When your furry friend is in pain, it’s only natural to want to help them. But before you rummage through your medicine cabinet for pain-killing options at home it’s important to know the risks of human painkillers. Paracetamol, ibuprofen, and human painkillers for dogs are not safe, especially when given at home.
Painkillers for dogs should be given by your vet. If your dog is in pain, make sure that you tell your vet right away. Your vet can give your dog Carprofen, Deracoxib, Firocoxib, or Meloxicam depending on the cause of their pain. But which is best and are there any side effects? If you’re ready to find out more about painkillers for dogs, read on!
Are Human Painkillers Safe Painkillers for Dogs?
Human painkillers are not safe for dogs when given at home. Not only are doses completely different, but the margin of safety for dogs is much smaller than your own. If your vet prescribes paracetamol or aspirin for your dog, you must follow their instructions carefully to avoid unwanted side effects.
Paracetamol, also called acetaminophen, is a common medication for treating mild to moderate pain in humans. It is often part of other medications, particularly in cold medications. Although paracetamol is safe for humans, it is toxic to dogs and causes severe liver damage if your dog eats too many. A 44 lbs dog would need to consume at least 7 500mg tablets to suffer acetaminophen toxicity. Signs of paracetamol toxicosis develop within one to twelve hours and include cyanosis, salivation, tremors, and tachycardia.
Pardale V for dogs contains paracetamol 400mg and codeine phosphate 9mg. This drug is prescription-only and is only suitable for treatment for fewer than 5 days. These tablets are given for acute traumatic pain or as a complementary treatment during post-operative analgesia. Check with your vet for the correct dose. Your dog’s dose will depend on their weight. Generally speaking, the recommended dose is 10mg to every kilo of body weight. So, a 40kg dog could take a whole 400mg tablet. Smaller dogs will require a smaller dose. As always, make sure that you check in with your vet before giving paracetamol to your pooch.
Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It works by reducing the hormones that are responsible for causing pain and swelling in the body. It treats pain, fever, and inflammation. For dogs, ibuprofen has a narrow margin of safety. Signs of paracetamol toxicosis occur with small doses. For example, half a 200mg pill is enough to cause toxicosis in a 25 lbs dog. Depending on the dose given to the dog, toxicosis may be mild or severe. At doses of 25 to 125mg, dogs might exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. By 175 mg, a dog might exhibit acute renal failure, polyuria, or polydipsia. At 400mg, a dog may show signs of ataxia, shock, seizures, or coma. Doses of 600mg or more cause death without treatment.
Because of the risks, ibuprofen is not a common veterinary treatment for dogs. While the ASPCA suggests a dose of 5mg/kg/day, signs of toxicosis occur at doses as low as 8mg/kg/day. At this dose, the ASPCA warns that dogs develop gastric ulcers and intestinal inflammation. This reflects a very narrow margin of safety for dogs.
Aspirin is an everyday painkiller for treating pain, fever, and inflammation. It works similarly to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs but also works by suppressing the normal function of platelets. This is because aspirin blocks certain enzyme processes that control kidney function and blood clotting. It takes four times longer for a dog to remove aspirin from their body than a human. This makes it easy for poisoning to occur. The clinical signs of aspirin toxicosis depend on how much aspirin that your dog eats. However, at doses of 50mg/kg every 12 hours, gastric ulcers will form. This causes bloody stools, pale mucous membranes, dehydration, and anemia. At doses greater than 450mg/kg, dogs experience seizures, kidney disease, liver disease, and coma.
Aspirin sometimes helps to treat pain and inflammation in dogs. This prescription is “off-label” or “extra-label.” If your vet prescribes off-label aspirin, it means that you must follow the dose that your vet gives rather than that on a normal aspirin label. Your vet likely has a good reason for prescribing aspirin, but depending on your dog’s health, there are safer alternatives that they might prescribe. If your vet does not give an alternative, do not take matters into your own hands. Talk to your vet about your concerns.
Risks of Giving Human Painkillers to Dogs
When your dog is unwell or has a painful injury, it is natural that you would want to give them something to ease their discomfort. While you may be tempted to give your pooch human painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, or aspirin, it is unsafe to do so. This is because the margin of safety for human painkillers is small, and they also have negative effects on your dog’s prostaglandin production.
Prostaglandins are a group of fat-like substances that are found in most body tissues. Like people, dogs produce prostaglandins to protect their stomach lining and to maintain blood flow to the kidneys. Also, prostaglandins are local-acting vasodilators, meaning that they widen blood cells to facilitate inflammation. They also stop the aggregation of blood platelets. When human painkillers start working, prostaglandin production partially stops.
