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My Pet is in Pain

My Pet is in Pain; Are OTC Meds for People Safe for My Pet?

By Sarah Hilario, DVM

It’s Sunday afternoon and your regular vet clinic is closed. You suddenly realize that your furry family member is in pain. Perhaps your dog has been playing ball outside and unexpectedly starts limping, or your elderly kitty jumps off the cat tree and is now hiding under the bed. Should you reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication? The answer is a resounding No! Your beloved pet can suffer a great deal of harm when given medications intended for humans. Following are some common OTC drugs, and the possible damaging results of using them in animals.

Ibuprofen, the active ingredient in both Advil and Motrin, is highly toxic to both dogs and cats. It can cause kidney failure as well as stomach ulcers, painful sores that form in the lining of the stomach. Naproxen, the active ingredient in Aleve, is also a highly toxic medication in animals which can result in liver or kidney damage or stomach ulcers. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is highly toxic to cats, but can be used in some dogs in rare circumstances. However, only use this medication if recommended by your veterinarian as acetaminophen usage can also cause both liver and kidney damage in some animals. Aspirin can cause stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding; it is not used in cats due to potential side effects and rarely in dogs. Talk to your veterinarian before using these medications as there are safer and more effective prescription options that are labeled specifically for use in dogs.

Giving an OTC human pain medication to pets can not only harm them but will also delay effective treatment while your veterinarian works to clear the OTC medication from your pet’s body in order to avoid any drug interactions. If the pain is mild you can always apply a cold or warm compress to the area and watch closely for improvement. If it is not improving or the pain is moderate to severe, call your local emergency clinic immediately for help after hours.