Ibuprofen (Advil/Nurofen) Poisoning in Cats

Ibuprofen toxicity in cats

Ibuprofen is an over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) commonly known by the brand names Advil and Nurofen. In humans, it is routinely used to relieve mild to moderate pain, inflammation and as an antipyretic medication.

Many well-meaning pet owners think that it is okay to give their pets small doses of over the counter painkillers to relieve pain in their pets. However, most of the common medications which are safe for humans are highly toxic to cats, ibuprofen is among them. Poisoning from owners self-administering over the counter medications is one of the leading causes of toxicity in cats.

There is a very narrow margin of safety in cats (and dogs), making it very easy to give your cat a toxic amount. The drug inhibits synthesis of prostaglandin. Prostaglandin helps to protect the lining of the stomach from acid as well as regulating blood flow and glomerular filtration rate in the kidneys. When ingestion of ibuprofen occurs, the reduction of prostaglandin results in stomach ulceration and in severe cases, stomach perforation and acute kidney failure.

What are the symptoms of ibuprofen toxicity in cats?

Gastrointestinal symptoms usually take 2-6 hours to appear and may include:

  • Vomiting.
  • If ulcerations of the stomach have occurred, the vomit may contain blood.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Black, tarry stools.

Symptoms associated with renal failure can take several days to occur and may include:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Lethargy.
  • Pale gums.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Decreased urine production.

In severe cases, neurological disorders such as seizures and tremors can occur.

How is it Ibuprofen toxicity treated?

Veterinary treatment is absolutely vital if your cat has ingested ibuprofen. The faster he is treated, the better the outcome. Treatment is aimed at stopping further absorption and giving supportive care.

  • If ingestion of the medication is recent (within 1-2 hours), your veterinarian will induce vomiting and/or activated charcoal to prevent further absorption.
  • Medications to protect the stomach lining such as  ranitidine, cimetidine or famotidine will be administered for 5-7 days.
  • Anti-emetic medications to control vomiting.
  • Anti-seizure medications such as diazepam or barbiturates if needed.
  • IV fluids to help increase urine production (diuresis), which speeds up the removal of toxins from the blood.
  • A synthetic prostaglandin known as Misoprostol may be given orally, this works to replace the prostaglandin which was inhibited due to the effects of  ibuprofen and can help protect the stomach.
  • If the stomach has been perforated, surgical repair will be necessary.
  • While hospitalised, your veterinarian will run regular baseline tests to monitor how your cat’s kidneys are functioning.

What pain medication can I give to my cat?

There are no safe over the counter medications for cats. If he is in pain, he will need to have a safe painkiller prescribed by his veterinarian. Never administer painkillers to your cat without veterinary supervision. Make sure all medications are kept in a cupboard, while cats are more finicky than dogs, there is still a chance they will eat medications left out.

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