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Can I Give My Cat Ibuprofen?

Medicating your pet is a delicate skill, one that requires you take care not to ignore symptoms, give the wrong treatment or even too much of the right one. Even when you have been advised by a trained professional, it can be easy to get mixed up if you’re not careful. When this happens, at best you could be prolonging an illness unnecessarily, at worst a mistake could be fatal.

Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen, paracetamol or aspirin can be really handy, cheap and effective treatment for many common complaints in human beings. They can usually be bought at any drugstore, taken at home, and provide quick relief for everything from headaches to symptoms of a cold. Thanks to their ready availability, most people have these over-the-counter medication in their homes, and when their cats get ill, a lot of owners find themselves asking “can I give my cat ibuprofen?”can i give my cat ibuprofen

The short answer is no, under no circumstances should you give your cat ibuprofen. Doing so can cause serious problems far beyond the initial upset, and can in some cases cause death. In this article, we will examine ibuprofen poisoning, the potential for other over-the-counter drugs you may be considering for your cat, as well as any alternatives.

What Is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen belongs to a category of non-prescriptive drugs called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). It can be used in humans to treat everything from fever to toothache pains.

In humans, ibuprofen can create an increased risk of heart attacks, and an overdose may cause the bleeding of stomach lining.

Can I Give My Cat Ibuprofen?

Cats have the capacity to feel pain and become ill in a similar way to humans; indeed we often term a lot of their illnesses in the context of our own, e.g. – ‘cat flu/feline influenza’ or ‘feline tuberculosis’. Cats can also suffer from arthritis or inflammation of their muscles, and many of their problems can also be stress related.

But a cat’s biology is entirely different to our own, and they don’t get the same positive effects from ibuprofen.  While regular ibuprofen can be measured out by weight, cats only need to have the smallest quantities to get ibuprofen poisoning.

cats and ibuprofen

Symptoms and problems associated with Ibuprofen poisoning

Ibuprofen poisoning can affect a cat who has even taken the smallest quantity. There are many symptoms associated with it:

  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Black stools
  • Vomiting blood
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy

Some of these symptoms can get confused with other issues that are commonly associated with cats. Appetites and digestive problems can be associated with a change in diet or stress from other factors. Weakness may be an early sign of arthritis, and lethargy may be due to a chemical imbalance.

It is important, then to recognize symptoms quickly and act even quicker. If you are unsure whether your cat’s symptoms are associated with ibuprofen poisoning, the best bet is to consult your vet. As well as avoiding ibuprofen, the common advice is to steer clear of allowing your cat access to any medication of the same sort, as one vet advises:

‘Cats are very sensitive to the effect of NSAID (non steroidal anti inflammatory) then dogs and humans. There are not a lot of NSAID approved for use in cats. NASAID can cause kidney/liver and gastro intestinal ulcers.’

my cat ate ibuprofen

What Alternative Over-The-Counter-Medication Can I Give My Cat Instead of Ibuprofen?

Although it is tempting to try and find a medication that suits the general ailment, it is far better to treat the specific symptoms. Rather than giving an ‘all-in-one’ painkillers to a cat who may be suffering from arthritis or muscle pains, you should instead try to use something which has been specifically designed for the delicate constitution of your cat.

Most illnesses in cats include the following listed below, and there are already a good few products and remedies that are designed for cats:

  • Stress and anxiety controllers such as melatonin tablets are a more natural way to calm a cat down. By providing a dosage of a naturally-produced hormone, your cat will experience something akin to a sedative effect.
  • Digestion and food supplements are readily available to cats experiencing problems in their GI (gastrointestinal) tract. Companies are dedicated to providing food that suits sensitive diets, and also mitigate problems such as over or under-active thyroids.
  • Discomfort associated with fleas and worms can be easily controlled thanks to the ready availability of tablets, sprays, and drops among other products. Use these before reaching in your own medical cupboard.
  • Even homeopathic medication is a safer alternative to ibuprofen and similar NSAIDs, though it will take some experimenting to find something that works for them.

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Final thoughts: Should you give Ibuprofen to your beast? 

When asking ‘can I give my cat ibuprofen?’, the answer is always no. To do so would be to cause health issues worse than the discomfort they are experiencing.

While it may be the only thing to hand for most people (and nobody likes seeing their cat in pain), cats easily overdose on NSAIDs and other over-the-counter drugs, as the weight allowance is never the same as it is in humans. By allowing your cat to take ibuprofen, you risk them having issues from stomach bleeding to death. A cat that has even taken the smallest amount of ibuprofen should be taken to a veterinary hospital.

Beyond that, pet health specialists Willows advise that you,

Never give human medications to your pet unless specially directed to do so by your vet. There are other drugs that have similar beneficial effects but which are safe for your pet and licensed for use in animals. It is important to seek the advice of your vet if you think your pet is in pain, and to follow their instructions carefully. Keep all medications in a secure place, out of reach of your pet.”

If your cat is suffering from issues related to arthritis, or the inflammation of muscles, you should always consult a trained vet as to the correct treatment. They will help prescribe a course of action which may include medication, but this will be specifically catered to cats. In these cases, it is always better to err on the side of caution.