The US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to pet owners on Wednesday, saying that dogs, cats and other animals might die if they are exposed to skin cancer creams. These creams contain the active ingredient fluorouracil, also called 5-FU, and are sold under the names Carac, Efudex and Fluoroplex.
The FDA has received reports of up to five fogs falling sick and dying after accidentally eating skin creams that contained fluorouracil – a graphic illustration of the danger it poses to pets, CNN reports.
In one case, a pet dog punctured a tube of the cream while playing. Within two hours, it began throwing up, had seizures and died 12 hours later. In another case, a dog consumed the tube of cream. The dog was rushed to a vet, and there was immediate treatment. But the dog’s condition got worse and after three days, the owner was forced to euthanize the pet.
The World Health Organization calls fluorouracil an “essential medicine,” meaning it is a drug that every basic health care system must have on hand. It is used to treat common conditions, and was originally developed by pharmaceutical giant Roche.
Doctors use fluorouracil as a chemotherapy treatment for squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, two different kinds of skin cancer. It is either injected or applied as a topical cream.
Dr. Tom Rohrer, from the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, said it is a “very safe, very effective medication that prevents skin cancer — stops the pre-skin cancerous lesions before they become skin cancer — in lots of Americans.”
Rohrer added that this is the first time he’s heard of an FDA warning concerning the drug. Along with the usual precautions in its use, he added, “We will have to make special recommendations to keep it away from pets. And to wash their hands before petting their pets.”