The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said its animal poison control center took more than 180,000 calls last year about pets that got into poisonous substances, with prescription medicines for humans accounting for the majority of those calls.
"When people take their pills, they drop them on the floor. That little dog is just right there to scoop it up," said Tina Wismer of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. "Heart medications are No. 1. Also, we have a very high number of animals eating things like antidepressants and ADHD medications."
Over-the-counter medicines can also present problems.
"It only takes one extra-strength naproxen to kill a Shih Tzu-type dog," Wismer said. "Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure in dogs and cats, and acetaminophen can actually cause the blood to change so it can't carry oxygen and cause liver failure."
Supplements make up more of the scares. They are more popular than ever with people, and now more enticing than ever to animals.
"Companies are constantly making more and more palatable supplements and the soft gels, for example, are made from a gelatin, which is made from cow hide, which might be attractive to an animal," said Dr. Tod Cooperman of ConsumerLab.com.
Dogs are more likely than cats to sniff their way into trouble, with Labrador retrievers leading the canine category. But no matter what the breed, vets say, how the animal recovers after an accidental poisoning depends on its weight, what kind of medicine it consumed, its prescription strength and how much it ingested.
"I don't think the companies are going to make changes to their products to keep them safe from pets, but I think people can certainly be more aware that these can cause problems for their pets," Cooperman said.
Being aware is key. But simple rules are also effective.
"Make sure that they can't get on the counters, that the medications are kept in locked cabinets or definitely up high so they can't get to them," Wismer said.
A good place to start is to pet-proof your bathroom or bedside table. Throw out any meds you no longer use so your pet can't accidently get to them. Finally, keep in mind other pills, like birth control, often come in packages that may be attractive to dogs.