A pill that's common to almost every household
If it’s safe for me, it can’t be that bad for them.
This is a familiar refrain for many people who are trying to help their pets. Whether in pain, injured, or sick – all we’re trying to do is help them.
Not what I meant when I said keep your wounds clean!
But animals just don’t metabolize ibuprofen the same way that we do. Dogs in particular absorb more of it into their systems than us.
Similarly, the method by which it works can cause ulceration to the stomach and damage to the kidneys in any individual (even in humans at a high enough dose). Animals are just more sensitive to this process due to the way they absorb and metabolize these medicines.
In addition to the effects ibuprofen has on the body in all animals, several animals (including ferrets) display neurological signs in addition to stomach and kidney damage.
But I read online that vets prescribe ibuprofen to dogs.
There are many places online that will tell you that vets have used doses of 5 mg/kg in dogs to help with pain. But as the information on ibuprofen and its effect on animals grows, the number of vets that will prescribe it shrinks. Your doctor would have prescribed the use of leeches in the past, but you’d seriously question a doctor who did so today!
The fact of the matter is that there are many other medications out there specifically geared towards animals. These medications are considered to be safer and more effective on their bodies than our own medications, so why put your pet at risk?
How bad is it?
Ibuprofen is a big draw for dogs due to the coating of the pill. A vast majority of companies coat them with a sugar glaze to make it go down easier, and this makes it super appealing to your pooch!
In terms of toxicity, let’s take the example of the poor 10 pound dog I end up pretending to poison in my articles, and discuss its effect on him. Ibuprofen is dependant on dose, so the more that he gets, the worse his signs.
Just slightly over one 200 mg pill is enough to cause ulceration in a ten pound dog. The signs you can see in relation to a gastrointestinal ulceration are pretty noticeable:
- Bright red blood in the vomit
- Bright red blood in the stool
- Dark, tarry stools
Three and a half pills are enough to cause kidney damage and kidney failure in our 10 pound dog. With damage to the kidneys, we might see some additional signs:
- More vomiting
- More diarrhea
- Unwillingness to eat or drink
- Increases in thirst
- Increases in urination
- Blood in the urine
Roughly 13 pills are enough to cause neurological signs in a dog. We might see:
- Stumbling or lack of coordination (ataxia)
- Unresponsiveness (coma)
While it doesn’t take very much to cause severe illness in a dog, any amount of ibuprofen in another animal (excluding a horse) has the potential to cause severe signs.
Since it does not easily leave an animal’s body, the doses can “build up”. You may give your pet one in the morning, but if you give another one in the evening, you’ve essentially given 2. Give another in the morning, and you’ve now given three. Just don’t do it!
What should I expect if my dogs does get into my ibuprofen?
Any exposure to ibuprofen requires consultation with a vet or veterinary professional (such as an animal poison control center). Depending on how much your pet has gotten into, the vet may perform some of the following treatments:
- Inducing vomiting if it is safe
- Stomach protectants to prevent or treat ulceration
- Hospitalization (when we expect to see damage to the kidneys or more severe signs, this can be for upwards of 48 hours)
- IV fluid therapy
- Medications to treat signs
- Checking and rechecking bloodwork
When contacting your vet, they will need to calculate out a dose for you, so be prepared to provide an estimate of the largest amount of pills your pet could have swallowed. Be cautious – if you’re not sure, estimate higher.
Animals should never be given ibuprofen, even in smaller doses (if your vet prescribes, ask for an alternative). Accidental overdoses are also a big problem in guys who like to chew on bottles. Take the routine precautions when trying to prevent this type of poisoning, and make sure your pets don’t ever have access.