UMEM Educational Pearls


Every year in the U.S., preventable poisonings in children result in more than 60,000 ED visits and around 1 million calls to poison centers.  Calls relating specifically to pet medication exposure and children have been on the rise.

A recent study in Pediatrics was the first was kind to characterize the epidemiology of such exposures.

This study is a call to arms for an increased effort on the part of public health officials, pharmacists, veterinarians, and physicians to improve patient education to prevent these exposures from occurring. 

Summary of major findings:

  • Children less than or equal to age 5 are at greatest risk
  • Ingestion accounted for the exposure route in 93% of cases. 
  • Exploratory behavior(61.%) was the most common mechanism of exposure

Most commonly Implicated exposures:

  • Pet medications with no human equivalent  (17.3%)
  • Antimicrobials (14.8%
  • Antiparasitic 14.6%)
  • Analgesics (11.1%)

Key contributors to exposure risk:

  • Lack of recognition by caregivers of potential hazards of pet medications
  • Inappropriate or lack of home storage practices
  • Inconsistent compliance by veterinary providers in terms of proper product labeling and child-resistant packaging

Take home point: Make sure your pet's medications are appropriately stored for safety!




Methods involved reviewing regional Poison Control Center data from 1999 thruh 2013, during which 1431 calls regarding exposures of children less than or equal to age 19 or exposed to a veterinary medication. 

While the authors concluded that most exposures did not result in major adverse outcomes, 14.1% of exposures resulted in at least minor health effects.

A broader range of more highly toxic medications are increasingly being prescribed for animals, including anti-neoplastic drugs such as cyclophosphamide and chlorambucil.

Treatment of chronic health conditions and pets,  such as osteoarthritis, hypothyroidism, or anxiety is also increasingly common.




Tomasi S, Roberts KJ, Stull J, Spiller HA, McKenzie LB. Pediatric Exposures to Veterinary Pharmaceuticals. Pediatrics. 2017;139(3)