“Can I give my dog Tylenol?” You probably ask this question if your dog suffers from minor aches and pains. Humans often use Tylenol, a brand name of the drug acetaminophen, to treat pain, but can you give it to your dog?
The answer to that question is no, you cannot give your dog Tylenol unless your veterinarian specifically instructs you to do so. It may be prescribed by veterinarians in certain rare circumstances, but it should never be given to dogs without veterinary supervision. This medication can cause serious side effects in dogs, even in small doses, and the results can be fatal.
Here’s what you should know about Tylenol when it comes to dogs.
Why Is Tylenol Bad For Dogs?
Unlike non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Tylenol does not eliminate pain by reducing inflammation.
In fact, it is not exactly fully understood how it reduces pain and fever in dogs, though it is known that too much Tylenol is toxic for dogs and can cause major side effects, organ failure, and even death. Even a low dose of Tylenol can be fatal for some dogs.
In very rare cases, vets may use this medication when other pain killers have failed. However, the difference between a safe dose and a potentially deadly dose is hard to determine, so you should never administer it to your dog without veterinary supervision. If you take Tylenol, store it in a place where your dog absolutely cannot get to it.
Here are a few of the health complications that dogs can suffer from if they ingest Tylenol:
- Liver failure
- Damage to red blood cells
- Kidney damage
- Gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, or nervous system collapse
Is Tylenol Ever Good For Dogs?
Tylenol should only be given to dogs when recommended by a veterinarian. There is technically a low dosage of the drug (acetaminophen) that is safe for some dogs, but the risk of harmful side effects is high, so vets almost always rely on other, safer pain-killers and would only prescribe it if other pain killers fail or cause complications.
Vets will almost never recommend using Tylenol to treat minor pain due to the potential for life-threatening side effects, and it’s not a good solution for long-term pain management, either, because of the risks. Vets typically prescribe other forms of treatment for chronic conditions like arthritis. There are almost always safer, more appropriate medications and treatments for pain in dogs.
If your vet does prescribe Tylenol, report any concerning side effects immediately. The drug can be especially harmful to dogs who take other medication, such as doxorubicin and certain anesthetics. Some dogs can be sensitive or allergic to it and have a bad reaction, even if they are given a proper dose.
Pregnant or nursing dogs should almost never be given medication without strict veterinary supervision. Make sure your vet is aware of any other medications, medical conditions, or circumstances that might cause complications if they prescribe Tylenol for your dog.
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Tylenol?
If your dog accidentally eats Tylenol, and you suspect or know they are suffering from an overdose, you should call an emergency veterinarian immediately. You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at (888) 426-4435, which is available all day, every day, though you may be charged for the service.
The drug can enter the bloodstream within 30 minutes and cause catastrophic side effects shortly after. Tylenol poisoning in dogs can be fatal, so beginning treatment early is of the utmost importance.
Here are some of the symptoms of Tylenol overdose in dogs:
- Rapid or difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Discolored gums
- Brown urine
The emergency vet may instruct you to induce vomiting in your dog. Regardless of whether your dog vomits up the Tylenol, they will still need emergency veterinary care.
The vet may pump your dog’s stomach, and they may administer activated charcoal. Your dog may need to be given oxygen, intravenous fluids, and amino acids to stabilize their condition.
N-acetylcysteine is a specific medication that is sometimes given to prevent liver and red blood cell damage. Some dogs also require blood transfusions for treatment of Tylenol poisoning.
What Are Safer Alternatives To Tylenol For Dogs?
There are many medications that are safer and more effective for treating pain in dogs than Tylenol. Your veterinarian can decide which medication is best, and it will likely depend on the type of pain or condition that is being treated.
There are several forms of over-the-counter pain medications to treat minor pain symptoms in dogs, but you should always ask your veterinarian before giving your dog any drugs.
For chronic conditions, such as arthritis, your vet may recommend forms of treatment that do not rely on medication or work in conjunction with medication. Acupuncture, hydrotherapy, massage, weight control, exercise, and dietary changes can all help arthritis symptoms improve in dogs.
Several foods and supplements may reduce pain from arthritis, too, including fish oil, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and turmeric.
Talk to your vet if your dog needs long-term treatment for a chronic pain condition.
How do you treat your dog for minor pain symptoms? What other medications has your vet ever prescribed to treat pain for your dog? Let us know in the comments below!