The short answer to the question; is paracetamol safe for dogs? is: no.
Long answer – absolutely not.
No but seriously, it is absolutely not safe to give your dog paracetamol that is meant for humans and here’s why…
Paracetamol is a common painkiller which contains the active ingredient acetaminophen. In fact, paracetamol is an alternative name for pure acetaminophen but, in pharmaceutical practice, the term ‘paracetamol’ covers a wide range of painkilling products that can contain other chemicals such as caffeine, codeine and ibuprofen. There is even paracetamol in Calpol and other medicines designed for children.
So, since it can be bought over the counter and is useful for any minor aches and pains, why is it not recommended for dogs? Well, paracetamol technically is safe for dogs BUT only in small doses AND only under veterinary advice and instruction. Regular paracetamol that you buy over the counter at the store has not been made for dogs and so will not contain a safe amount of acetaminophen for your furry friend. In fact, it could be very dangerous for your beloved pet.
Can I give my dog a small dose of paracetamol?
No – this is not recommended either. The amount of paracetamol a dog can have depends on its size and how strong the paracetamol is. Unless you are qualified to determine both of these measurements (i.e. a vet) then it is not safe for you to administer paracetamol to your dog.
What should I do if my dog eats paracetamol?
If your dog has eaten any amount of paracetamol outside of a prescribed dosage, then you should take them to the vet immediately. If you suspect that your dog has eaten paracetamol without your knowledge, then it is still a good idea to take them to the vets. Additionally, if your dog shows any signs of paracetamol toxicity then you should contact your vet immediately.
Signs and symptoms of paracetamol toxicity in dogs
Things to look out for include:
- Heavy breathing or difficulty breathing
- Swollen face/neck/limbs
- Brownish-grey gums
- Hypothermia (dangerous drop in body temperature)
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Dark urine
- Increased/excessive thirst
It is important to get your dog to the vet immediately if you notice any of the signs or symptoms mentioned- your dog may have ingested paracetamol from an unknown source or managed to snaffle some behind your back.
Could there be lasting effects?
Yes- unfortunately, ingesting paracetamol can cause permanent and irreversible damage to your dog’s liver, kidneys and/or red blood cells. As such, it is important to ensure your dog receives treatment as soon as possible for suspected paracetamol ingestion to try and avoid these long-term problems. If your dog does sustain long-lasting damage to any of their organs, your vet will be able to recommend the best course of action for the future. However, it is always best to try and ensure that it doesn’t come to this.
What to expect at the vet?
Your vet’s top priority will be determining the level of toxicity present in your dog. Once they have assessed your dog and diagnosed paracetamol poisoning (if this is the case), they will discuss treatment with you. Your dog may require intensive treatments such as hospitalization and intravenous fluids or they may just require careful monitoring. Your vet will want to keep a close eye on the functioning of their liver and kidneys to try and prevent long-term damage. It is important to follow any veterinary advice you are given once your dog is able to come home.
What if my vet has prescribed paracetamol for my dog?
It is possible that your vet may prescribe paracetamol for your dog if your dog requires pain relief. If this is the case, then you should follow your vet’s instructions and only give your dog the paracetamol that has been prescribed for them by the vet. Do not give your dog any paracetamol that is not meant for them.
So, giving any kind of paracetamol that has not been specifically prescribed by your vet for your dog is a big no. It is not safe to give your dog over the counter paracetamol or any king of painkiller intended for human consumption. If your dog does consume any amount of paracetamol, it is crucial to take them to be checked over by a vet, who will be able to advise on the situation.