Basic care

Can You Give a Cat Ibuprofen?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. October 18, 2018
Can You Give a Cat Ibuprofen?

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When we see our cat in pain, we want to do everything we can to stop it. Some human drugs are prescription based, usually due to their availability and potential to cause harm. Others are over the counter as they are used more commonly and are not at a strength level conducive to addiction. Ibuprofen is an over the counter painkiller. It is often not very strong and is taken for moderate pain and inflammation. Due to its wide usage, many caretakers may wonder can you give ibuprofen to a cat?

No, you cannot give a cat ibuprofen. As a human analgesic medicine, its properties are relatively mild and it can be taken safely by the majority of people. However, its active ingredients are not safe for feline consumption. AnimalWised explains why this is the case as well as looking into alternative pain relievers for cats and how to recognize the symptoms of drug poisoning.

You may also be interested in: Can You Bathe An Unvaccinated Kitten?
  1. Is human medicine safe for cats?
  2. Drug poisoning in cats
  3. Symptoms of drug poisoning in cats
  4. What painkillers can I give my cat?

Is human medicine safe for cats?

When an organism is given medication, it needs to be processed safely after administration. This process is known as metabolism and different animals metabolize differently. The action happens either in the digestive tract or in the blood. The compounds are broken down at a cellular level by enzymes, but not all animals have the same enzymes in their system. When an enzyme safely breaks down the compounds of a drug into their constituent parts, the cells put them to use safely. If the enzyme is not present, they cannot be broken down and the cells become damaged. The extent of the damage depends on how toxic the substance is to the organism.

This toxic action in cats is not limited to drugs and medication. Not all human food is suitable for cats. If a cat eats a food which is toxic to them, a similar process occurs. Whether a toxic foodstuff or drug is ingested, the cat will need to eliminate its ingredients through the liver and kidneys. Inability to do so can cause these organs to malfunction. If they malfunction acutely, the results can be fatal. Sometimes these organs can metabolize certain compounds, but they can only process a little at a time. Too much at once can overwhelm the vital organs, resulting in an overdose.

In most countries, drugs which are used to fight pain need to be tested before they can be used my medical professionals on patients. Ibuprofen, commonly sold under the brand names Motrin and Advil, has been tested on humans and found to be safe. It is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be an essential medicine. When cats have ingested human painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol (acetaminophen), they have been found to be toxic[1].

Can You Give a Cat Ibuprofen? - Is human medicine safe for cats?

Drug poisoning in cats

Due to the above explanation, you cannot give ibuprofen to cats. There are too many human medications toxic to cats to list here, but we can provide some of the most common:

  • Aspirin: another common over the counter medication for humans, this is acutely toxic to cats. Special care needs to be taken that pills are not left lying around or bottles left open.
  • Paracetamol: not an anti-inflammatory (NSAID) like ibuprofen, but similarly common and to be avoided. Tylenol is one of the most common brands available.
  • Antidepressants: medications such as prozac or xanax might help with our anxiety, but they will be toxic for cats. If we see our cat is stressed, changing their environment or taking them to the vet is advised.
  • Heart medication: drugs such as betablocklers used to treat heart problems and anxiety.
  • Hormone drugs: an organisms hormone balance is delicate and not all organisms will have the same types.
  • Sleeping pills: pills such as ambien can mean your cat might result in death.
  • Lipitor: if we see our cat is overweight, cholesterol lowering drugs should not be administered.

There are some human drugs which cats can ingest safely, but information on specific testing is not always available. Unfortunately, too many people think that a mild human drug must be OK to give a cat even in smaller doses. According to reports by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in 2009, ibuprofen was the second most common human pharmaceutical given as an oral exposure to cats[2].

Ibuprofen is also toxic to dogs and some breeds are more sensitive to it than others[3]. This may be the case with cats, but there is little study to determine breed as a factor in cat ibuprofen toxicosis. The amount administered is a more important mitigating factor when giving ibuprofen to cats. However, veterinarians state that any amount is still toxic. This is why drugs like baby aspirin or ibuprofen for infants are just as bad as adult dosages.

If a cat ingests ibuprofen, toxicosis can occur. This is the action of poisoning from ingredients in the drug. If this happens, the body will start to shut down and organs fail.

Symptoms of drug poisoning in cats

Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, dicolfenac (e.g. Catalflam, Zipzor), naproxen (e.g. Aleve, Naprosyn) or oxaprozin (Daypro) cause certain reactions in a cat. If you suspect that they have ingested the drug, you can look for the below symptoms:

  • Hypersalivation
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Unresponsive
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Breathing problems
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Shock

If you have accidentally given your cat ibuprofen or a similar human intended NSAID, you should take them to the vet. This is because they are likely to develop symptoms and a veterinarian may be able to take preemptive action. You can also take a look at this article on first aid for poisoning in cats.

What painkillers can I give my cat?

The first thing to note in terms of pain relief for cats is that you need to know the cause of the pain. A veterinarian needs to diagnose the problem. They will the prescribe the specific pain reliever as well as any other medication need for treatment of the condition. There are few over the counter pain meds for cats as the vast majority are prescription only. The drugs which veterinarians prescribe for pain in cats are able to be metabolized by felines and have been tested accordingly.

In saying this, you should still check for side effects from any drug, even if it has been prescribed. These side effects may include:

Feline specific painkillers and medications need to be given in the correct dosages. If they are not, they can result in an overdose. One of the most common is flea medication overdose in cats. This is because cat owners can purchase the product in a pet store and they don't follow the instructions properly. Fortunately, if the overdose in cats is treated promptly for a relatively mild medication such as this, prognosis is usually good. It is very important to look for signs of an overdose in cats such as:

If you witness any of these symptoms, take your cat to the veterinarian for diagnosis. As prevention is better than care, ensure you always read the label before administering any drug to your cat and avoid leaving medication in places cats can access.

Can You Give a Cat Ibuprofen? - What painkillers can I give my cat?

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Can You Give a Cat Ibuprofen?