Can You Give a Dog Tylenol?

Monica Tarantino, DVM
By Monica Tarantino, DVM on Mar. 24, 2020

Tylenol is an anti-fever and pain medication that we usually take, but is it safe to use for dogs?

This over-the-counter (OTC) medication frequently makes the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center’s list of top 10 causes of poisonings in dogs and cats.

Tylenol can lead to severe health issues like liver toxicity and dysfunction of the oxygen-carrying ability of your pet’s blood.  

Dogs and OTC Medications Like Tylenol

For your pet’s safety, never give them anything OTC without talking to your veterinarian. This includes medications like acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or any other OTC medication.

Animal hospitals consistently see well-intentioned owners cause harm to a beloved pet by administering these and other medications without veterinarian approval.

Harm can occur via the actual medication and dose that was given, leading to toxicity, or simply by the owner’s delay in seeking promptly needed veterinary care. Because of that, you should only give acetaminophen if directed by a veterinarian.

Do Vets Ever Prescribe Tylenol?

At this time, acetaminophen is not commonly recommended by veterinarians in dogs for many different reasons, never in cats. One reason is safety. Acetaminophen is NOT as safe for dogs as it is for humans. In fact, many veterinary toxicologists label acetaminophen as having a low safety margin for pets.

Oftentimes, if a veterinarian is prescribing acetaminophen to a dog, it is being prescribed in addition to other medications as a part of a multidrug pain plan in dogs that are in great pain.

Tylenol, on its own, can have some effect on pain in dogs, but it does not affect inflammation, which means it may not be an ideal solo drug choice for effectively treating many pain conditions in pets. 

Many medications are labeled, tested, and approved for dogs specifically, and they are proven to help treat pain and inflammation. So, veterinarians will recommend these pain and anti-inflammatory medications instead. 

Tylenol is also considered off label for animals, which means there has been no government regulated approval, and minimal studies are available on its use in dogs.

Risks of Tylenol Toxicity in Dogs

Not only is Tylenol a risk on its own, but it’s often combined with other active ingredients that may be harmful to your pet. 

Exposure to acetaminophen at toxic doses can have serious effects on a dog’s health that require prompt action and aggressive treatment by a veterinarian.

Tylenol is processed in your pet’s liver through two main pathways. When those two pathways are overwhelmed, the body is unable to inactivate a dangerous acetaminophen metabolite, which can cause injury to the liver and death. This metabolite also prevents affected blood cells from carrying oxygen.

And if a dog has liver disease, acetaminophen may worsen it due to the already decreased ability to metabolize the Tylenol.

Signs of Tylenol Toxicity in Dogs

The diagnosis of Tylenol toxicity in dogs often depends on the history that an owner gives the veterinarian. Signs of Tylenol toxicity can look like a lot of other illnesses but include the following:

  • Lethargy and depression

  • Increased breathing rate

  • Blue, brown, or yellow gums

  • Vomiting and dehydration

  • Swelling of the face or paws

If you notice any of these signs or suspect that your pet has ingested Tylenol, contact your veterinarian right away and prepare to go to the animal hospital.

Even if you have the best intentions, you can cause harm to your pets by administering OTC medications without veterinarian approval. 

If you are concerned that your pet that may be in pain, talk with your veterinarian about prescribing pain medications. This will lead to the best overall care for your pets.

By: Dr. Monica Tarantino, DVM

Featured Image: Borodai

Monica Tarantino, DVM


Monica Tarantino, DVM


Dr. Monica Tarantino is a small animal veterinarian and pet parent educator. She's on a mission to help senior cats and dogs around the...

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