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Human skin cancer drug fatal to pets

One of the many benefits of living here in Florida is the weather- and we’re appropriately named the Sunshine State! Of course, too much of a good thing can be bad- as too much exposure to UV rays has been linked to various forms of skin cancer. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this- as I’m a veterinarian- and I don’t deal with human diseases.  You’re right- but skin cancer or melanoma occurs in close to 24 persons out of 100,000 here in Florida. We’re actually below the national average statistically- but I digress.

A popular medication to treat certain melanoma can be fatal to your pets. While that’s alarming, what’s worse is that most doctors and pharmacists fail to warn patients about the medication’s threat to your pet’s health. The FDA has issued a warning to both doctors and pharmacists alerting them to notify patients of the threat.

The medication is called 5-fluorouracil cream and is marketed under the brand names of Carac, Effudex and Fluoroplex. This medication is used as a topical cream to treat melanoma. Patients who use the cream are urged not to allow pets to come into contact with the product at all, as the results can be fatal.

Two dogs have died as a result of ingesting the medication. In both cases, the dogs had gotten a hold of the tube of the medication and ingested unknown quantities- ultimately leading to their death.

The FDA makes the following recommendations:

  • Store all medications out of reach of pets.
  • Discard or clean any cloth or applicator that may retain medication and avoid leaving any residues of the medication on hands, clothing, carpeting or furniture.
  • Consult your healthcare provider on whether it is appropriate to cover the treated area.
  • If you are using topical medications containing fluorouracil and your pet is exposed, consult a veterinarian immediately.
  • If your pet shows signs such as vomiting, seizing or other illness, seek immediate veterinary care for your pet and be sure to provide the details of the exposure.

Clinical signs of exposure to Fluorouracil include vomiting and seizures. 

Please share this information with anyone you know who may use this medication. It could save a pet’s life. 

On a related topic- your pet can get sunburn just like we can. Be sure to protect them with sunscreen if they will be outdoors for an extended period of time. Learn which types of sunscreen are appropriate– because some sunscreens are bad for pets.