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People’s Pharmacy: Voltaren gel almost killed a cat

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 8, 2021

By Joe Graedon, M.S., </p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. At the beginning of the pandemic, my doctor prescribed Voltaren gel for arthritis in my thumbs and wrists. I used it for three weeks, and it really helped.

Then one day our cat was not right, acting listless and not eating. We took her to the vet and discovered her creatinine was over 3 and her BUN over 100. She was near death.

The year before, all her bloodwork was normal. The vets couldn’t understand how it could change so much in less than a year.

She spent five days in the hospital and had to get regular subcutaneous fluid infusions for six months. Her kidney function eventually came back to normal, but all this care cost about $4,000.

What happened was Voltaren gel residue got on her fur from my skin when I pet her. Then she would groom herself, which meant she was getting the drug. I found an article about this in a veterinary journal, but our vets had never heard of it.

Now that Voltaren Arthritis Topical Gel is available over the counter, your readers with pets might want to know about this effect on animals.

A. Thank you for sharing your story. We are relieved to hear your cat has recovered. Cats are very sensitive to NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen or diclofenac (Voltaren). What’s more, our veterinary consultants warn that dogs and cats can get into trouble if they lick certain topical medicines, including hormones, corticosteroids or minoxidil, off their owners’ skin.

To keep your cat safe, you might want to consider other ways to manage your arthritis pain besides topical NSAIDs. In our eGuide to Alternatives for Arthritis, we discuss several home remedies along with herbs such as ashwagandha, boswellia, turmeric, ginger, stinging nettle, MSM and SAMe.

This online resource is found under the Health eGuides tab at our website peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. Earlier this year, you wrote about granuloma annulare. I did not know what it was, but I have experienced many skin conditions over the years.

I find that using Selsun Blue shampoo with selenium sulfide 1% as a body wash is really helpful. It alleviates itching immediately and dries out rashes. Eventually, the skin problem goes away.

The skin is our largest organ. It sweats out, expels and reflects what goes into the body, so eating right is also important.

A. We have not found any research indicating that granuloma annulare would respond to Selsun Blue. The ingredient in this dandruff shampoo (selenium sulfide) may help ease the itching and scaling of seborrheic dermatitis.

Other readers have used it to treat rosacea, eczema and jock itch. Doctors don’t know what causes GA. These round, raised and reddish areas are not contagious.

Some people tell us that Vagisil with resorcinol for vaginal yeast infections is also helpful for GA. Dermatologists don’t have a standard treatment, but pentoxifylline, a drug for peripheral artery disease, shows some promise (Journal of Dermatological Treatment, June).

You are right that diet may play a role. Sometimes, GA is associated with diabetes. Additionally, Japanese doctors reported success in a patient who followed a strict lipid-lowering diet (Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, Jan. 31, 2014).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website peoplespharmacy.com.

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