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The dangers of Panadol for dogs

Panadol (paracetamol) can kill your pet. Learn why giving painkilling drugs designed for people to your dog is never a good idea.

Do not give paracetamol to your pet

At Alpine Animal Doctors we continue to see an alarming number of dogs (and cats) presenting with life threatening issues caused by their owners giving them human medications for pain and fever relief. Around the world more and more cases of mild to acute poisoning in dogs and cats caused by these over the counter medications continue to be reported.

Paracetamol (sold in supermarkets and pharmacies under brand names such as Panadol, Panamax etc.) is by far the most abused drug in these cases. Paracetamol is particularly toxic to cats and dogs. If it doesn’t kill them immediately, the toxic substances can be stored and accumulated in internal organs. You should never give Panadol to your dog or cat.

While you may be tempted to try to provide some relief for your pet by using your own medicines, or any over-the-counter painkillers you might have in your own medicine cabinet, the reality is you may be killing your pet. The information on this page may help you understand why drugs designed for humans can be so dangerous for your pets.

The effects of paracetamol on pets

The effects of paracetamol poisoning may not be immediately evident. In some cases you will think that the medicine has produced no immediate side effects. You might even feel that the paracetamol has helped in relieving your dog’s pain and fever. But the toxic effects will accumulate in your dog’s system and in time can lead to kidney and liver damage, and stomach ulcers or anaemia.

Other common over-the-counter pain killers such as Ibuprofen are also toxic to pets. In humans, Ibuprofen works to block the chemicals in the body that cause pain, fever and inflammation. The drug is a component in many anti-inflammatory products and it can be potentially toxic to dogs, especially smaller breeds, and to cats. Giving even one tablet of Ibuprofen to pets can cause gastric ulceration.

Animals have a different physiology to humans and products that may be safe for us can be very harmful to our furry friends. There are drugs that are more appropriate for animals and that have been tested and approved by the relevant authorities.

Paracetamol can be life threatening 

Paracetamol causes extreme breathlessness by dangerously altering the red blood cells. It changes the red pigment of the blood (haemoglobin) into a compound known as methaemoglobin. This substance does not carry oxygen and results in the animal’s gums and lips turning blue. Fluid-like swelling occurs around the face and the pet begins gasping for breath.

A mild case of paracetamol poisoning can give your dog an upset stomach, and they may appear to be tired. More serious cases can include signs of staggering, vomiting and restlessness. There can be blood in the stool and the urine will seem unusually dark-coloured.

Paracetamol makes treatment more difficult

Self medicating your pet with human painkillers will not resolve your dog’s underlying health issue, but it will make it more difficult for us to treat whatever problem the animal has.

For example, if surgery is necessary we will be unable to provide appropriate pain relief if there are potentially toxic human drugs in your pet’s system.

We have to treat the toxicity problem first and may also be forced to wait until the drugs are fully out of the dog’s system. 

Contact the hospital

In an emergency, or if you cannot get to the vet and are tempted to use human medications, it is always best to contact the hospital for advice. An emergency vet is on-call 24 hours a day and we would prefer that you woke us up to ask for advice rather than self medicate your pet.

Alternative pain treatments at home

In those situations where you feel your pet is just a bit off colour, or in mild pain from an obvious source, but could wait until the next day to see your veterinarian, you can use low doses of aspirin as a single one-off treatment to relieve pain and fever in your dog.

Although aspirin can itself be toxic to animals, it is prescribed, in precise dosages, by vets for minor pain and slight fever. However, correct dosage for weight is important and, more often than not, antibiotics are more appropriate to treat the source of pain or infection that causes the fever.

It is always better to see your vet but if that’s impossible aspirin is at least a little safer than drugs such as paracetamol.

Keep medicines away from pets!

You should keep all medicines in sealed containers. Never leave them lying around where pets can get at them. Like kids, they’ll eat whatever they find. You should do the same thing for your dog’s medicines too. Even with pet medicines, accidental consumption can lead to overdose and death.

Ingestion of human medicines is one of the major causes of poisonings in dogs and cats, accounting for 25 per cent of all poisoning cases. Keep medicines away from your furry friends!


E&OE. The information provided in the articles on this site is intended as a guide to assist readers to become better informed about health issues that may affect their pets and livestock. They are not a substitute for appropriate veterinary advice and treatment. They should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any individual animal and no person should place reliance on information derived from them, where such reliance may result in loss, damage or injury. Always consult a qualified veterinarian to obtain advice.

Although Alpine Animal Doctors make every effort to ensure that the information contained in our articles is accurate and up-to-date we can accept no responsibility for errors or omissions that may occur.