Can I give my dog paracetamol or ibuprofen?

When your pet is unwell or has a painful injury, you may be tempted to give them human painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin, codeine and ibuprofen. Please do not do this — human painkillers can be poisonous to pets. Some over-the-counter medications can cause stomach ulceration, kidney or liver failure and even death in small animals.


Can I give my dog Calpol?

Infant suspensions, such as Calpol, contain paracetamol. While paracetamol is occasionally used in dogs, it was formulated for humans so can be dangerous. This is particularly the case if taken in large doses. There are other drugs used by vets that have similar effects to paracetamol and are not as damaging to the liver.


Why are human painkillers dangerous for dogs?

Like humans, dogs naturally produce substances that protect their internal organs. One of those substances is called prostaglandins. These prostaglandins help maintain blood flow to a dog’s kidneys, prevent clotting, and protect the inner lining of the stomach. One of the effects of human painkillers on dogs is they can hinder prostaglandin production. When this happens dogs can develop intestinal problems, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea, bleeding disorders and even kidney or liver failure.


What should I do if my dog 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).

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Image of paracetamol for Vets Now article on dangers of human painkillers to pets
Human painkillers such as paracetamol are poisonous to pets

How is poisoning from painkillers treated?

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.


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.