Can I Give My Dog Tylenol?

Leave that to the professionals 🙅‍♀️

tylenol for dogs

If your dog’s in pain, you might be wondering if you can give him the Tylenol that’s sitting in your medicine cabinet.

Reaching for that bottle might feel like the easiest option, but it’s not the best idea. Your dog could end up with Tylenol toxicity if you try to do it yourself (which can be fatal), so you should talk to your vet if your pup is showing signs of pain.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian on staff with Pumpkin Pet Insurance, about why you should never give your dog Tylenol for pain relief, and what you should give him instead.

Can dogs have Tylenol?

Dogs should never have Tylenol. Tylenol is another name for the drug acetaminophen, which is a pain reliever designed for humans, not dogs.

“It is not recommended to give a dog acetaminophen in the form of Tylenol or any other forms because it has a very low margin of safety and it is very easy to overdose a dog with this drug,” Dr. Wooten told The Dodo.

Human pain relievers should never be used on your dog because they’re super harmful to your pup and can even be fatal.

“Acetaminophen poisoning can cause a whole host of medical problems, which is why acetaminophen is never a good choice for pet parents to reach [for] for pain control,” Dr. Wooten said.

Technically, Tylenol can be prescribed by veterinarians — and veterinarians only — if absolutely necessary because they actually know how to manage the dosage in a way that won’t hurt your dog.

But you should never ever give your dog Tylenol yourself.

“In some rare cases, a veterinarian may prescribe acetaminophen to a very painful dog in conjunction with other pain medication,” Dr. Wooten said. “This can be done because your vet understands how acetaminophen is metabolized in dogs and understands what your dog’s liver can process safely.”

How is Tylenol bad for dogs?

Tylenol is extremely bad for dogs because it can seriously mess with your pup’s liver.

“Acetaminophen is metabolized and eliminated by the body by the liver,” Dr. Wooten said. “If a dog ingests enough acetaminophen, it can overwhelm the liver’s metabolism and cause damage to the liver. Enough damage can be fatal.”

Tylenol toxicity can also cause other incredibly serious and dangerous conditions in dogs, like:

  • Gastrointestinal ulceration or perforation (aka holes in the GI system)
  • Tissue damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Clotting disorders

If your dog gets into your Tylenol accidentally — or even if you just think he did — call your vet ASAP.

It’s crucial to bring your dog to the vet right away so they can figure out how much Tylenol is in his system and how to counteract any toxicity.

Signs of Tylenol toxicity in dogs

The reason you should never give Tylenol to your dog yourself is because you can accidentally poison him with it, or cause an overdose.

“Acetaminophen toxicity can negatively impact the blood cells and decrease their oxygen-carrying capacity,” Dr. Wooten said. “Toxic doses of acetaminophen in Tylenol, or any other medication in dogs, can be life threatening and require intensive care by a veterinarian.”

Signs of Tylenol toxicity in dogs include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Abnormally colored or dry gums (pale, blue or muddy)
  • Coma

It’s so important to bring your dog to the vet if he consumes any Tylenol at home. Even if he seems to be OK, the toxicity might not have set in yet.

What to give dogs for pain instead

You should actually give your dog canine-specific nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aka NSAIDs) to relieve his pain instead of Tylenol.

It’s important to only use prescription medications, so your vet can recommend the safest and most effective option for your specific pup.

One of Dr. Wooten’s favorite medications for pain relief is carprofen.

Other good options include dog pain relievers like deracoxib, meloxicam, grapiprant and Previcox.

But you shouldn’t rely only on NSAIDs to ease your dog’s chronic pain or arthritis. A multimodal approach is actually the best thing you can do for your sore or achy pup. (That means combining multiple treatment methods to get the most effective relief for long-term pain.)

This can include things like:

  • Complementary medications
  • Joint supplements (like for arthritis)
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Laser therapy

CBD oil has been shown to reduce pain in dogs with osteoarthritis,” Dr. Wooten said. “In addition, dogs can benefit from acupuncture, physical therapy, therapeutic ultrasound and massage, just like humans.”

Always consult your vet before jumping into additional treatments because some approaches might be better for your dog than others.

So, while it’s tempting to reach for the Tylenol you already have at home if you notice your dog is in pain, don’t! There are so many other options for your dog that are actually safe and made just for him.

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