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Can You Give Dogs Ibuprofen for Pain Relief? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

ibuprofen pills out of an orange plastic container

Vet approved

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Amanda Charles

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you notice your pup isn’t acting like itself lately, one possible reason could be that it is in pain. No one likes to see their pet hurting, so it’s only natural to wonder what you can offer your dog if it’s uncomfortable. You might be tempted to look in your medicine cabinet to see what pain-relieving options you have at your disposal.

Unfortunately, while nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work wonders for human pain, some are unsafe to offer your pet. Ibuprofen is one NSAID you should steer clear from giving to your dog.

Read on to learn more about ibuprofen, NSAIDs, and your dog’s pain control options.

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What Are NSAIDs?

NSAIDs are designed to reduce fever, pain, swelling and other signs of inflammation. Veterinarians often prescribe NSAIDs to dogs with joint conditions like osteoarthritis to help address such signs. NSAIDs are also sometimes used post-surgery in pets to manage pain.

What Is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is the generic name for a specific type of NSAID. However, it’s an active ingredient in many brand name medications you’ve likely seen over the counter at your local pharmacy. Ibuprofen is in Advil®, Midol®, and Motrin®.

Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs work by blocking the production of certain body chemicals that cause inflammation and pain.

two ibuprofen gel tabs
Image Credit: Michelle Lee Photography, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Take Ibuprofen?

While it can be tempting to give your dog an ibuprofen simply because you have it on hand, this is one of several NSAIDs that should not be given to dogs.

Household medications such as ibuprofen should be kept well out of reach of dogs in case of accidental ingestion.

Why Can’t Dogs Take Ibuprofen?

This NSAID works by affecting the activity of an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase, which plays an important role in prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are messengers that have many roles in the body. Some prostaglandins lead to inflammation and pain and NSAIDs are given to block the production of these. However there are other prostaglandins that have roles we don’t want to block including supporting normal blood clotting, ensuring blood flow through the kidneys and helping protect the stomach’s lining.

Ibuprofen is an effective medication to treat inflammation and pain in humans but it should never be given to dogs. Dogs metabolize ibuprofen differently and are much more sensitive to the side effects than people, even at low doses it can be life threatening for our dogs.

What Happens If a Dog Takes Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen ingestion can cause serious issues for our dogs including ulceration of the stomach or intestines, kidney damage, liver damage and bleeding.

If your dog has eaten ibuprofen, contact your vet for advice straight away. Toxic effects can occur rapidly depending on the dose and signs they may show include vomiting and lethargy.

veterinarian examines the bernese mountain dog
Image Credit: Freeograph, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Take Any NSAIDs?

Luckily there are many NSAIDs created especially for dogs.

Several prescription NSAIDs are FDA-approved for dogs to address pain and inflammation.

This includes such medications as:
  • Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
  • Deracoxib (Deramaxx)
  • Firocoxib (Previcox)
  • Grapiprant (Galliprant)
  • Meloxicam (Metacam)
  • Robenacoxib (Onsior)

What About Tylenol?

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is another unsafe over-the-counter human medication to offer a dog. It is not an NSAID, as the two drug types have different mechanisms of action in the body.

This drug has a low safety margin for dogs and can be toxic. Tylenol is processed in your dog’s liver through two pathways. When these pathways become overwhelmed, the body can’t inactivate an acetaminophen metabolite, which can then cause liver injury, prevent red blood cells from carrying oxygen or even death.

What Are the Signs That a Dog Is in Pain?

Recognizing the signs of pain in your dog is an important part of pet ownership. Depending on where your dog is hurting, they may display some of the following behaviors:

  • Restlessness
  • Looking uncomfortable
  • Whimpering
  • Crying
  • Licking or rubbing at a wound or surgery site
  • Non-responsive to your calls
  • Withdrawal
  • Limping or shifting its weight
  • Growling or pulling away when touched
  • Droopy ears
  • Shifty eyes

You can also check out the Canine Acute Pain Scale to see the psychological and behavioral impacts of dogs in varying degrees of pain.

maltese sick dog
Image Credit: F Grao, Shutterstock

What Can I Do for My Dog in Pain?

When you are concerned your dog is in pain, the first and most important thing you should do is contact your vet for an assessment, diagnosis and pain management protocol. If they have joint pain, once you have recommendations from your vet, you might also consider doing the following in conjunction with the prescribed pain medication to help your dog feel more comfortable:

  • Manage its weight to reduce further strain on joints and lower the risk for diseases like diabetes mellitus
  • Do low-impact exercises to keep muscles and joints moving and healthy
  • Modify your home with carpet runners or dog ramps
  • Use dog boots or grippy socks to provide traction on slippery flooring
  • Invest in elevated food and water bowls if neck pain is a problem
  • Provide soft beds and fluffy blankets to help it get comfortable for sleep
  • Keep it company

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Final Thoughts

You should never give your dog ibuprofen, as this medication can be toxic and even fatal for your beloved pooch. In the same vein, never take it upon yourself to diagnose or medicate your pet. If it’s in pain, you must contact your vet for recommendations and medication options.

Featured Image Credit: luchschenF, Shutterstock

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