is it safe to give dogs and cats the same medications and doses?

Woman giving cat medication | Is it safe to give cats and dogs the same medication?
Posted by Morris Animal Foundation on Aug 31 2015

For years, animal caretakers have used human medical treatments on our four-legged friends. And as drug development exploded in the twentieth century, the same new people medications made their way to Fido and Fluffy. What many scientists soon discovered, though, is that dogs and cats have different ways of breaking down and processing medications compared to their human parents. This prompted Morris Animal Foundation to investigate.

In the last five years, MAF has funded 25 studies that focus on different types of drugs in different types of animals. The studies, many of which are ongoing, seek to answer questions like:

1. How do we improve pain management for pets undergoing surgery?

2. How can we better manage pain associated with chronic health conditions?

3. What are some new ways to coax cats into taking medications (a timely topic for anyone who has ever tried to give a cat a pill!)?

The research also focuses on understanding how dogs and cats process drugs differently. For many years, cats were simply treated as small dogs when it came to drug and dosing recommendations. What we now know this shouldn’t be the case.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Cats have different ways of processing drugs compared to dogs, and using the cats-are-small-dogs approach causes less than optimal results.

2. Cats are more sensitive to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) than dogs. Using canine drug dosing recommendations for these medications in cats can lead to serious toxicities.

3. Cats tend to have far fewer side effects and tolerate much higher doses of steroids. In this case, cats given steroids often were underdosed, leading to treatment failures.

Our understanding of how drugs work in companion animals has come a long way, but we still have many more questions. Visit Morris Animal Foundation to learn more about our studies, including those related to drug therapy in companion animals.

Founded in 1948, Morris Animal Foundation is a global nonprofit organization that invests in science to advance animal health. Visit to make a gift and learn more about how you can help us improve the lives of all animals.