Doctors have warned that Americans are risking organ damage and even death by taking medication prescribed to their cats, dogs and even fishes — in a bid to save cash on prescriptions. learned of at least three cases of people using drugs that had been prescribed for pets — including one 67-year-old who took fish antibiotics for his bad cold.

Patients easily obtained the medications in several ways; including by using leftover pills from a pet’s old prescription or pretending their pet was unwell in order to get a new script.

Meanwhile, doctors have warned this website that they’d treated many uninsured patients who’ve suffered serious complications after taking pet medications — which generally costs five times less than human pills, on average.

There’s at least 120 drugs that can be found in both the human and animal world — including amoxicillin and aspirin. came across several cases online of people saying they took their pet’s medications

But the animal version is typically at a very low dose, and mixed with other substances to aid pet digestion which can cause harm — especially for the liver, where the medication is processed.

The dose may also be too low to have an effect, leaving serious health problems untreated.

Among those taking drugs meant for pets was Andy Shecktor, 67, who told he often takes from his pet fish’s stockpile of the antibiotic penicillin when he has a bad cold.

The Pennsylvania native says he began reaching for the medication because he started struggling to get a prescription from his doctor for his recurrent sinus infections.

‘The infections have triggered pneumonia in the past so I am conscious that I need to treat them to stop that from happening again,’ said Mr Shecktor, an engineer who says he takes the equivalent dose in fish antibiotics that’s been previously prescribed by his doctor. 

‘It has worked perfectly every single time. And it has kept me out of hospital.’ 

Andy Shecktor, 67, from Berwick, Pennsylvania, told that he takes penicillin meant for his aquarium whenever he has a bad cold. He says he is at higher risk for pneumonia but that it is difficult to get a prescription of the drug from a doctor

‘The penicillin used for fish and that sort of thing are actually the exact same pills [as the antibiotics used for humans].’

In another case, TikTok budgeting enthusiast Madeline Pendleton revealed she orders medications from overseas veterinarians to treat bacterial infections.

She said: ‘I once treated an infection by buying antibiotics from an overseas website where I treated my weight as though I were a large dog to estimate the dosage.

‘Again, not safe, not medically advisable, but it is what we do, we attempt to resolve the issue ourselves at home as cheap as possible.’

She added: ‘And yep, buying overseas antibiotics for dogs and having them shipped to me express was still cheaper than going to the doctor.’

In yet another case, ER doctor J Mack Slaughter said he had a patient who came in with a fractured leg and said she planned to take her dog’s painkiller gabapentin.

He said on TikTok: ‘I had a patient tonight who fractured her leg. And when I offered her pain meds she was like, “nah, that’s cool — I took my dogs gabapentin”. And I was like, “What?!”.

There are many videos online showing people suggesting taking pet medications. Above is an antibiotic for human consumption (left) and for pets (right). Doctors warned parts of the pill designed for fish could make it toxic to humans

The above is the pill from the pot for human consumption (left) and the one for animal consumption (right). The user pointed out they appeared very similar

And in yet another case discovered by, a woman posted a TikTok video  comparing antibiotic pills for humans and fish tanks — commenting that the two looked ‘identical’. 

The question has been asked repeatedly on Reddit, with one user responding: ‘A lot of drugs for animals are human ones in smaller dosese.

‘Not all of them, but a bunch are (heck, some people take their vet prescription to their local pharmacy to get it filled for cheaper).’

A study from 2016 involving 400 US adults found 16 participants admitted to using their pets’ antibiotics. 

According to US law, it is illegal to take prescription medication that has not been prescribed to you by a physician. 

Brigid Groves, a vice president at the American Pharmacists Association, strongly warned Americans against taking their pet’s medication.

She said: ‘A drug made for animals might have a component that is not made for humans – and could be harmful to you.

‘Depending on the ingredient, it could give you a stomach upset, some nausea and vomiting or diarrhea.

‘Other times, depending on what the ingredient is, it could cause even more severe effects like problems in the liver which could be very harmful and lead to hospitalization or even death.’

Dr J Mack, an emergency medicine doctor in Fort Worth, Texas, added that by self-treating with a pet’s medication, patients are cutting out doctors and potentially taking the wrong medication. 

‘They may miss the fact it is a more serious infection which could trigger sepsis [a life threatening reaction to a severe infection],’ he said.

A recent study found prescription pet drugs cost five times less than their human equivalents on average.

The researchers from the University of Minnesota found, for example, that while the antibiotic amoxicillin may cost $2 per pill for dogs, it was $10 per pill for those with health insurance and more than $100 for those without insurance.

The typical course of antibiotics involves taking a daily pill for up to 14 days – potentially costing the uninsured patient $1400.

Dr Arjun Gupta, the physician behind the research, said: ‘With many people uninsured or underinsured, it is important that cash prices for medications are affordable and that pricing is not exploitative.’ 

Drugs for humans are likely more expensive because they have to clear more regulatory hurdles and have different storage requirements, scientists said.

But they also warned that some pharmaceutical companies charge more for human versions because they know people will pay more.

There was a rush of people taking animal medications around the Covid pandemic amid rumors the horse de-wormer ivermectin could help to prevent the disease. 

In August 2021, the CDC reported a 24-fold surge in prescriptions for the anti-parasite medication, amid spurious suggestions it could treat Covid.

Doctors warned that studies showing a beneficial effect used doses of the drug which were far higher than the amount humans could safely consume.

But prescriptions still rose from 3,600 per week on average to more than 88,000 — with the poison centers also reporting a five-fold rise in calls related to the drug.

Xylazine, or tranq, a horse tranquilizer — is another example — which has recently found its way into the illicit drug trade.

There was also a rush of people taking the fish tank cleaner chloroquine after hearing Trump endorsing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment.

A couple in Arizona is reported to have taken the substance, and the man died shortly afterwards, while his wife was admitted to hospital in a critical condition.

She told a local news network: ‘I had [the substance] in the house because I used to have Koi fish. I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, “hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?”.’

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