HEALTH & CARE

How Much Ibuprofen Can I Give My Dog: Providing Timely Help in Your Dog’s Hour of Pain

sick dog
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

In low doses, ibuprofen has been used for over 30 years for pain relief without any major health problems for humans. Can the same be said for dogs? This brings us to a very common question among dog owners: “How much ibuprofen can I give my dog?”

Ask any dog owner, and they will tell you how upsetting and frustrating it is to see their faithful pet in pain. It is a known fact that when a pet hurts, the owner hurts too. For most people, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) provide a solution and among such is ibuprofen. But is ibuprofen safe for dogs? You’ve taken the correct first step in coming to this article to make sure ibuprofen is safe before giving it to your dog.

According to our findings, you can obtain ibuprofen for your dog both over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription. In fact, it was the first non-aspirin NSAID to be approved for OTC sale. Despite its benefits to your dog, its margin of safety is very narrow, and an overdose can lead to harmful effects. This article addresses practically everything you need to know about ibuprofen and your dog.

Should Dogs Be Given Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is available as syrups, tablets, and also as intravenous (IV) preparations. Some ibuprofen tablets are designed to release the drug slowly over a period of time unlike most which are made for providing an immediate effect. Common ibuprofen brand names include Cuprofen, Brufen, Genpril, Ibu, Nuprin, Nurofen, Advil, Midol, Calprofen, and Motrin among others.

Owing to the dangerous effects of an overdose, ibuprofen should be recommended and prescribed for your dog by a licensed veterinarian. If you have been directed to give your dog ibuprofen, ensure the medication is accompanied by instructions and strict dosages. On your part, follow those dosages and instructions religiously.

That said, it is not recommended to give ibuprofen at all to your canine friend without the input and supervision of a vet.

#1: Please Watch Out for These Exceptions

puppies

Dogs with health conditions such as heart problems, liver, kidney, gastrointestinal disease, or any form of ulcers should not be given ibuprofen at any time; the conditions are risky and can become worse when ibuprofen is used.

If your pet is taking other medications such as corticosteroids, administering them with an NSAID like ibuprofen (even in the proper dosage) is not recommended. It can pose serious health issues to your canine friend.

Medicines like aspirin, dabigatran, mifamurtide (also NSAIDs) should also not be mixed with ibuprofen no matter the pain your dog is going through. They may interact and cause very harmful effects. It is advisable to inform your vet if your dog is taking any other medication when they recommend ibuprofen.

Having seen how dangerous ibuprofen can be to dogs, it goes without saying that it is not safe for puppies. Puppies have a developing system, and if they get affected early, they may never recover. As a pet owner, this is a risk you should not take unless you are advised by a vet.

Finally, pregnancy is a very delicate time for the female dog and her unborn puppies. Administering ibuprofen at this time should completely be avoided as it can lead to spontaneous abortion or even birth defects to the puppies.

Safer medications for this period mainly include vaccines, thyroxine, insulin, selemectin, psyllium, and fipronil. Nevertheless, they should be administered to a pregnant or lactating dog under the guidance of a veterinarian only.

#2: Please Watch Out for These Potential Side Effects

depression in dog

There are two ways in which ibuprofen can harm your dog: when the required dosage is exceeded and when ibuprofen is administered to dogs for a prolonged period. It can cause GI hemorrhaging, GI irritations, ulcerations, renal damage, and gastric perforations.

Ibuprofen works by reducing prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help to keep the inner lining of your dog’s gastrointestinal tract coated with a protective layer of mucus. This mucus protects it from the effects of stomach acids.

With the excessive reduction of prostaglandins, your dog can suffer side effects related to prostaglandins bodily functions. This is why a very small dose is recommended.

With prolonged use, ibuprofen may also trigger depression of your dog’s central nervous system (CNS). This can result in cardiac arrest, ataxia, hypotension, as well as cause a seizure.

Another reason you should give your dog very little of this drug is that it is recycled over and over in the body through the liver instead of being eliminated. Recycling allows for repeated exposure, and that is why an overdose has great poisoning effects.

That not all; an additional negative aspect of ibuprofen is that it also inhibits the functions of COX-1 enzymes. These are enzymes that play critical roles in the body’s function such as blood clotting and renal blood flow.

