If you use fluorouracil cream to treat cancerous skin lesions, be careful: Your pet may be in danger.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the skin cream, which also is marketed under the names Carac, Effudex and Fluoroplex, can be fatal to dogs and possibly cats.
“People using this medication should use care when applying and storing the medication if they are also in a household with pets, as even very small amounts could be dangerous to these animals,” the FDA said in a statement. “The FDA has received reports of five dogs that became ill and died after accidentally ingesting the topical cream.”
In its topical cream form, Fluorouracil is used to treat lesions caused by years of overexposure to sunlight. The lesions are a form of cancer called basal cell carcinoma. The World Health Organization includes the cream and injectable fluorouracil on its list of essential medicines, or medicines needed in a basic health care system.
The FDA said it hasn’t received any reports of cats being sickened by the cream, but the agency assumes it is dangerous to them, too.
Keeping pets safe
If you use fluorouracil cream and have a pet, you should take a few precautions:
- Keep the tube of cream in a secure place out of reach of your pet.
- Don’t pet your dog or cat if the cream is present on your hands.
- Make sure not to leave traces of cream on furniture, clothes or household surfaces.
- If you use an applicator, such as a cloth or tissue, be sure to discard it, or clean it and keep it away from your pet.
- If your health care provider agrees, consider covering the skin where you’ve applied fluorouracil.
- If your pet starts vomiting or seizing or you suspect it has ingested fluorouracil, consult a veterinarian immediately.
The FDA asks people whose pets suffer ill effects from fluorouracil or any drug to report it via a form on the agency’s website.
Typically, the cream is prescribed for limited periods of time, but its use can extend as long as 12 weeks, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Fluorouracil has been on the market since 1962. As a cream, it is prescribed to treat skin cancers. As an eye drop, it is used to treat a kind of cancer called squamous neoplasia on the surface of the eyeball. As an injectable medicine, it is used to treat breast, colorectal, stomach, neck and other cancers.
The medicine can cause side effects, from stomach pain to severe skin rashes.
Talk to your health care provider if you have concerns about your cancer medications or any others. You can find a Providence provider near you in our multistate directory.