Advil (ibuprofen) is one of the most popular over-the-counter pain and fever medications in the world. It is commonly used for everything from headaches to rheumatoid arthritis in humans — but it is not safe for dogs.
While dogs suffer from many of the same aches and pains that people do, you should never give your dog human medications unless your veterinarian specifically tells you to do so. Advil and other human painkillers like Aleve and Tylenol are extremely bad for dogs. Just a single dose of Advil is likely to cause stomach or kidney problems in your dog. Overdoses can also rapidly cause bleeding, kidney failure, or even death.
So, as tempting as it is to give your dog the same medicine you take for pain – especially when your dog is obviously in pain – Advil will only make the problem worse. Instead, take your dog to a veterinarian and get a dog-specific prescription painkiller.
The good news is that dogs can safely take a variety of painkillers and supplements for pain. Your veterinarian might prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication like Metacam, Deramaxx, or Previcox for dogs with arthritis. There are also more powerful painkillers for dogs who are in pain after surgery or an injury. These FDA-approved painkillers for dogs have a much lower risk of side effects than Advil.
What is Advil?
Advil® is a brand-name for ibuprofen – a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) painkiller and fever-reducer that works by blocking hormones that cause inflammation. It is commonly used as a treatment for people with mild pain, fever, muscle aches, headaches, inflammation, menstrual cramps, joint stiffness, arthritis and more.
Can I give my dog Advil?
Veterinarians will not prescribe Advil for dogs because it is simply too toxic for their kidneys and stomach. There are much better natural alternatives that are less likely to cause side effects. Never give a dog Advil unless you are specifically instructed to do so by a veterinarian. Although there is technically a very low dose of Advil that will not poison a dog, there is a very narrow margin between a “safe” dose and an overdose. Advil is not worth the risk for treating mild pain.
Furthermore, you should always store Advil in a medicine cabinet or another secure location where your dog can’t chew on the bottle or accidentally swallow a pill. If you use Advil to treat your own pain, be very careful not to drop a pill on the floor – your dog could eat a pill, and by the time you realize what has happened, it may be too late.
How much Advil is dangerous for a dog?
Each tablet of Advil contains about 200-mg of ibuprofen. This dose is easily enough to kill a small dog, or cause stomach ulcers in a large dog. Also, Advil is into the body very quickly. It only takes 30 minutes to 3 hours for Advil to be fully absorbed in a dog’s bloodstream. The symptoms of Advil poisoning usually appear within 24 hours. Dogs who have been severely poisoned may experience kidney failure within 24-48 hours. Advil poisoning will occur more quickly in elderly dogs, small dogs, and dogs who have existing kidney or liver problems.
What if I accidentally gave my dog Advil?
If you accidentally gave your dog Advil or you think it ate a pill, go to a veterinarian right away. If you saw it happen, your veterinarian might tell you to use hydrogen peroxide to get your dog to vomit up the pill. Dogs who weigh 10 pounds or less need about a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide, but bigger dogs will need more to induce vomiting.
The best-case scenario is that you will see the pill in your dog’s vomit – but even then, you should still go to a veterinarian. Some Advil may have been absorbed, or your dog may have chewed the pill and only vomited some of it back up. The sooner you get to a veterinarian, the better chance your dog has of surviving Advil poisoning.
If it has been less than 3 hours since your dog ingested Advil, your veterinarian will probably give your dog a dose of activated charcoal. This treatment is not an antidote to Advil. Instead, activated charcoal works by physically binding to toxins in the dog’s stomach and intestines, which prevents Advil from being absorbed into the body. If it has been more than 2 or 3 hours, hydrogen peroxide and activated charcoal will not work, and treatment becomes far more complicated.
Are there other painkillers I can give my dog?
Only give your dog painkillers that are specifically recommended or prescribed by a veterinarian. The type of medicine will depend on what is causing your dog’s pain. For dogs suffering from mild or moderate pain due to achy hips, knees, arthritis, or a minor injury, veterinarians typically prescribe NSAID painkillers that are approved for dogs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as:
Why are these painkillers different from Advil?
Unlike the NSAID painkillers listed above, Advil is much less specific in how it works. Advil works by blocking an inflammatory enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). The problem is that COX produces hormones called prostaglandins that protect the stomach and control kidney function. This is why kidney dysfunction and stomach problems are so common in people who take extensive amounts of Advil.
Dogs are even more sensitive to these side effects than people. Unlike Advil, NSAID painkillers for dogs like Deramaxx, Previcox, Metacam, and Rimadyl specifically block another enzyme called COX-2. This is why they are safer for dogs and far less likely to cause stomach or kidney problems.
Can Advil cause stomach problems in dogs?
Yes. Even low doses of Advil stop the production of a mucous lining that normally protects the stomach and intestines from being attacked by the body’s own digestive juices. Without this protective lining, stomach acid will start digesting the delicate tissues in the stomach.
