Increasingly, a common question our vets ask is, can dogs have paracetamol for pain relief?

When your dog is unwell or has a painful injury, you may be tempted to give them human pain relievers such as paracetamol, aspirin, codeine or ibuprofen. However, it is imperative dog owners do not try to administer any pain relief medication to their pet without first consulting a vet.

A vet will perform a full veterinary examination, enabling them to make a proper diagnosis regarding what is causing the pain and draw up a treatment plan. Several painkilling drugs have been designed specifically for dogs, and these are far safer and more effective than drugs intended for people.

Here, we answer some of the most common questions owners ask about what can be given to dogs to manage pain.

List of contents

How do I know if my dog is in pain?

Dogs suffer from aches and feel pain just as humans do. However, because they can’t speak, it can be challenging to determine whether they are in discomfort or suffering.

Nevertheless, there are several symptoms which can indicate a dog’s pain, including excessive grooming, vocalization and changes in behaviour, and other signs including antisocial or even aggressive behaviour.

Read our advice article for more information about spotting signs your dog could be in pain. If you’re worried your dog is suffering, contact your vet immediately, or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now emergency clinic or hospital.

Dog lying on a bed looking sad for Vets Now article on pain relief for dogs
It's often difficult to determine if your dog is in pain

Can dogs have paracetamol?

Paracetamol is a common human medication and can be bought without a prescription. In certain circumstances, it can be used in dogs. However, dogs require different doses of medication than humans. Human paracetamol can be highly toxic to dogs if they are given too high a dose.

Some human paracetamol formulations also contain artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs.

Can you give a dog Calpol?

Infant suspensions, such as Calpol, contain paracetamol. Therefore, Calpol should never be given to your pet without first consulting with your vet.

Dog being petted by an owner for Vets Now blog on can I give my dog paracetamol and what can I give my dog for pain?
Always consult your vet if you think your dog is in pain

Can you give a dog aspirin?

While vets sometimes prescribe and use aspirin to treat mild to moderate pain caused by osteoarthritis or musculoskeletal inflammation, it should never be administered by dog owners.

Even small doses can cause stomach ulcers and the stomach lining to become inflamed, while aspirin overdose can result in what’s called salicylate poisoning-leading to haemorrhage, seizures, coma, and death.

Can you give a dog ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is highly toxic to dogs. Even a single tablet for a large dog, such as a Labrador, can cause serious illness. Toxic effects occur rapidly and can damage the kidneys, stomach and intestines, causing signs such as vomiting, diarrhoea with blood, excessive thirst and, in severe cases, seizures and coma.

Our emergency vets have treated many pets who have been poisoned by human drugs such as ibuprofen.

Why are human painkillers dangerous for dogs?

Every species is different, and what is safe for humans can be fatal to pets. Even painkillers used in one species, e.g. dogs, are not necessarily safe for other species, e.g. cats.

While some human medications can rarely be used in pets, others can be highly toxic. In addition, even with common and effective medications, those that can be used must be accurately prescribed and dosed by a vet to avoid severe side effects.

What should you do if your dog has accidentally 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).

Dog lying down looking sad for Vets Now article on What can I give my dog for pain?
There are some natural remedies that can help relieve pain in dogs

How is poisoning from painkillers treated?

Treatment can vary depending on 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.

Vomiting may be induced if the medication has been ingested recently. If you are too late, there is a risk to your pet’s kidneys, intestines, liver or other organs. Your dog may be admitted to the hospital and placed on a drip to maintain blood pressure and help the kidneys.

Gastric or liver-protectant medicines may be prescribed to protect the intestines. Antidotes are also available for some of those medications, so these may be used if considered necessary.

Always bear in mind that cats are more susceptible than dogs to these toxicities, and, unfortunately, the wrong dosage or accidental ingestion can be fatal for cats.

What can you do to protect your pet from eating painkillers?

Always assume all human medications are poisonous to your pet unless instructed otherwise by your veterinary surgeon. Prevention is the key, so keep all medicines, human and animal, safely locked away in your medicine cabinet and 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.

Always check the labels

If your vet has prescribed painkillers, they will have been extensively tested by drug companies to ensure they are safe.

Ensure you read all labels on veterinary medicine, and follow your vet’s advice carefully.