My Dog Ate Ibuprofen: Now What?

Can dogs take ibuprofen? And what should you do next if your dog ate ibuprofen? Here's what to know about ibuprofen and dogs.

A sick dog curled up in a blanket.
A sick dog curled up in a blanket. Photography ©Rasulovs | Thinkstock.

Can dogs take ibuprofen? Let’s not bury the lede here, folks. There are no circumstances under which it’s a good idea to give human medications to your dog. The only exception is if you have explicit instructions, including appropriate dosages, from a veterinarian who has examined the dog and taken into consideration the dog’s weight, age and condition. Where painkillers like ibuprofen are concerned, there is a razor-thin margin between what may give them pain relief and what will cause worse, unrelated health issues. But … what if your dog ate ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen toxicity in dogs is a big problem, one exacerbated by the mundane, everyday nature of the medication. Over-the-counter pain relievers — whether the active ingredient is ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen or otherwise — are incredibly common. For my own part, I keep bottles of Aleve in strategic locations throughout the house so that I never have to look long when the need arises. It is just this convenience that poses the greatest threat to our dogs — and cause dog guardians to Google things like “Help! My dog ate ibuprofen …”

dog ate ibuprofen
A sick senior dog. Photography ©AmyDreves | Thinkstock.

Dogs and ibuprofen, and other human pain relievers

Inquiries about dogs and human pain medications tend to fall into two major categories, panic and well-intentioned curiosity:

  1. Panic: “Help! My dog ate ibuprofen!”
  2. Curiosity: “Can I give my dog ibuprofen for pain?”

According to the ASPCA, most calls about dogs and ibuprofen to their Animal Poison Control Center hotline were the result of panic (“Help! My dog ate ibuprofen.”). While there are, naturally, dog owners who extend their own comfort level with OTC pain relievers to their dogs, for the most part, reported cases of acute ibuprofen toxicity are the result of canine curiosity and indiscriminate appetite.

Because people like myself leave bottles of aspirin or other pain medications lying around the house, they are perfectly situated to draw the attention of a dog. Whether they’re in single-use blister packs or bottles containing 200 or more, even the most childproofed packaging isn’t much security against a dog’s jaws and teeth.

Initial symptoms of NSAID toxicity in dogs

We’re focusing on dogs and ibuprofen, since that appears to be the biggest reported culprit, but no nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, is safe for dogs to take. Depending on an individual dog’s tolerance, one 200mg tablet can be sufficient to cause symptoms of ibuprofen toxicity in dogs. If a dog gains access to a bottle, the chances of eating just one are remote and the potential damage far more severe.

Ibuprofen and naproxen, the two active ingredients in the popular pain relievers Advil and Aleve, respectively, cause similar symptoms. In medical parlance, canine reactions to painkillers classify as “acute” disorders because of their sudden onset and immediate severity. If your dog ate ibuprofen, signs of toxicity within an hour include:

  1. Blood in vomit or blood in stool
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Nausea
  4. Urinary incontinence, or loss of bladder control

Severe symptoms if your dog ate ibuprofen

The more pills a dog ingests, the more dramatic the symptoms as time passes and the medication makes its way through the bloodstream. If your dog ate ibuprofen, the severe symptoms of ibuprofen or naproxen toxicity are:

  1. Disorientation, loss of motor coordination
  2. Stomach damage, ulcers and perforations in the stomach wall
  3. Kidney damage

You’ll see that these symptoms involve a certain set of internal systems, notably the digestive system and the central nervous system. Should a dog ingest enough pills, and should it take too long for the dog to receive medical attention and emergency treatment, the results of the symptoms enumerated above can reach their logical conclusions: kidney failure, coma, even death.

What about if your dog ate acetaminophen, such as Tylenol?

Acetaminophen, the most popular brand of which is Tylenol, causes similar symptoms when ingested by dogs, with some variations. Along with digestive upset, including diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and neurological issues, like loss of coordination, acetaminophen toxicity in dogs may present with the following symptoms:

  1. Dramatic change in the color of the gums
  2. Dry eyes
  3. Excessive panting, or difficulty breathing
  4. Facial swelling

If your dog ate ibuprofen, here’s what happens

So, if your dog ate ibuprofen, what’s happening inside his body? Dog metabolism is both different and faster than that of humans. NSAIDs are fast-acting pain relief medications; combine that with a much narrower margin of safety for dogs than humans, and the consequences make more sense. One reason why ibuprofen specifically is dangerous to dogs, particularly Advil, is the sweetened outer coating. Unlike cats, dogs can experience the taste of sweetness, making them more appealing in greater quantities.

Once in the stomach, NSAIDs reduce the production of COX enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for natural inflammation control; anti-inflammatories inhibit the ability of the dog’s body to regulate itself. More importantly, COX enzymes help to produce and maintain the mucosal barrier. This is a lining that protects the stomach wall from being worn away by its own digestive acids. The more pain pills a dog swallows, the faster that lining disintegrates.

With the gastric mucosal barrier weakened, ulcers can begin to form. In a worst-case scenario, ibuprofen ingestion can actually create holes in the stomach itself. This can cause stomach acids to leak into the abdomen. The COX enzymes have other functions, too, involving the blood’s ability to clot and regulating the flow of blood to the kidneys. When a dog eats pain medications, they not only cause wounds, sores, and perforations to occur, but also prevent them from healing.

