Fact checked

Can I Give Ibuprofen to My Dog for Pain?

Dog Care
8 minutes read
Wondering what pain medications are okay to give your dog and which aren’t? Some can help, but others can have damaging side effects such as…
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

Just as humans should not share prescription medication among themselves, it is dangerous to give pain medication intended for humans to animals. Giving dogs ibuprofen or other pain medication, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, is inadvisable. 

A veterinarian may sometimes prescribe these substances in some instances. The dose will have been carefully considered and appropriate to the pet regarding its body weight and other health problems. 

Pills and tablets come in doses suitable for humans. Still, these need to be adjusted for animals with different body weights because of possible differences in animal biochemistry.

If your emotional support animal (ESA) is in pain, a veterinarian should be consulted to determine what, if any, pain medication should be given.

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How To Tell If Your Dog is in Pain 

Like humans, dogs experience pain from injuries, infections, dental problems, and diseases like arthritis and cancer. The only difference is that dogs cannot verbally communicate when suffering. However, they will show signs that indicate that they are in pain. These signs include but are not limited to:

  • Your dog becomes unusually antisocial or aggressive. 
  • Sudden changes in sleeping, eating, and drinking habits. 
  • Excessive yelping, snarling, or growling.
  • Shallow, altered breathing, and heavy panting. 
  • Limping and being stiff at times 
  • Restlessness 
  • Excessively licking their body 
  • Swelling in any part of their body
  • Unusual shaking or trembling 

Pain Treatment for Dogs

If a dog shows signs of being in pain, the cause must be determined. The best way to know what ails your dog is by taking it to a veterinarian. The vet can then check for injuries or illnesses that may require other medical interventions. 

Not understanding the cause of pain could lead to more significant harm, or an unnecessary delay in proper treatment for a severe condition, especially if the pain is masked by medication. 

The veterinarian may prescribe suitable pain medication and any other required treatment. Generally, aspirin is preferred to ibuprofen because ibuprofen is more powerful and has a small margin of error regarding dosage amounts.

Aspirin tablets have an "enteric coating," meaning they do not dissolve until they pass through the stomach and intestine. Therefore, for dogs, it’s considered safer to prescribe, as dogs have a sensitive digestive system that differs significantly from humans. 

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The Effects of Ibuprofen on Dogs

Like aspirin, ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). All such medicines can irritate the stomach in dogs, and while they can be helpful, there are no guidelines for the dosage for animals, as NSAIDs are explicitly considered for humans. While some NSAIDs may be safe for dogs, the majority can be detrimental.

Ibuprofen can damage the stomach lining, causing ulcers, and, at higher doses, can cause kidney failure. High doses may cause central nervous system (CNS) problems, including depression, seizures, and coma. 

Usually, however, this painkiller causes gastrointestinal issues, which result in vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Treatment for Ibuprofen Poisoning

If a dog or other pet has swallowed ibuprofen, whether accidentally or given it by a well-intentioned owner, the animal should be taken to a veterinarian without delay. 

Several treatments may then be given, vomiting may be induced to remove the ibuprofen from the system, and activated charcoal may be provided to absorb the drug and prevent it from entering the animal's bloodstream.

Medications that protect the stomach and intestines from damage may also be given. If treatment is prompt, the dog will usually recover.

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What are the Alternatives to Ibuprofen?

Suppose your dog is experiencing or showing symptoms of pain and anxiety. In that case, there are natural alternatives to painkillers that are suitable for a dog's nervous and digestive system and safe for them to ingest when using the correct dosage.

Our favorite products for anxiety and dealing with pain are natural remedies like:

Our Top Pick - Canna-Pet CBD Capsules

Canna-Pet CBD Capsules

As a pet owner, you might have heard or experienced how Cannabidiol (CBD) treats anxiety and offers pain relief in humans. You might not know that it has the same effect on dogs.

Suppose your emotional support dog is in pain, and you would prefer to give him alternative medication rather than a pharmaceutical one. In that case, you should consider the Canna-Pet CBD capsules for dogs. 

Just like CBD for humans, the Canna-Pet CBD capsules contain CBD oil obtained from hemp extracts. The only difference is that the CBD oil is made specifically for your dog, but the extracts, which include cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, are the same found in the standard CBD oil. 

