Paracetamol. or as its also known acetaminophen. is one of the most widely used human medications. It is available without a prescription, over the counter. Chances are you have some paracetamol at home, it is used most commonly to treat mild or moderate pain and fever.

Paracetamol is licensed for use in children and is accepted as safe to use by pregnant women. So you might also think it is a benign and safe drug for your dog. However, this decision can only ever legally be made by a veterinary surgeon.

It is important that you don’t make this decision yourself or administer any medication without veterinary authorisation. You cannot assume the same dose ranges are suitable for your dog as humans or that the drug can be used to treat your pet’s condition.

Paracetamol should not be assumed safe; it can cause serious toxicity or be fatal if an overdose is given. The paracetamol you have at home is human strength and therefore it is very easy to overdose a pet.

If you have concerns about your dog or feel that it needs pain relief, contact your vet who will be able to advise. 

It is important that your dog is examined and diagnosed to ensure it receives appropriate care and treatment.  In many cases there are other veterinary medicines which may be used first to treat your dog.

If your dog has accidentally got hold of paracetamol and consumed the medication seek veterinary advice immediately. In the case of accidental ingestion there is potential for overdose or serious side effects. Take the packaging with you to the vet and try to find out how much of the medication may have been consumed by the dog.

This information will be very useful. In general, it is best to store medications out of reach of children and animals. Dogs can be curious, and this sometimes gets them into trouble when they consume medications or foods. 

Paracetamol can kill dogs even in a small overdose.

Side effects or symptoms of overdose of paracetamol in dogs can include liver damage, ulceration of the digestive tract, pale gums, vomiting, drooling, abdominal pain, breathing difficulties, or seizures. If there is a suspicion of paracetamol ingestion or you have given your dog paracetamol without the advice of a vet contact your practice without delay. 

Paracetamol should never ever be administered to cats as it is highly toxic.

What are the rules regarding the prescription of medication to pets?

Prescription animal medicines and human medications can be prescribed for an animal by a veterinary surgeon, only a vet is legally allowed to make this decision. In the first instance licenced veterinary medicines will be prescribed if they are available. The summary of product characteristics (SPC) gives the details of the conditions (or rules) of use of the medication. 

However sometimes there may be no suitable licenced product available in the UK for treating an animal’s condition. In such cases AND particularly to avoid the animal suffering the veterinary surgeon is permitted to use their clinical judgement to treat animals under their care using what is known as the cascade.

The cascade is a risk-based decision tree which in certain circumstances allows a veterinary surgeon to prescribe a veterinary medicine licenced in the UK for another animal species or to treat a different condition. If this isn’t possible then a human medicine authorised in the UK may be prescribed. 

So can my dog have paracetamol?

Not unless a veterinary surgeon has supplied it for your dog. If your vet has prescribed paracetamol, as with any medication follow the directions carefully to ensure it is used safely. If a veterinary surgeon has prescribed paracetamol, they will have considered what dosage is safe to give your pet.

Your vet will have weighed up the risks and benefits of using the medication taking into account the condition being treated and any other medications currently prescribed for your dog. The decision to prescribe paracetamol will also have been taken in light of the cascade of prescribing unlicensed medications. 

There are some limited circumstances in which a vet may prescribe paracetamol to treat a dog, however these decisions would always be made on a case by case basis considering all of the facts. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the medication prescribed for your pet always consult your vet. 

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