Note: This article is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, call your regular veterinarian, the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), or your local emergency vet clinic such as the Dayton Emergency Veterinary Clinic (800-289-1165).
Late one night at the Dayton Dog Examiner household, we discovered one of our Chihuahua puppies carrying a torn plastic bag containing a handful of unknown round pills marked with I-2. Some of the pinkish pills had obviously been licked because the colored coating was partially gone. The drugs.com online pill identification wizard revealed that the pills were 200 mg ibuprofin tablets. Nervously continuing our web search, we found that based on the number of dogs treated, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) rates Ibuprofen the number one reason for dog poisoning.
According to the APCC, a single ibuprofin dose as small as 25–125 mg per/kg body weight can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and anorexia in dogs. At doses greater than 175 mg/kg, the risk of acute kidney failure increases. At doses greater than 400 mg/kg, seizures and coma can occur. A 600 mg/kg dose is fatal. Our 7-pound (3 kg) puppy would need to have eaten only 3 pills to reach a fatal dose. Since we had no way to know how many, if any, pills were eaten and whether just one or all three of our dogs were involved, this was potentially a life or death emergency. Since our regular veterinarian was not available at this hour, we called the wonderful staff at the Dayton Emergency Veterinary Clinic (EVC).
The Dayton EVC advised us that we would need to induce vomiting in our dogs using peroxide and then bring them in immediately for treatment. If you've ever tried to get three dogs to swallow peroxide you'll have some idea of the scene in our kitchen. One dog vomited in the kitchen, one saved his for the car, and one did not vomit at all. Arriving at the clinic, our dogs were examined, and we were advised of the treatment and the costs.
Treatment for ibuprofin poisoning begins with rapid and aggressive decontamination so that exposure to the drug is minimized. This includes getting dogs to vomit, or if they are unable to respond, pumping the stomach, and then giving activated charcoal every six to eight hours for 24 hours. Next, steps are taken to prevent or treat possible complications. To help prevent gastrointestinal upset and ulceration, antacids are usually given. Because of possible kidney complications, fluids are usually given by IV.
We tearfully turned over our three dogs for an overnight stay at the Dayton EVC. Ibuprofin poisoning can be very insidious, the staff had explained, and even if the dogs appeared all right in the morning, it could take days for kidney, liver, or stomach damage to show up. Blood tests taken before treatment would provide a baseline, and follow-up blood tests would be needed to identify possible problems. Long story short, several months after the incident, all three dogs at the Dayton Dog Examiner household–Darwin, Lobo, and little Garrison– are well and happy. Darwin had an abnormal follow-up blood test, but later all was fine.
If you're wondering whether your dog needs emergency medical treatment, the Dayton EVC offers a "Do I Have an Emergency?" guide. If your dog has any of the conditions listed, immediate veterinary attention may be required.
The APCC suggests that you assemble an emergency first-aid kit for your pet that contains the items listed below. Or, you can purchase a ready-made ASPCA Pet First Aid Kit for $49.99. Always consult a veterinarian, the APCC, or your local emergency vet clinic for directions on how and when to use any emergency first-aid item.
* A fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide, 3 percent USP (to induce vomiting)
* A turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe (to administer peroxide)
* Saline eye solution
* Artificial tear gel (to lubricate eyes after flushing)
* Mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid (for bathing an animal after skin contamination)
* Forceps (to remove stingers)
* A muzzle (to protect against fear- or excitement-induced biting)
* A can of your pet’s favorite wet food
* A pet carrier