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Is Tylenol Safe for Dogs?

Over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol can be the number one cause of pet poisoning. Read this DogAppy article to know how Tylenol can be dangerous for dogs in case of improper administration, incorrect dosage, or when used with other medicines.
DogAppy Staff
Did You Know?
Tylenol (generic name - acetaminophen) can be toxic to both dogs and cats. In fact, cats are 7 to 10 times more susceptible to acetaminophen toxicity than dogs. Since more dogs are exposed to this medication, a greater number of Tylenol toxicity cases are reported in dogs in comparison to cats.
Tylenol is the brand name of a drug that acts as a pain reliever and a fever reducer. The generic name of the drug is acetaminophen. The drug belongs to the class of analgesics, and is sold as a prescription drug as well as an over-the-counter drug. It is used to treat fever, pain, allergies, cold, cough, sinusitis, headache, sore throat, lyme disease, arthritis, etc., in human beings. In many countries, it is commonly known as 'paracetamol.'
Tylenol is registered for use in humans only. The Food and Drug Administration does not support its use in animals, but it is prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.
Can You Give a Dog Tylenol?
Tylenol is sometimes given to dogs in pain, as it provides relief from pain and fever. Acetaminophen is not a NSAID. It has no effect on inflammation. No one knows how it works to reduce pain and fever. One should be aware of the fact that acetaminophen reacts differently in dogs than it does in humans. Tylenol should not be given to dogs unless prescribed by an experienced vet, as it can cause serious health problems, or even death.
Side Effects
Acetaminophen is present in various over-the-counter medicines. It can have the following side effects:
  • Vomiting
  • Kidney failure
  • Damaged liver
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Damaged gastrointestinal tract
  • Difficulty in breathing or rapid breathing
Tylenol Toxicity in Dogs
The most common symptoms of Tylenol toxicity include:
  • Vomiting
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Brown urine
  • Black-tarry stool
  • Brownish gray-colored gums or blue gums (a cyanosis symptom that indicates inadequate supply of oxygen)
  • Swollen face and neck
  • Swollen limbs and paws
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Jaundice due to damaged liver (skin and the whites of eyes turn yellowish)
  • Collapse and death
➺ Tylenol overdose can lead to Tylenol toxicity. The medicine can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats. An unintentional overdose of Tylenol can have serious consequences such as non-repairable liver damage. A dog may chew the medicine bottle and ingest the medicine. This should be considered as an emergency. When swallowed, acetaminophen reaches the blood stream of the dog within half an hour. Toxic effects are rapid and can damage his liver and red blood cells. The severity of poisoning and development of clinical signs may vary from species to species.
Acetaminophen is mostly metabolized by the liver. Different substances produced during the process of metabolism bind to liver cells and red blood cells (RBCs), and damage them. Severe damage to the liver results in liver failure.
When one of the substances produced during Tylenol metabolism binds to red blood cells, it changes the structure of hemoglobin (the protein present in RBCs that helps them carry oxygen) and seriously affects its capacity to carry oxygen. The altered hemoglobin molecule is called methemoglobin. As a result, the body organs are deprived of oxygen. This is why the blood appears brown. Blood and urine tests help determine the level of Tylenol toxicity.
Treatment includes decontamination, intravenous fluid therapy, provision of a glutathione source [S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) and milk thistle act as liver protectors], vitamin C as an antioxidant, and the antidote, N-acetylcysteine. Blood tests help evaluate and monitor RBC damage and liver failure. Dogs with severe hepatic failure have a poor prognosis. A severely affected dog may require oxygen therapy, blood transfusions, and additional care.
Medicines with which Tylenol may React
Tylenol may react with other medicines such as,
  • Halothane
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitor
  • Naloxone
  • Anticholenergic medicines
  • Diazepam (or any other central nervous system depressant)
  • Ulcerogenic drugs
  • Corticosteroids
  • Anticoagulants
  • Rimadyl (or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug)
  • Doxorubicin
You should always inform your vet about the medicines that are given to your dog.
Safe Dose
Instructions regarding children's Tylenol do not apply to dogs. In fact, any medication intended for human use should not be given to a dog unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian. Tylenol dosage for a dog depends mainly upon its weight and health.
Acetaminophen is available in a variety of tablet sizes and liquid concentrations. The most common size of acetaminophen is 325 mg tablet and 500 mg tablets (extra strength). The correct dosage for Tylenol is five milligrams per pound or 10 milligrams per kilogram of a dog, two to three times daily. A small 30-pound dog can be given a dose of 150 milligrams.
If you miss a dose, give it as soon as possible. However, if it's almost time for the next dose, then skip the missed one. The next dose can be given to your dog according to the regular schedule. Never give a double dose to make up for the missed one.
The duration of administration may vary from dog to dog. It would depend on the severity of the condition, response to the treatment, and development of any adverse effects. You should give all doses, unless specifically advised by your vet. Even if your dog feels better, do not stop giving Tylenol without talking to your vet. The entire treatment plan needs to be completed to prevent relapse.
Acetaminophen should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
The bottle of medicine should always be kept out of the dog's reach.
The medicine should be administered cautiously if your dog has recently undergone surgery, or if he is suffering from liver disease, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, or heart disease.
Extra care should be taken if you are giving Tylenol to an old dog, or to a pregnant or lactating dog.
When administering Tylenol, you should strictly follow your veterinarian's dosage instructions and report any vomiting or other problems immediately.
Healthy Alternatives
There are effective NSAIDs that are designed just for dogs, for example, carprofen, deracoxib, etodolac, and meloxicam. It is safe to use these medicines.
Every time, it is not necessary to give medication for pain relief. Dietary modification often helps relieve the symptoms of chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Diet and exercise play an important role in dog health. They can help lessen the need for pain relievers.
Dog owners should never self-diagnose and treat their dogs with easily available human medication. They should talk to the vet about the condition, symptoms, medical history, and current medication of the dog, and should strictly follow the instructions of the vet.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only. Consult your vet for case-specific advice.