The result is a painful raw spot or an open sore called a “gastric ulcer.” A gastric ulcer does not heal very easily because it is being constantly damaged by acids, digestive juices, and foods being digested in the stomach.
In severe cases of Advil poisoning, gastric ulcers will actually punch a hole through the stomach or intestines. This life-threatening complication is called a “gastrointestinal perforation” and it requires emergency surgery. Without surgery to close the hole, bacteria from the stomach will enter the body and cause sepsis (blood poisoning).
Bleeding is another risk of stomach ulcers and perforations. If your dog overdosed on Advil, you might see him vomiting up blood. If the bleeding is located deeper in the gastrointestinal system, your dog may have feces that are black or tarry because of partially-digested blood. The bleeding can be so severe that the dog may require a blood transfusion.
Can Advil cause kidney damage in dogs?
Yes. Kidney failure is one of the most life-threatening side effects of Advil in dogs. The problem is that Advil stops the body from making prostaglandins, which are hormones that control the flow of blood through the kidneys’ filtration system. This is why overdoses of Advil can cause kidney failure in dogs, in which the kidneys to stop doing their basic job of cleaning the blood and removing toxins from the body. Large overdoses of Advil can cause kidney failure within a day or two.
Fortunately, the kidneys are resilient organs, and many dogs will recover if they receive treatment right away. Treatment will involve intravenous (IV) fluids to dilute the toxins in the bloodstream and give the kidneys time to heal. But if the kidneys are permanently damaged, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be the only option for survival.
What are the signs of a dog who ingested Advil?
Advil poisoning will cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach ulcers, and abdominal pain. These symptoms combined with kidney damage will occur after serious overdoses. Large overdoses will cause central nervous system (CNS) side effects like seizures, coma, loss of muscle coordination, and even death.
What treatment will my dog need if he was poisoned by Advil?
Advil poisoning is a life-threatening medical emergency that must be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If it has been more than 3 hours, all of the Advil your dog ingested will be absorbed into the bloodstream and your dog is at risk of severe internal bleeding and kidney failure. Because side effects of Advil poisoning can continue to increase for 72 hours, the dog will likely need to spend 3-4 days in a veterinary hospital so he can be closely monitored.
Blood transfusions may be necessary If your dog is bleeding internally from an ulcer. Emergency surgery will be necessary if your dog has developed a perforation in his stomach or intestines. The veterinarian will need to test the dog’s blood and urine frequently during his hospital stay. The dog will also likely need an intravenous (IV) fluids, electrolytes, potassium, B-vitamins, and antacids to give the stomach time to heal.
What if my dog is in severe pain?
Advil is not a very strong painkiller, and for dogs in severe pain, there are much better alternatives. Veterinarians might prescribe powerful painkiller or a sedative like Tramadol, Gabapentin, or Amantadine. These medications are sometimes used in combination with dog-specific NSAID painkillers.
Your veterinarian might also recommend a combination of multiple NSAIDs, but this increases the risk of ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems. Therefore, dogs on NSAIDs may need to take an antacid to reduce the amount of acid in their stomach.
What can I give a dog with arthritis instead of Advil?
Veterinarians sometimes recommend a combination of a prescription medication with a natural supplement like glucosamine for dogs with mild pain due to aching joints or arthritis. Glucosamine and other herbal supplements do not actually stop the pain like a medication, but some studies suggest that supplements can help repair damaged joint cartilage. Over time, this may keep your dog’s joint problems from getting worse, and hopefully improve mobility and relieve pain.
Joint supplements are sold at many of the same stores where you would buy Advil, but you should never give human supplements to a dog without first talking to a veterinarian. Fortunately, many veterinary clinics also sell supplements specifically for dogs.
It is always a good idea to ask a veterinarian before starting your dog on a new supplement because some supplements can interact with other medications and cause side effects. Furthermore, dogs with kidney or liver problems may not be able to take any supplements, especially if they have problems eliminating toxins from their body. Dogs can overdose on supplements just like prescription medications.
How else can I help my dog?
If your dog is in pain, the first thing you should do is give him a comfortable place to sleep and relax. Put an extra blanket or pillow in his crate or bedding area. Bring the food and water bowls nearby so your dog does not have to get up to eat and drink. Dogs in pain may get very sad and lonely, so be sure to give your dog a lot of attention and love.
For dogs who have trouble getting around, you should lift or carry him up and down the stairs and outside to use the bathroom, if possible. If your dog is too big to carry, you may be able to help him get around by using a sling made from a rolled-up towel. It is also a good idea to put down a rug to prevent your dog from slipping on the floor.
Another important aspect of pain management is eating a healthy diet and getting the right amount of exercise. Good health is critical to resisting degenerative diseases like arthritis and healing from injuries. If your dog has arthritis, osteoporosis, bad knees, or sore hips, keep him at a healthy weight to reduce the load on his achy joints.