See Also: What Can I Give My Dog for Pain?

What Can Ibuprofen Do for Your Dogs?

dog licking its paw

Now, in case the vet prescribes ibuprofen for your dog, it is good to know that ibuprofen contains fever-reducing, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects. It is used to reduce stiffness, swelling, temperature (fever), muscle aches or arthritis, joint pain, and post-surgery pain in dogs.

It can also be used in the treatment of hip and elbow dysplasia, abnormal joint cartilage development, eye inflammation, cancer-related pain, and dislocated joints among others.

To know when your dog is in pain, be on the lookout for the following:

  • Changes in your dog habits and behaviors
  • Agitation
  • Excessive licking and grooming
  • Change in body posture and difficulty in movement
  • Heavy panting and breathing
  • Out of the ordinary vocalizing (whimpering, whining, howling, and even yelping)
  • Shaking and shivering

NSAIDs should not be used over long periods of time for treating dogs.

Your dog’s metabolism is very different from yours; it is actually faster than yours. When ibuprofen is given to dogs, it can get absorbed into their system in as little as 30 minutes. This usually depends on how recently they’ve eaten.

So, how exactly does it work to kill a dog’s pain? Most NSAIDs work by preventing the functions of cyclooxygenase (COX-2), the enzymes responsible for releasing prostaglandins, and so does ibuprofen. Prostaglandins are substances which the body releases to respond to injuries and illnesses.

Prostaglandins are the main causes of swelling, pain, or inflammation. They are released in the dog’s brain. When ibuprofen is administered to your dog, its painkilling effects start making an impact immediately. However, anti-inflammatory effects are quite different and may take longer. Still, ibuprofen liberates your pet from swelling eventually.

How Much Ibuprofen is Safe to Give to Dogs?

Ibuprofen

The only person who can give proper instructions and appropriate dosages for administering ibuprofen to your dog is a vet. The veterinarian determines such by examining your pet and also taking into consideration your dog’s age, weight, and health condition.

Another point to note is that every breed and size of a dog has different tolerance to ibuprofen. This is information you cannot analyse, meaning you should never administer ibuprofen without advice from an animal health provider.

Even if your dog has been having pain issues for a long time, avoid giving him ibuprofen for a prolonged period. Even with the correct dosages, prolonged use may bring about adverse health effects such as kidney and heart problems.

Ibuprofen Toxicity in Dogs

sick dog

Toxicity in your dog is hard to miss. However, knowing specific pointers can help you know if it’s ibuprofen toxicity that you are dealing with or something else. Below are some signs to watch out for:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Racing heart rate
  • Pale mucous membranes indicating anemia
  • Black, tar-like stools
  • Kidney function impairment
  • Agitation and irritation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration, increased level of thirst, and frequent urinating
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Lethargy and general body weakness
  • Ataxia (loss of coordination)

Some symptoms of ibuprofen toxicity in a dog can occur fast, while others may take time to manifest. The signs of stomach ulcers can show between 12 hours and 4 days after ingestion while kidney function impairment can begin to manifest from between 12 hours and 5 days from the time of ingestion.

Mostly, dogs experience ibuprofen toxicity when:

#1: They accidentally ingest the medication, owing to careless storage

Ibuprofen is a common household medicine for most families. Accidental ingestion of ibuprofen by dogs, and especially Advil, is fairly common because of its sweet outer coating.

Felines don’t have the taste buds necessary to enjoy sweet stuff, hence cannot ingest ibuprofen in high quantities if left unattended. Dogs, on the other hand, can taste the sweetness and will take it in high quantities, leading to toxicity.

Many cases of ibuprofen toxicity are caused by the ingestion of poorly stored medicines.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), most panic calls about dogs that ingested ibuprofen to their Animal Poison Control Center hotline were the result of poorly stored ibuprofen. This means that you should ensure that you store any medicine containing ibuprofen in a pet-proof place.

#2: Incorrect dosage is given

This can be either accidentally or in a kind-hearted attempt to alleviate the dog’s pain. Regardless of how much you want to help alleviate your dog’s pain, it is important to stick to the dosages given by the vet.

