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Pets are also being harmed by the opioid crisis

Researchers say accidental poisonings are becoming more common

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Photo (c) Lightspruch - Getty Images
The opioid crisis knows no bounds when it comes to its negative effects on consumers. But a team of researchers say that even pets might be inadvertently harmed by these drugs.

Study findings show that pets in areas that have more opioid prescriptions are at a higher risk of being accidentally poisoned. The researchers say it’s important that consumers know about these risks so that lives can be saved.

“Based on our multilevel statistical analyses, it appears in U.S. counties where there were more opioids prescribed per capita, there were higher odds of dog opioid poisonings being reported to an animal poison control center compared to other types of poisoning reports,” the team explained. “This might suggest a possible ‘spillover’ effect on human opioid use on pet dogs, but alternative hypotheses concerning pet owner reporting behaviour need to be considered.” 

What to look for

The researchers analyzed data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). Between 2006 and 2014, the organization received nearly 190,000 phone calls from pet owners, and the researchers were able to cross-reference those calls with information about opioids, including related deaths and prescriptions. 

While certain trends emerged when it came to pets being accidentally poisoned, one positive finding of this study was that these calls started declining in 2008 and continued declining until the study ended in 2014. However, it’s important for consumers to know potential risk factors so they can prevent their pets from being harmed. 

In addition to happening in areas with more opioid prescriptions, the study also revealed that calls about opioid poisonings were more likely when the dog hadn’t been neutered, as well as for dogs that were younger or smaller. 

While the researchers could speculate about how the relationships formed between these risk factors, they explained that further research is needed to really pin down the specifics. However, they do hope that pet owners take these findings seriously, as staying informed is the best way to help prevent a fatal accident.

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