The capsules come in two main sizes - Advanced Small and Advanced Large. The Advanced Small capsules are fit for small dogs under 20 pounds, while the Advanced Large capsules are fit for big dogs above 20 pounds. 

The capsules come in the option of 30 per container, which can last up to 15 days for most dogs, or the option of 60 per container, which can last an entire month or 30 days. 

If you choose to give your dog CBD capsules, you do not have to stop the current treatment you are giving your dog. The CBD capsules are organic, which will not interact negatively with your dog's current medicine.

The feeding instructions can vary depending on the type of capsules you choose for your dog. With the Advanced Small capsules, you should mix one capsule with your dog's food two times a day. With the Advanced Large capsules, you should split one capsule between two meals. You can also place the capsule in a dog treat or pill pocket as long as you ensure your dog ingests the entirety of the capsule.

If you do not wish to give your dog capsules, CBD liquid can be mixed into your dog's food or placed in its mouth directly. This is an excellent option for older dogs who may have trouble eating or puppies who do not yet have strong teeth to chew treats or hard food.

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Other Alternatives to Ibuprofen

If CBD is not something you want to give your dog, along with painkillers, there are alternative options to help relieve your dog's pain.

ibuprofen for dog pain

Supplements 

Another alternative treatment you can give your dog to relieve its pain is supplements. Many people take supplements to boost their health, and the effect is not different when it comes to dogs. 

More than a third of US pet owners opt to give their dogs supplements, and it is easy to see why. Besides boosting your dog's health, supplements can also reduce swelling caused by an injury and help repair your dog's cartilage. 

Some of the most common supplements given to dogs are Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

Glucosamine 

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that treats arthritis in dogs by helping in repairing damaged cartilage. Arthritis is painful for humans and equally painful for dogs. It is caused when cartilage begins to thin. Glucosamine has properties that help repair cartilage. It can even aid in treating spinal disc injury, quicken recovery from joint surgery, reduce inflammation, and boost overall general health.

Chondroitin 

Where Glucosamine focuses on pain relief, Chondroitin focuses on building cartilage back up and offering joint support. Used together, Chondroitin and Glucosamine can help quicken your dog's recovery. 

Chondroitin may also help reverse canine osteoarthritis, repair joints, and help in blocking and reducing dangerous enzyme levels.

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What NSAIDs Are Safe for Dogs? 

When your dog is in pain, you will want to try out every possible treatment that can make them recover as quickly as possible. While CBD and supplements are great alternatives to ibuprofen, they might take longer to relieve your dog's pain. 

On the other hand, nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) work faster. However, you should be careful not to give your dog an NSAID from your medicine cabinet. 

Some NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, are only suitable for humans and can do more harm than good to your dog. Here are some NSAIDs that are safe for dogs: 

Carprofen 

Also known as Rimadyl, Vetprofen, or Novox, Carprofen is an NSAID that works the same way as ibuprofen in humans. The only difference is that Carprofen is safe for dogs, unlike ibuprofen. 

Acting as pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication, Carprofen mainly treats conditions resulting from arthritis, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia.  

It comes in two forms - pills and chewable tablets, that you should orally administer to your dog once or twice a day with food. 

Meloxicam 

Meloxicam treats pain, inflammation, fever, and osteoarthritis as a safe NSAID for dogs. It comes in four forms - oral spray, oral liquid, chewable tablets, and an injection. 

Meloxicam usually takes effect quickly, and within one or two hours, you should start seeing signs of improvement in your dog. 

Deracoxib 

Deracoxib is another NSAID that is recommended for dogs. It is mainly used to ease surgery pain and treat osteoarthritis. 

Deracoxib is a chewable tablet administered with food to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal infections. 

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Bottom Line

Prescribed pain medication from your vet may sometimes seem expensive. However, owners should not give their pets painkillers from their medicine cabinets, even if it was previously prescribed, before consulting with a veterinarian. If the veterinarian approves the medication already on hand, be sure to give your dog only the recommended dosage within a set number of hours or times per day unless discussed with the veterinarian, and then only at the recommended dose. 

Be careful giving dogs any other pain medications, as they may have damaging effects. For example, acetaminophen is dangerous for dogs, as it can damage their liver. Be sure not to mix medications unless a licensed veterinarian has otherwise said it is okay to do so.

Does Your Dog Provide Emotional Support? Make Your Dog an ESA Today!

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.