an exceptionally successful human medicine. In people it is a very effective painkiller and fever reducer. Acetaminophen...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Oct 18th 2008


Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol or paracetamol, is an exceptionally successful human medicine. In people it is a very effective painkiller and fever reducer.

Acetaminophen is extremely toxic to cats. It has limited uses in dogs.

Although the drug is generally considered safe for people, several side effects are widely known. Liver damage is a well-publicized side effect from acetaminophen ingestion.

The October 10, 2008 issue of The Week contained a blurb that described a new discovery. Here is an excerpt.

A five-year study of 200,000 babies and children has shown that if an infant is given acetaminophen, her or she is 46 percent more likely to have developed asthma by 6 or 7.

Acetaminophen is a human medicine. The study involved children, not pets. What does this have to do with a vet blog?

In practice, I sometimes am pressured by clients to prescribe medications for syndromes that will spontaneously resolve. These clients want to feel like they are doing something to make their pets better.

I admire their desire to help their pets. However, I am very reluctant to prescribe a drug unless I have a strong reason to believe that the medicine will make a positive difference.

Acetaminophen has been on the market for 53 years, and possible side effects are still being discovered. That is a solid reason not to overmedicate my patients.