When blood flow to the kidneys is compromised, it is easier to understand why a dog might have trouble controlling or managing their bladder function. The analgesic, or pain-killing, function of NSAIDs explains the neurological symptoms. Open wounds in the stomach or small intestine should key us in to why blood might appear in a dog’s vomit and feces.

If your dog ate ibuprofen, or you even suspect he might have, call your vet!

The more pain pills a dog ingests, the more dire the consequences. Calling a veterinarian or getting the dog to an emergency pet hospital as quickly as possible can make all the difference. The treatment options if a dog ate ibuprofen can be as relatively simple as a stomach pump or as involved as surgery to repair a perforated stomach.

Dogs are much better than humans at concealing pain. But if it is clear to you that your dog is suffering, do not, under any circumstances, reach for the medications that you use to treat your own aches and pains. Every dog is different, and only a veterinarian can determine a dosage that is appropriate to your dog’s specific body chemistry, or whether any NSAID can or should be given at all. The ASPCA’s Poison Control Center hotline is available 24 hours a day. Click here for the most current contact information!

Thumbnail: Photography ©Rasulovs | Thinkstock. 

Read Next: What Shots Do Dogs Need? A Guide to Dog Vaccinations and Medications

34 thoughts on “My Dog Ate Ibuprofen: Now What?”

  1. Thank you as I thought they had me ready to blow money on nothing but watch my princess who sleeps with me anyway she is 90lbs and ate 1 just 1 ibuprofen she will be fine

  2. My dog has had been in a similar situation once and I had no clue what it was until I found out a chewed bottle of ibuprofen. Not only this I noticed a change in behavior and body language of my dog along with vomits. I just took him to the vet but luckily it wasn’t that late. But it took him days to recover properly.

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  7. My dog wasn’t feeling welling well Friday night. She threw up multiple times and again on Saturday morning. She threw up about 6-8 times. I cooked rice and was feeling better by Sunday night. Monday seemed back to normal. However, I just discovered that it appears she took a bottle of children mortin from off the counter and chewed threw it. I found the bottle today, Tuesday. What should I do now? Is there anything I should be watching for?

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  18. My 2 year old, 60lb boxer mix and my 5 month old 22lb terrier mix got a hold of a bottle of Advil, 200mg tablets consuming 17 total. I am not sure who ate what, but I rushed them to the vet and they induced vomiting, gave activated charcoal and kept them for 36 hours for continuous fluids. They are on GI bleed prophylaxis for the next 10 days. This was 4 days ago, they are doing fine. Please take your animals into the vet as soon as this is discovered as the toxic effects can be prevented (primarily renal failure and GI ulcers causing bleeding). I know the cost can be prohibitive but at the very least you can get them subcutaneous fluids, follow up daily for additional subcutaneous fluids and continue GI prophylaxis. Sharing this story as I was frantically googling for a prognosis so I thought would share our happy ending, ( at least this far) The apartment has since been puppy proofed.

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  21. My Pitt scarfed up a ibuprofen I dropped (she’s been in a diet forever & she’s fast!) Called emergency vet (midnight), drove to office with wallet in hand…to find out that at 80lbs, they just said keep an eye on her but probably not harmful enough to treat right then. Weight & general health of dog plays a major consideration. If she had been a 20lb dog or elderly or not in the best of health, I’m sure that would have been a true emergency.

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  23. The only human medications I have ever used on my dogs is pepto bismol. 1/2 tablet for one of my Tibetan Spaniels (each under 22 pounds) cures vomiting and/or extremely loose stools. Without treatment, they get worse and worse. My dogs eat only dry dog food and the same treats–no human food, ever–but do suffer from occasional stomach upsets, as careful as I am.

    1. I used to as well give pepto bismal until they changed ingrefients, adding xylitol i believe,, or some artificial sweetener.. check your supply, ensure it is ok to still give to dog.

  24. I just went through this. My 10lb Yorkie Bichon ate half of a 300ml motrin and ended up in Vet Emergency a few hours later. They had to keep him for a night and put him on an IV due to bad vomiting, along with medication to prevent stomach ulcers. It cost me $800!!!

  25. Came home one Saturday to find a bottle of Advil chewed through and tablets strewn about by our new rescue pup (she’d taken the bottle off a nightstand). Rushed her to the vet, who injected her with an emetic, with truly spectacular Exorcist-level results (“Usually, they wait until we can get them to the back,” the vet commented wryly). After spinning around several times, spewing all the while, the dog toppled over into a peaceful nap. It was worth the $100+ to not have to clean up the mess. It turned out she hadn’t eaten any pills at all. The vet told me that sometimes the damage isn’t obvious until the dog’s kidneys fail two or three days after ingestion, and by then it’s too late.


    …..AWESOME!!! THANKS!!!…….


    1. That’s the reason why it’s called an article! It deals with a particular subject. Why does a convicted person has to go thru all of the court papers and stand for the longest time of his/her life at the end of the trial only to be judged ‘GUILTY’

      1. A convicted or innocent person isn’t going to die due to the delay. That’s like discussing the respiratory system with someone who’s kids is choking on an object. Sure the details are useful but there’s a higher priority.

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