Because prostaglandin production slows, gastric ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, and liver failure can occur as a result. The higher the dose, the higher the risk of these intestinal damages to your dog, but even small doses can cause stomach irritation and discomfort to your beloved pet. Humans can suffer these side effects as well, but they are more likely to occur in our furry friends than us. This is because your dog’s margin of safety with each human painkiller is much smaller than your own.
What to do if Your Vet Prescribes a Human Painkiller for Your Dog?
In rare cases, vets prescribe painkillers that are normally given to humans to your dog. If this is the case, you must follow your veterinarian’s guidance. If you are unsure of the dose, do not guess. Make sure that you call your vet for clarification on the dosage. Overdosing your dog can result in severe toxicosis, resulting in symptoms like gastric bleeding, seizures, and coma.
If you notice any signs of toxicosis or side effects, such as drooling, stomach pain, or bloody stools, stop giving the painkiller immediately and inform your vet of the situation. Do not attempt to give a smaller dose in an attempt to lessen the side effects. You must also not mix the painkiller with another drug in an attempt to dilute its effects. Always ask your vet for advice before making any changes to your pet’s treatment.
Signs of Toxicity in Painkillers for Dogs
Paracetamol toxicosis causes different clinical signs than NSAID toxicosis. If your dog takes a high dose of paracetamol, they may develop cyanosis, dyspnoea, anorexia, depression, hypothermia, and coma. Some dogs develop edema in their legs, face, and paws. Their urine may become dark or brown from the presence of methemoglobin or blood. In some cases, death is the only obvious sign of paracetamol toxicosis.
Ibuprofen and aspirin toxicosis causes several clinical signs. One of the first signs is hypersalivation. Stupor, decreased appetite, thirst, tachycardia, vomiting, abdominal pain, and black or bloody stool soon follow. Some dogs develop dark red mucous membranes, while others develop yellow mucous membranes.
Safe Painkillers for Dogs
Thanks to advances in veterinary research, more painkillers are available to protect your pooch from pain. Pain medications for dogs are primarily non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These work by blocking the body’s cyclooxygenase production (COX). By blocking these enzymes, NSAIDs reduce pain and inflammation in your dog’s body.
Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
Carprofen (brand names: Rimadyl®, Canidryl®, or Vetprofen®) is a non-steroidal inflammatory drug for treating pain and inflammation in dogs. This NSAID is given by mouth as a non-chewable tablet. When given at the correct dose, Carprofen takes effect in 1 to 2 hours. Most dogs respond well to Carprofen, but as with all NSAIDs, it can cause gastrointestinal problems. The known adverse effects include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, liver dysfunction, paralysis, and behavioral changes. Because of these risks, Carprofen is given with caution if the patient has kidney or liver disease or a bleeding deficit. Carprofen can also affect lab tests, including blood cell counts and potassium levels.
Deracoxib (brand name: Deramaxx®) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for preventing pain following orthopedic or dental surgery. It is also popular for controlling the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis. This drug is available as a chewable tablet. Deracoxib takes effect in 1 to 2 hours. Most dogs take Deracoxib well, but some will experience side effects including vomiting, liver dysfunction, skin irritation, stomach pain, and changes in bowel movements. Because of this, Deracoxib is given with caution to patients with kidney or liver disease as well as bleeding defects.
Firocoxib (brand name: Previcox®) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for treating the pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis in dogs. This drug is available as a chewable tablet. When given once daily, this drug reaches peak plasma concentration within 90 minutes. Most commonly, side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia. Because of this, Firocoxib is not the best treatment for dogs with dehydration, stomach ulcers, kidney or liver disease, or bleeding disorders.
Meloxicam (brand names: Metacam® or Loxicom®) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatic diseases in dogs. It is also given to prevent or treat pain from surgery. This NSAID is available as a chewable tablet, injection, or oral spray and takes effect in 1 to 2 hours. The most common side effects of Meloxicam in dogs are gastrointestinal, including problems such as vomiting, soft stools, and lack of appetite. As with other painkillers, Meloxicam is not ideal for pets with pre-existing kidney or liver conditions as well as bleeding disorders.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Supplements
While non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the gold-standard therapy for dogs with osteoarthritis, these treatments may cause gastrointestinal problems. Because of this, select nutraceuticals like glucosamine and chondroitin have been used alongside other treatments. Glucosamine regulates collagen synthesis and provides mild anti-inflammatory benefits, while chondroitin inhibits the destructive enzymes in joint cartilage and fluid. However, the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin in dogs is unknown.
In one study, glucosamine and chondroitin did not cause a significant reduction in pain. There was a full relapse following the withdrawal of the treatment. In another study, significant improvements were seen in treated dogs’ pain and weight-bearing abilities, but lameness and joint mobility did not improve. In comparison, Carprofen improved all parameters of the dog’s health.
