While every pet parents wants to help their fur baby when they're in pain, think twice before you turn to your medicine cabinet!

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When you know or suspect your dog is in pain, the first thing you want to do is help—right away. So when you see your pup limping or flinching to the touch, you might be asking yourself: Can I give my dog ibuprofen?

Conventional wisdom might convince you that it's a good idea—after all, you can give your dog Benadryl—but ibuprofen isn't safe for dogs. If your pet needs pain relief, talk with your veterinarian. They can prescribe dog-safe medications, says Tierra Price, DVM, a community medicine vet in Los Angeles, and founder of the BlackDVM Network.

"It's really not advised that owners try to dose their dogs with any kind of pain relievers," she tells Daily Paws.

Is Ibuprofen Safe for Dogs?

Hopefully you read the paragraphs above, but if you didn't: No, giving dogs ibuprofen is not safe. Ibuprofen is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) that's widely available at your grocery stores and pharmacies, but the Advil or Motrin should stay in your medicine cabinet. It's meant for humans, not dogs. (As we'll cover below, dogs actually have their own NSAIDs).

You dog ingesting ibuprofen can lead to some serious side effects, mostly in your pup's gastrointestinal (GI) tract, Price says. Those include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, and gastric ulcers, which include their own symptoms of bloody vomit and diarrhea and black, tar-like stool. Sure it all sounds gross, but imagine how your poor dog is feeling. 

Dogs and breeds more predisposed to GI problems might be more at-risk for ibuprofen side effects, Price says. Those include huskies, German shepherds, poodles, some terriers, and any dog who's exhibited any food sensitivity or GI issues. 

Sad chocolate French Bulldog with bandage on arm lays on teal blanket
Credit: LukaTDB / Getty

What Do I Do If My Dog Accidentally Eats Ibuprofen?

Ideally, you should immediately go to the vet's office so the healthcare professionals there can get your dog started on whatever therapy she needs, Price says. You might have an idea of what's wrong, but they have the tools and the know-how to be sure. 

If you can't quickly get to the vet, Price recommended calling the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center, which is available year-round, 24 hours a day at (888) 426-4435. They'll be able to give you advice as well, which might include inducing vomiting or other first aid emergency at-home treatment. 

What to Give Your Dog for Pain Relief Instead of Ibuprofen

While human pain relievers like ibuprofen and Tylenol are not safe for dogs, this is where dog-specific pain relievers (NSAIDs) are helpful. Price mentioned two she's prescribed—Rimadyl (a brand name for carprofen) and meloxicam—but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists six NSAIDs it's approved for dog prescriptions. 

Price mentioned that carprofen is "much safer for dogs" who've just gone through surgery or are experiencing some kind of pain.

"Vets will prescribe either Rimadyl or meloxicam when dogs have some kind of orthopedic pain," she says. "I commonly reach for NSAIDs then—not for an extended amount of time, usually just three to seven days."

The key word there is "prescribed"—aka you'll need your vet's authorization before you can give your dog any pain relievers. They'll tell you which side effects to watch out for and how long your dog should be taking the pills.

Plus, you should be consulting your vet on your dog's pain anyway. 

"What we really want to encourage people to do is take their dog into the vet," Price says. "The vet is not a scary place, and we're truly there to help. There's so much that can be done at home, but in certain circumstances it really should be looked at by the vet, and then the vet can advise you on the best next steps for home care for your pet."