Many medications that we take regularly can be toxic for our canine friends. Ibuprofen is one of these drugs. It can cause serious, and sometimes irreversible, damage. Let’s explore what ibuprofen is and what you should do if your pet accidentally eats some.
Table of contents
What is ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that many people take for a variety of aches and pains. It is also good at treating swellings and has antipyretic properties (reduces fevers). Common brands that contain ibuprofen include Nurofen, Cuprofen, and Advil. It works by stopping COX (“cyclo-oxygenase”) enzymes from producing inflammatory messengers (prostaglandins) which contribute to pain and inflammation within the body.
However, the drug also reduces the activity of other COX enzymes, which are responsible for maintaining healthy organ linings; such as the membranes of the stomach lining. If this barrier becomes weakened or damaged it can lead to issues such as gastric ulcers. It may even cause a hole to form in the stomach wall itself. A reduction in COX enzymes can also affect blood clotting and kidney function which can be very serious.
What happens if my dog eats ibuprofen?
Dogs are more sensitive than us to the effects of ibuprofen and it can be toxic in relatively small doses. Doses as low as 25mg per kilogram of body weight regularly cause symptoms, especially if given regularly over some time. So for example, even a single tablet in a small to medium-sized dog could develop issues like severe or blood-stained vomiting and diarrhoea. Higher doses can also cause bleeding and kidney problems. Sadly, death can also occur in some cases.
If your dog was left untreated after ingesting ibuprofen, then possible symptoms of developing toxicity would include;
- Loss of appetite
- Drinking excessively
- Bleeding (usually seen in the vomit or stools)
If your dog has accidentally eaten any ibuprofen you must call your vet straight away for treatment. Try and tell the vet which size tablets your dog has eaten (e.g. 200mg or 400mg), how many they might have eaten and how long ago this might have been. It is also useful to let the vet know if your dog is on any other medicines such as dog painkillers or blood thinners, as these can dramatically increase the risk. This will help them to tailor treatment accordingly.
What will my vet do?
Your vet will start by examining your dog to check parameters such as mucous membrane colour, heart rate and any signs of abdominal pain.
If your dog has eaten the ibuprofen relatively recently, your vet may be able to induce vomiting. Medication can be given to help your dog vomit and stop any further absorption from occurring. Activated charcoal is sometimes used to try and bind to any remaining traces of the toxin in your dog’s stomach.
Many dogs require intravenous fluids in the form of a drip, to help keep their blood pressure up and keep their kidneys flushing through to reduce the risk of damage. Medications such as antacids or gastroprotectants may be used to try and help prevent further damage to your dog’s stomach lining.
Your dog may need to be hospitalised for a period to allow your vet to monitor them and administer their treatment successfully. Blood samples will also help your vet to monitor your dog for any signs of blood loss or developing kidney failure.
Even if your dog currently seems ok, you must follow the treatment your vet recommends as the damage can develop over a period of time.
Will my dog be ok?
The prognosis is good for dogs that receive immediate treatment as advised by the vet. If, however, your dog absorbs all of the ibuprofen it has consumed and starts showing signs of toxicity, the outcome could be poorer. Issues such as acute kidney injury (AKI) can be fatal, as can severe erosions or holes in the stomach wall.
To try and stop accidents from happening in the future, keep all medication out of reach of your dog. Try and keep it shut away in a cupboard or on a high shelf. Sometimes ingestion happens when medication is left in handbags or coat pockets, which will be an issue if your dog has access to these items. Other over the counter medications such as aspirin and naproxen are also dangerous.
Above all, you must never self-prescribe and give your dog ibuprofen as a treatment. If you think they are in pain, then you should consult a veterinarian for an appropriate diagnosis and dog specific pain killers.
Ibuprofen is a useful medication for a variety of reasons in humans, but its use should be avoided in dogs. If your dog accidentally eats this drug you should contact your veterinarian straight away as the outcome is better for animals that are treated promptly. Keep medications well out of your dog’s reach to prevent accidents from happening again!
You may also be interested in;