What to do if your pet has eaten ibuprofen or paracetamol

When your pet is unwell or has a painful injury, you may be tempted to give them human painkillers, otherwise known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other types of anti-inflammatories and analgesics. However, please do not do this under any circumstances — human painkillers can be poisonous to pets.

Some of the over-the-counter medications, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, can cause stomach ulceration, kidney or liver failure and even death in small animals.

Read more: Our in-depth guide on what to do if your pet has been poisoned


Why are painkillers dangerous?

Like humans, dogs naturally produce substances that protect their internal organs. One of those substances are called prostaglandins. These are complex molecules that help maintain adequate blood flow to the kidneys, prevent clotting, and protect the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract. When these functions are not working properly dogs can develop intestinal problems, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, bleeding disorders and even kidney or liver failure. One of the effects of human painkillers on dogs is to inhibit prostaglandin production, so organs that need prostaglandins for protection can be damaged.


What can I do to protect my pet?

Different pets react to different drugs in different ways. If your vet has prescribed painkillers these will have been extensively tested by drugs companies to ensure they are safe.  Always assume all human medications are poisonous to your pet, unless instructed otherwise by your veterinary surgeon.

Prevention is the key so keep all medications, human and animal, safely locked away and well out of your pet’s reach. Increasingly, animal medications are being made palatable to make them easier to give to your pet. The downside is that if your pet gets hold of the medication they may eat more than they should.

Ensure you read all labels carefully and follow product guidelines on species, age and weight.

Read more: Human foods you should never give your dog


What should I do if my pet has eaten human painkillers?

Don’t delay if you’re worried about your pet — call your vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or Vets Now 24/7 hospital with as much information as possible regarding the medication (name, strength, amount ingested).

It’s likely your vet will induce vomiting — ideally within two hours of ingestion. If you are too late for that, there is a risk to your pet’s kidneys, intestines, liver or other organs. Your dog may be admitted into hospital and placed on a drip to maintain blood pressure and help the kidneys. To protect the intestines, gastric protectant or liver protectant medicines may be prescribed. Antidotes are also available for some of those medications so these may be used if considered necessary.

The amount of drug ingested, the time elapsed before presentation to the clinic, other drugs administered at the same time and the size of your pet are important factors. Always bear in mind cats are more susceptible than dogs to these toxicities and, unfortunately, they can be fatal.

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