#3: Some dogs are supersensitive to ibuprofen

Since each pet is unique, different dogs may have different reactions to various medicines. This means that even if the dogs are given the correct dosage as advised by a vet, some may still experience the adverse effects of ibuprofen.

Once such a thing is noted, it should be reported to the vet to avoid future problems and get indicated in medical records.

How to Treat Ibuprofen Toxicity in Dogs

activated charcoal

The immediate action should be to take your pet to the vet. Carry the ibuprofen or medicine that you suspect your dog has ingested. It is advisable that someone who knows the dog’s medical history takes him. However, if that person isn’t available, anyone can take him. Ibuprofen toxicity is an emergency that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The vet will most likely want to examine your dog and do a number of tests. These tests include a blood check (complete blood cell count), serum biochemistry, a urinalysis, a renal function panel, and a chemistry panel.

Records relating to the dog’s medical history should not be left behind. If the poisoning is acute, your dog will most likely be hospitalized. This helps to ensure that his urine output, blood values, and vital signs are monitored.

If a dog is poisoned with ibuprofen, there are several actions your vet will take to treat him. Here are some of them depending on the situation:

  • Vomiting can be induced to remove the drug from the dog’s stomach. This is done to ensure that very little absorption takes place.
  • He can be given IV (intravenous) fluids—these fluids help in speeding up the elimination of the toxins from your dog’s body.
  • For any long term toxicity, a blood transfusion for your pet may be recommended by the veterinarian.
  • Giving your dog activated charcoal; this will absorb and bind toxins to help in their removal from the body. It can be very effective especially if the ibuprofen was ingested as recently as within 2 hours.
  • In cases with severe effects like gastric perforation, surgery may be performed to treat the perforation. Treatment for peritonitis will also be done.
  • The vet may recommend discontinuation of any medications your dog was having or was meant to be given.
  • If the dog is having any seizures, anticonvulsant medications will be given.
  • For any bleeding, activated charcoal like Pepcid and Carafate may be administered.
  • If the dog has high levels of toxicity, the vet will perform gastric lavage where a tube is placed through the mouth into the stomach. Toxicants are ejected by flushing saline solutions into the stomach, followed by the suction of gastric contents.
  • Gastrointestinal protectants may have to be administered for a minimum of 1 — 2 weeks. Supportive care should continue up until lab tests show normalization and stability.

Note: dogs that get kidney failure can never recover from this condition. This means they will never be able to produce urine again.

For some dogs, they may be unable to recover from some conditions; you should ensure you care for them during their lifetime.

Alternatives to Ibuprofen

Vetprofen

Most vets will often advise and prescribe supplements that do not interact with painkillers to help reduce pain in dogs. This is especially true for those dogs with joint conditions such as arthritis.

See Also: Best Joint Supplement for Dogs

Some of the most commonly recommended pain-relief supplements include green-lipped mussel, chondroitin sulfate, fish oils, glucosamine selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).

Glucosamine is a joint supplement that helps in maintaining and building the cartilage in the dog’s body. It is mostly combined with chondroitin sulfate that helps regulate the enzymes which damage the cartilage in joints. Both work to combat cartilage deterioration. They also rebuild and maintain the existing cartilage.

Other safer dog specific NSAIDs are Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl), Deracoxib (Deramaxx), Firocoxib (Previcox), and Meloxicam (Metacam).

Wrap Up

healthy dog

Ibuprofen can be either good or bad to your dog depending on how it is used. Having gone through this article, you are now in a better position to take care of your canine friend. When it comes down to pet treatment and health, do not do it yourself to save costs. It is always best to seek the guidance of a veterinarian.

If ibuprofen ingestion happens accidentally, follow the above advice and guidelines to help save your dog. It is quite clear that human medicines such as ibuprofen don’t work the same for dogs. As an alternative, you can get an accurate prescription for a dog-specific medicine that will serve the same purpose if you aren’t comfortable with using ibuprofen.

We hope this article was helpful to you. Leave us a comment below and let us know your opinion! Next, check out our article on aspirin for dogs to make sure you know the correct way to administer this commonly used drug.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

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