Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Poisoning in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
July 02, 2008
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Acetaminophen Toxicity in Dogs

Acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used pain relievers, and it can be found in a variety of over-the-counter medications. Toxic levels can be reached when a pet is unintentionally over medicated with acetaminophen, or when a pet has gotten hold of medication and ingested it. Pet owners often do not realize their animals may break into medicine cabinets or chew through medicine bottles. It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of toxicity, so that you can properly treat your pet if they have accidentally ingested medication.

Symptoms and Types

The effects of acetaminophen poisoning are quite serious, often causing non-repairable liver damage. Dogs will typically experience acetaminophen toxicity at over 75 mg per kg body weight. The most common symptoms that you may notice in pets suffering from acetaminophen toxicity include:

  • Brownish-gray colored gums
  • Labored breathing
  • Swollen face, neck or limbs
  • Hypothermia (reduced body temperature)
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowish color to skin, whites of eyes), due to liver damage
  • Coma

Diagnosis

If you believe that your pet has ingested acetaminophen, it will typically be treated as an emergency situation. Seek the advice of a medical professional immediately, as treatment may be necessary. Your veterinarian will perform a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis to determine the level of toxicity, so that a potential treatment can be prescribed.

Treatment

If your animal requires treatment, it will typically need to be given supplemental oxygen, intravenous fluids, and/or drugs given intravenously, including vitamin C, cimetidine, and N-acetylcysteine. The amino acid cystiene may also be used and is one of the most effective ingredients in this treatment regiment, necessary for repairing any potential liver damage. Cystiene can also work to reduce the overall level of toxicity in the body. Treatment in a timely fashion is essential to give your animal the best chance of recovery and survival.

Prevention

While a veterinarian may recommend small doses of over-the-counter medication for animals, the weight of the animal, with regards to the dosage, is always taken into consideration. Dog owners should never self-diagnose and treat their pets with human medication, and should take precautions to keep household medications out of their dog's reach to avoid a potentially harmful or fatal reaction.