Vets fear people are giving ‘dangerous doses’ of paracetamol to their pets as fears grow that the cost of living crisis is impinging on pet owners’ ability to afford medical aid.
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 in strongest of the lockdown, in April 2020, when vets heavily restricted access to their clinics.
“Whenever you find yourself in a situation where people are genuinely short of money or fear they will be, there will inevitably be pet owners who are slow to seek veterinary attention or even, unfortunately, never not seek attention at all. said veterinarian Robin Hargreaves, former president of the British Veterinary Association.
He added that he fears the research reflects “a reluctance to go see a vet because people are worried about the cost and whether they can afford it”.
Although vets sometimes prescribe paracetamol for dogs, the drug is “dangerous” if given at the wrong dose, Hargreaves said, and the pain relief can mask the cause of the problem.
“If someone called me and said, ‘My dog is in pain, how much paracetamol should I give him?’ I would never tell them. Because we need to know why the dog is suffering. You would never advise using a painkiller until you know what you are trying to treat.
The veterinary charity for pets in need, PDSA, has also warned pet owners never to give paracetamol to cats. “It is extremely toxic to them and can be fatal,” said PDSA veterinarian Claire Roberts. “If you think your pet needs pain relief, you should seek advice from your veterinarian – never give them human pain relief unless your vet has told you to. »
Earlier this month, a YouGov survey of 4,388 adults for the Dogs Trust charity found that 68% of dog owners in the UK are worried about how they will care for their dog in the future. next year.
By far, their biggest worry was how they would manage to pay the vet bills, which was almost half of their main concern. Their second biggest worry was not being able to afford dog food, followed by worries about insurance costs.
In 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 allowance or have it been referred by a charity or veterinarian. Animal Care Assistant Rachel Sinden said many visiting pet owners love their pets but can no longer afford to buy food for them.
“By providing these people with food for their pets, it means that the pets are not abandoned or abandoned. If they were, we would feed them anyway,” she said. “That way the animals can stay in a loving home. »
The RSPCA says 44 of its branches have started providing such pet food banks in the past year as it tries to break the cycle of pets being abandoned or abandoned for financial reasons.
In the first five months of 2022, the charity welcomed 49% more rabbits, 14% cats and 3% more dogs than the same period in 2021. As a result, it is currently forced to put some animals needing to be relocated to private boarding – paid for by the RSPCA – because there is not enough space in RSPCA centers to care for them.
Some 50 dogs, 90 cats, 50 rabbits, 60 farm animals and 20 exotic pets in the UK are currently in this position, living their lives on ‘waiting lists’ for places at RSPCA centres.