Must-Know Facts of Using Ibuprofen for Dogs

If your dog has recently been injured or is suffering from muscle strain or another painful ailment, you may be wondering if it is okay to use ibuprofen for dogs. Maybe you aren’t able to get your furry friend in to see the veterinarian or you’re looking for a cost-effective way to ease your pet’s discomfort. Either way, some every day over the counter analgesic medications can be an acceptable alternative to traditional veterinary prescriptions. That being said, as a responsible canine owner it is important that you understand the appropriate uses, limitations, and possible risk factors associated with giving ibuprofen to a dog.

What is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. In the United States, this medication is sold as an over the counter medication under the popular brand names Motrin and Advil, although numerous generic alternatives are also available. Ibuprofen is a long-lasting painkiller and tends to be more effective in reducing a fever than acetaminophen. When paired with a stimulant, particularly caffeine, it becomes a highly effective headache reducer. This common drug seems to be the go-to option for treating mild to moderate pain as well as swelling, discomfort, and redness caused by inflammation. The unique and highly effective anti-inflammatory properties of ibuprofen can be used to reduce swelling and throbbing sensations associated with a number of medical conditions, including scratches and similar small wounds, arthritis, muscle strain, pinched nerve, infection, and even a toothache.

Is Ibuprofen Safe for Canines?

Most veterinarians are in agreement that this over the counter drug is generally not safe to give to a dog. Under the advisement and/or careful monitoring of a veterinarian, administering ibuprofen to a canine can be safe. Unfortunately, the adverse side effects of giving NSAID medication to a canine are so great that most veterinarians will not condone the use of this medication in any canine. Besides this fact, one has to consider that finding the appropriate dosage for a dog can be very difficult. When being administered by a pet owner who has not received dosage advice from a veterinarian, it is extremely easy to overdose a canine on analgesic drugs. It is not safe for owners to give ibuprofen to small breeds or juvenile canines. Larger breeds may benefit from NSAIDs but only on a temporary basis and only under the advice and careful monitoring of a veterinarian. This type of medication is dangerous when taken over a long period of time no matter what size or breed of dog is taking the drug. The best course of action an owner can take is to call a trusted veterinarian, explain the dog’s symptoms, and ask for advice on whether ibuprofen would be a suitable course of treatment. If so, be sure to get a dosage recommendation from the vet based on the dog’s weight and size.

What Are the Risks Associated with NSAID in Canines?

One possible side effect of administering an NSAID drug to a dog is that the canine may suffer an adverse reaction to the antiplatelet properties of this type of medication. This is often not an issue for dogs who are given the medicine as a means to relieve general aches and pains such as arthritis or inflammation, however it can prove to be a serious complication in a dog who experiences blood loss. For instance, a dog who will be undergoing surgery in a short time should not be given ibuprofen for at least two weeks prior to the operation. The reason is that the antiplatelet property in the drug reduces the body’s ability to clot blood. Blood clotting is a very important and sometimes life-saving ability because it prevents the body from sustaining significant blood loss from a minor cut or injury. If a canine were to take ibuprofen before a surgery, their body could bleed excessively not only at the incision site but also internally from any blood vessels that may be severed during the procedure. Excessive blood loss, especially internally, can be extremely dangerous.

If a dog were to be given ibuprofen on a semi-regular basis, there is also the chance that any wound sustained while taking this medication (or any time before the drug has been flushed from the animal’s system) could result in excessive bleeding. It is impossible to predict when a dog will become injured – he or she could get loose and become involved in a brawl with another animal, take a tumble on a rocky surface, or even become ensnared in barbed wire.

Gastrointestinal bleeding is another possible side effect of taking this NSAID, which is actually one of the first signs of drug toxicity. NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin are well-known for causing intestinal issues, particularly stomach ulcers. Ulcers are open sores that develop when the protective lining of the stomach has been worn away to the point that stomach acid is able to reach (and erode) the stomach’s wall. A stomach ulcer can be difficult to treat because the constant onslaught of acid prevents the wound from closing and healing. Symptoms of a gastrointestinal ulcer include lack of appetite, weakness, dehydration, no desire to play, and vomiting. Your pooch may also pass blood through his vomit or stool. Stomach ulcers can easily become so painful that your furry friend simply refuses to eat which will inevitably lead to lethargy. If the animal were to continue to receive NSAIDs, he could also suffer from kidney failure caused by the organs’ inability to handle the taxing job of filtering so much “toxic substance” from the blood.

Ibuprofen can actually induce a coma and cause outright death to occur in canines. Dogs cannot metabolize this drug the way that humans do and toxic levels can build up very quickly. Symptoms of toxicity/poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, excessive drooling, unresponsiveness, inability to move, and loss of consciousness. If these symptoms appear, it is imperative to get the animal to an emergency treatment facility as soon as possible.

If you choose to give your dog ibuprofen, you should do so only after first considering the potential risks associated with this drug, many of which are more prominent in dogs than in humans.