A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), ibuprofen is commonly used in humans for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic (fever reducing) effects. It can be purchased in a pharmacy or over the counter at many supermarkets under brand names such as Nurofen, Advil and Herron Blue. In humans, ibuprofen has a wide margin of safety and is used for both adults and children. In animals, however, even a single tablet can easily exceed toxic levels. Cats are especially susceptible.
Many cases of ibuprofen toxicity are accidental. A pet may find stray tablets on the floor, or chew on a bottle or packet they’ve had easy access to. Sadly, some cases of toxicity also occur because a well-meaning owner, trying to alleviate their pet’s pain, administers a dose they think would be adequate when compared to their own weight and dosing, without realising they are effectively poisoning their pet. Ibuprofen is intended for human use and should not be given to animals as they metabolise drugs very differently to us.
So, why is ibuprofen toxic to dogs and cats?
The initial toxic effect is bleeding stomach ulcers. An acute ibuprofen overdose is also associated with gastrointestinal, renal, liver, and central nervous system dysfunction, failure, and often death if left untreated.
Signs of ibuprofen toxicity in pets may include:
- Poor appetite.
- Black, tarry faeces.
- Vomiting blood.
- Abdominal pain.
- Increased thirst and urination can also occur with kidney failure.
What should I do if my dog or cat has ingested ibuprofen?
Please call a vet immediately! The best treatment is to induce vomiting within 3 hours of ingestion to avoid the drug being absorbed in to the system. If ingestion was longer than 3 hours ago, the body may already have absorbed the drug beyond toxic levels and it’s important for us to take steps to protect kidneys and the intestines.
Your pet may need to be admitted to hospital and placed on an intra-venous drip to maintain blood pressure and help flush the kidneys. To protect the intestines, gastric protectant medicines may be used. If the animal is severely anaemic due to bleeding ulcers, blood transfusions may be needed and antiemetic medications needed to control vomiting. Hospitalisation can last several days, and multiple blood tests will be required over the course of treatment to monitor liver and kidney function.
How can I protect my pet?
- Never self-medicate your pet. If you suspect an injury, illness, or pain, please consult a veterinarian.
- Make sure all medications are kept locked away or out of reach of curious pets (this includes any medication you may keep in your handbag).