The bottom line? We are still unsure if these supplements make a significant difference to every dog who takes them. Talk to your vet about your options if you think that glucosamine and chondroitin might help your furry friend!
Human Painkillers for Dogs – FAQs
Have any more questions about paracetamol, ibuprofen, and human painkillers for dogs? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt, always ask your vet for advice.
Your vet can prescribe painkillers for your pet. If you think your pooch is in pain, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Be specific with the symptoms you are noticing, to help your vet to diagnose your dog’s condition.
Depending on the cause of your dog’s pain, your vet may prescribe Carprofen, Deracoxib, Firocoxib, or Meloxicam to manage their symptoms. A vet may also prescribe off-label painkillers like paracetamol for your dog. You must follow the directions that your vet gives you if your dog is given painkillers. Even if the painkiller is made especially for dogs, it is still possible to overdose your pet on the painkiller. Furthermore, painkillers for dogs can cause side effects that must be closely monitored.
According to the College of Veterinary Medicine, dogs should not have more than 10-15mg/kg of paracetamol per dose. For short-term use, this dose is given every 8 hours for a maximum of 5 days. In long-term therapy, particularly for severe cancer pain, some dogs have prescribed paracetamol at doses of 10mg/kg every 12 hours. In these cases, paracetamol might be combined with regular veterinary NSAIDs.
You cannot give your pet paracetamol without knowing their exact weight and medical history, so you must consult with your vet before administering any pain relief to your pet. If your dog has a history of gastric ulcers or other digestive problems, it is important to weigh out the pros and cons of giving painkillers to your dog, and although paracetamol has weaker effects than other painkillers, it can still cause problems when given in excess. Your vet knows best which painkillers are suitable for your furry friend!
Overall, painkillers made specifically for dogs are the safest and thus the best for your pet. However, the best painkiller for your dog will depend on the cause of your dog’s pain. For example, while Firocoxib is ideal for managing osteoarthritis pain, Meloxicam is more commonly given to dogs recovering from surgery. This is because different painkillers will have different effects on your dog’s body. But why is this? Do all painkillers do the same thing?
Vets divide non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) into three groups: nonselective, COX-2 preferential, and COX-2 selective. Nonselective painkillers impact both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. These painkillers include aspirin, ketoprofen, and piroxicam. COX-2 preferential agents include Carprofen, Meloxicam, and Etodolac. By targeting COX-2 enzymes, the NSAID reduces the risk of peptic ulceration, but because they still target COX-1 as well, the risk is still significant. Finally, COX-2 selective agents include Deracoxib and Firocoxib. COX-2 selective inhibitors specifically stop COX-2 enzymes from working properly and further reduce the risk of gastric problems. Depending on your dog’s sensitivity to NSAIDs, one type of painkiller might be better for them than another.
If your dog’s pain is caused by an allergic reaction, there is one human-grade medication that can be given with confidence: Benadryl. Benadryl is well-tolerated by most dogs and is one of the safest over-the-counter drugs that your vet will recommend for mild allergic reactions. As well as this, your vet may suggest Benadryl as a pre-treatment for potential vaccine reactions. Veterinarians suggest giving your dog 1/2 to 1mg of Benadryl per pound of body weight.
While Benadryl can help to treat mild allergic reactions, it is not appropriate for treating acute allergic reactions. If your dog develops facial swelling or has difficulty breathing, these are signs of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that can only be treated by a vet. If left untreated, anaphylaxis results in systemic shock and death. Make sure that you take your dog to an emergency vet right away if they show signs of anaphylaxis!
Before giving your dog anything for ear pain, make sure that you talk to your vet. Your dog may need corticosteroids and painkillers to tackle the pain in their ear. If your dog has been prescribed treatments, there are some additional measures you can take at home.
To begin, you can use a washcloth dipped in cool water. Hold the damp cloth to the areas that feel warm. You can hold the cloth to your pet’s ear for five to ten minutes before refreshing the cloth with cool water. If your dog does not accept the compress, do not force it on them. Your pooch likely has a good reason to not want a cold compress on their ear – being in too much pain and discomfort are among the most important reasons. Also, if your dog has heavy or floppy ears, it may help to hold them up. Opening the ear canal helps moisture to escape the ears. It all depends on why your dog has pain in their ear and if the problem may be due to a thorough ear cleaning being needed or if there is an infection or injury.
Paracetamol, ibuprofen, and human painkillers for dogs are toxic. Make sure to talk to your vet about dog-safe painkillers if your dog shows signs of pain.