It is a very natural reaction to want to help your dog when you know that he is in pain. For most of us, anytime we see pain and suffering we want to do something to alleviate it. Usually, the sooner the better.
However, reaching for over-the-counter human pain relief medications such as ibuprofen is not safe or advisable when attempting to treat your four-legged friend. It is very easy to administer toxic levels of the drug unknowingly, and toxic levels of ibuprofen in your dog’s system can cause life-threatening health conditions.
So, the short answer is no, ibuprofen should not be used as pain relief for dogs, unless you have been specifically directed to do so by your veterinarian provider.
If you have been directed to give your dog ibuprofen by your vet, make sure the medication is accompanied with very careful instructions and strict dosages to adhere to, and follow those instructions and dosages religiously.
Signs Your Dog May Be in Pain
It’s important to look out for the signs of pain in dogs. Often, dogs are quite stoic when it comes to pain, unless the pain is severe. When a dog’s pain becomes severe, one telling sign is that they may vocalize more than normal, either with whining or barking, and especially when you touch them.
A dog that suffers from chronic pain however, may present with more subtle symptoms. These symptoms can range from lethargy and listlessness, a lack of appetite, and depression, to other behavior changes such as agitation and snapping at people when they are normally friendly and loving. Dogs that are typically reserved or withdrawn may become overly affectionate and clingy, seeking your attention constantly.
Other subtle signs and behavior changes that could clue you in to your dog’s plight may be things like your dog avoiding doing activities you know he enjoys. Maybe it is playing, maybe it is going for a walk, or maybe he isn’t interested in chasing the neighborhood cat like he normally is. Perhaps your dog is reluctant to do things like jump in your car or climb the stairs, where previously he has had no problem doing so.
Sometimes dogs can experience sudden or acute onset pain. When this happens, they may present with rapid or loud breathing, like panting. In cases where they are suffering severely, they could also experience a more rapid than normal heart rate, and higher than normal blood pressure.
Obviously, there can be a wide variety of reasons your dog could be in pain, so the most prudent recourse is to take your dog to a vet before administering any medications, especially drugs such as ibuprofen. Not only is it very easy to poison your dog with ibuprofen, it also tends to interact with other medications, sometimes resulting in unhappy consequences if your dog is taking something else on a regular basis that doesn’t mix well.
What is Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is in over-the-counter medication intended for human consumption that is classified as an NSAID, or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Because the use of these types of drugs is so common, and they are readily available in every drugstore, pet toxicity due to accidental ingestion is also very common.
Ibuprofen is considered an antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic medication. When dogs are given ibuprofen orally, it is absorbed very rapidly, usually within thirty minutes to three hours. If your dog has been given food beforehand, then it can delay absorption somewhat, although not much.
How Much Ibuprofen Can I Give My Dog?
Ibuprofen is a medication with a very narrow margin of error when it comes to dosing a dog. Even at very low doses, if you are using ibuprofen for dogs for a prolonged period, it can still cause serious health concerns.
These concerns include GI irritations and ulcerations, GI hemorrhaging, gastric perforations, as well as renal damage. Prolonged use of ibuprofen can also trigger depression of the central nervous system (CNS), cardiac arrest, hypotension, ataxia, as well as seizures in dogs. Dogs that accidentally ingest ibuprofen at toxic levels should be treated as an emergency, because high levels of ibuprofen in a dog’s system is potentially lethal.
So, while ibuprofen can be very effective for pain and fever, it is a risky drug to give to your dog, even more risky than aspirin. This is especially true when there are other medication options available (intended for animals) that are safer and may work better. It is important that you never administer ibuprofen to your dog without the input and supervision of a veterinary professional.
What Happens If I Give My Dog Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen works like any other NSAID, by inhibiting cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that is responsible for producing prostaglandins. Prostaglandins promote things like pain, fever, and inflammation, as well as other roles in a dog’s body, such as maintaining blood flow to their kidneys, and promoting the normal clotting of blood.
Prostaglandins also help keep the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract coated with a layer of mucus that protects it from stomach acid. So, when prostaglandins are reduced, your dog can suffer side effects related to all those bodily functions, such as:
- Intestinal problems
- A loss of appetite
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Bleeding disorders
- Liver and kidney dysfunction
- And even death if he does not get proper treatment
When Dogs Accidentally Ingest Ibuprofen
Most of time dogs experience ibuprofen toxicity because they have accidentally ingested the medication due to carelessness. This can happen when pet owners leave bottles of ibuprofen sitting on tables and countertops, or leave the medication in bags and purses within reach of your dog.
Dogs are curious creatures and they like to chew things, so it is easy for them to happen upon a bottle of ibuprofen and start gnawing away. Unfortunately, once they have chewed through the plastic, they end up ingesting the drug as well, and accidentally poisoning themselves.
Other times, dogs can experience problems with ibuprofen because a well-meaning owner accidentally gave them a dosage that was too high for them in a kind-hearted attempt to alleviate their pain. Because there is such a narrow margin of error when i