Pets Are Not Small People

Jul 18, 2016

As pet owners, we tend to give our canine and feline companions human traits and qualities. It makes us feel connected and closer to them.  I’m just as guilty. How can I resist dressing up Wilson, our lab-mix, in a party hat on his birthday! But, no matter how much our pets are considered members of the family, it is important to realize that there are distinct species differences.

Normal vitals (temperature, pulse and respiration) are much elevated compared to a human. Our pet’s average resting temperature is between 99.8 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  Resting heart rate can vary from 60-140 beats per minute for dogs and between 160-240 beats per minute for cats. A healthy dog takes between 12 and 24 breaths per minute and a healthy cat takes between 20 and 30 breaths per minute.

We can’t eat the same things. If my dog was a dark chocolate addict like myself, we’d be in a lot of trouble, but for me it has health benefits! In addition to chocolate, we can’t share raisins, onions, artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol and alcoholic beverages. For a complete list of toxic foods please see the ASPCA poison control website.

Unfortunately, in every veterinary career, we see owners administer human medication to their pets meaning to do the right thing, but without the knowledge of the harmful and potentially deadly ramifications that drug has created. For example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen are highly toxic and create acute renal failure to our pets.  Always consult your veterinarian before giving any over-the-counter medication, herb or vitamin to check for its safety.

There can also be a distinct variation of dosing between medication strengths between humans and pets. It is not a one-to-one ratio. A demonstration of this would be, a 100-pound dog could be prescribed 100mg of Benadryl, but a 100-pound person should only be taking 25mg of the same drug.

Sometimes, it’s hard not to expect our furry companions to act more human. However, it is important to be respectful of certain pet behavior and communication, because that may be completely appropriate and socially acceptable in the dog and cat world. As pet owners, we need to try and look at situations from the pet’s perspective.

We owe it to ourselves and our pets to recognize and embrace some of our distinct differences. We are always here to help and answer any questions you may have about your pet at Hillcrest Animal Hospital.

Dr. Michelle Mayers