Why you should never give your dog ibuprofen — and what to give them instead

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Why you should never give your dog ibuprofen — and what to give them instead
Using an icepack is a safe way to help your dog with pain.Sadeugra/Getty Images
  • Ibuprofen is toxic to dogs and you should never give it to your pup.
  • Just three to six ibuprofen capsules can be deadly for dogs, so keep the medicine in a safe place.
  • There are canine-specific pain relievers that you can get from your vet or try natural options.

It's okay to give your dog certain human drugs, like Benadryl, but many medications may be dangerous for your pooch, including ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen is not safe for dogs and can lead to stomach or kidney damage, or even death in some cases.

If your dog gets injured or has aches and pains, your vet can offer safer medical options, and you can try several at-home methods as well.

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Here's why you can't give your dog ibuprofen and what you can do instead to help an achy pup.

Can dogs take ibuprofen?

You should never give your dog ibuprofen. The medicine can cause damage to your dog's stomach and kidneys, says Alison Meindl, DVM, a veterinarian, and professor at Colorado State University.

This is because ibuprofen blocks the activity of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). Blocking this enzyme reduces inflammation, but it also stymies the blood flow to your stomach and kidneys. And while this isn't a big deal for humans, it can harm your dog.

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Dogs are more likely to get ibuprofen poisoning than humans for three reasons:

  1. Ibuprofen may last longer in dog's systems.
  2. Dog stomachs and intestines may absorb ibuprofen more quickly.
  3. Levels of ibuprofen in the blood can be higher in dogs than humans.

"Plainly, humans can tolerate a much larger dose than can our pets," says Travis Arndt, DVM, Director of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America.

Too much ibuprofen can have dangerous effects for your dog including stomach ulcers, kidney damage, or seizures, Meindl says.

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"As little as 1,200 mg of ibuprofen could be fatal to a small dog," says Arndt. Drugs like Advil or Motrin usually contain 200 mg per pill, or 400 mg in extra strength caplets, meaning just three to six pills can be deadly.

What to do if your dog accidentally takes ibuprofen

If your dog accidentally ingests ibuprofen, you should follow these steps:

  1. Contact your veterinarian immediately — depending on your dog's age, health conditions, and other factors, your vet may be able to determine the best course of action.
  2. If your vet is unavailable, call Animal Poison Control at (888)-426-4435 or visit the website at https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control. They may be able to give you instructions on what type of care your dog needs.

Your vet or poison control may tell you to induce vomiting in your dog, depending on when they took the medication. "If the ingestion is not noticed within 30-40 minutes of the pet swallowing the medication, it may be too late to induce vomiting," Arndt says.

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"Don't wait for symptoms before you contact your veterinarian, as quick treatment of an overdose is important," Meindl says.

Symptoms of ibuprofen poisoning in dogs

Ibuprofen poisoning can be extremely dangerous and could cause problems like:

Stomach ulcers, which may cause symptoms like:

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  • Vomiting with or without blood
  • Dark or tarry stools
  • Decreased or no appetite
  • Lethargy

Kidney damage, which may cause symptoms including:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased drinking
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased or no appetite
  • Lethargy
  • More severe overdoses can cause seizures or coma.

What can I do to help my dog with pain?

There are many other NSAIDs specifically formulated for dogs that are much safer than ibuprofen and can provide good pain control, Meindl says.

The FDA has approved NSAID medications like carprofen and meloxicam for dogs, though they are only available with a prescription from your vet.

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There may also be non-NSAID drugs that can help relieve pain, depending on your dog's health needs. "Your veterinarian can talk with you about the best option(s) for your individual dog," Meindl says.

There are also some at-home alternatives to pain medication that you can try with your dog. Meindl recommends a few options:

  • Icing with a bag of frozen vegetables or an ice pack covered in a thin towel can be helpful with an acute injury, Meindl says. It's best to do this for about five minutes at a time.
  • Heat can be helpful for a more chronic injury, Meindl says, but you need to follow certain safety guidelines:
    • "Never place a heating pad on a dog as they cannot communicate that it is too hot and it is easy to burn their skin," says Meindl.
    • Instead, microwave a wet washcloth until it is warm to the touch, place the cloth in a plastic bag, and apply to the affected area for five minutes, Meindl says.
  • Gentle massage can also be helpful for aches.

"You should have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian before starting any of these treatments in order to make sure that the treatment is appropriate for the injury," Meindl says.

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Insider's takeaway

Ibuprofen can be dangerous to dogs and may put them at risk for organ damage or even death. Always keep medication out of reach of pets and contact your vet or poison control if you think your dog may have ingested something.

"If you suspect your pet is in pain, reach out to your veterinarian for an appointment and advice as soon as possible," Arndt says. Your vet may be able to find a good pain treatment regimen that's safe for your pup.

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