Accidental Overdose of Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil and other OTC Pain Meds
Whether in tablet, gel cap or liquid form all of these medications are toxic in anything other than very low levels. If your Shih Tzu has ate a bottle of any of these, it will be important to take action immediately even if your puppy or dog is not showing any signs of poisoning.
The most common signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, depression, pale gums, breathing issues (breathing heavy or having trouble breathing), swelling (this can be on any part of the body however is usually apparent on the face and/or paws), dry eyes, dark urine. If not treated this can lead to permanent liver and/or kidney damage, coma and eventual death. It can take a while for these symptoms to start, so you'll want to respond quickly.
What to do: Generally, only if a dog is asymptomatic (not showing any signs yet of poisoning), has no pre-existing health issues, has swallowed the pills within the last 50 minutes and if you are sure that the substance ingested is not a corrosive chemical or something that could affect the lungs, it is often best to induce vomiting. When done, the dog must still be taken to the vet right away. When in doubt about inducing vomiting, call your vet.
For canines, one of the most effective methods is to give hydrogen peroxide, however it is crucial to give the right amount since too much will cause violent vomiting and can lead to even more problems. Typically .5 ml (1/10 of a teaspoon) is given for each pound of body weight. Therefore, this is 1/2 teaspoon for a 5 lb. puppy or dog and 1 teaspoon for a 10 lb. dog.
Even if you are not sure exactly how many pills your Shih Tzu swallowed and even if your dog seems to be okay, it is imperative to bring him/her to the veterinarian or closest animal hospital ASAP. If possible, bring the bottle that held the pills your Shih Tzu ingested. You should also bring towels; it is common for the symptom of vomiting to begin during the car ride or if you gave your dog hydrogen peroxide, the effects of that may begin in the car. It can be helpful for a second person to catch this in the towel so that it can be examined by the vet for pills that may have been thrown up undigested.
Treatment for OTC pain medication overdose -
There are several steps that a veterinarian can take to try and counteract the toxicity of Tylenol and other medications. This includes giving some or all of the following:
- n-acetyl-cysteine (Mucomyst and Acetadote) - This helps protect a dog's from damage by oxidation and is almost always used as part of the treatment in Tylenol overdose cases with canines.
- Vitamin C - This increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the red blood cells.
- s-adenosyl-methionine - To aide in the protecting the liver
- milk thistle - To reduce liver damage
The vet will also take baseline blood work, monitor liver values and give IV fluids. Depending on the severity of the damage done to the body, a dog may also receive oxygen therapy
and may even need blood transfusions.
If caught early enough, prognosis is good.
Weighing At Home Treatment VS a Vet Visit
If your Shih Tzu is not feeling well, your first instinct may be to want to give him/her something for their discomfort. However, in just about any case of a fever or signs of pain, a Shih Tzu should be brought to the veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. There is a vast array of disease and health issues that can cause fever, pain or both. Simply trying to treat these at home with OTC meds manufactured for humans is risky. These medications do not cure illness and will only cover symptoms while not addressing the cause.
Fever is often the first symptom of a range of health conditions; if a fever is treated with Tylenol at home this may bring a dog's body temperature back to normal but will mask the initial condition that caused the fever. For this reason, any temperature higher than 102.5 F should be reported to the vet.
Minor pain such as that which may occur after a single bee sting (without any signs of allergic reaction) or other trivial issue can be treated at home with the vet's 'okay' however be extremely diligent regarding dosing amount and frequency.
Any signs of pain that appear to be moderate or severe or that last for more than a day or are accompanied by any other symptoms is reason to not attempt to treat your Shih Tzu at home and bring him/her for professional veterinary care.
With your vet's approval, baby Aspirin or low dose Tylenol may be given for low grade fevers or acute pain due to a minor injury. In cases of moderate to severe pain or for chronic pain such as a senior Shih Tzu
suffering from arthritis, there are much better choices for pain management.
For chronic issues such as hip dysplasia, luxating patella and joint issues, carprofen which is an FDA approved NSAIDs for canines is often given. This is marketed as Vetprofen, Rimadyl, Novox and Rovera.
For post-operative pain management, deracoxib (marketed as Deramaxx and Novartis) is often given. Tramadol (Ultram) is another option for canines and is often given if a dog does not respond well to NSAID; this is a very strong pain reliever that works by blocking the brain's perception of pain. It is given after surgery and in some cases, for chronic issues.
Other FDA approved options for canines include etodolac (Etogesic), firocoxib (Previcox) and meloxicam (Metacam ). Tepoxalin (Zubrin) used to be given but was taken off of the market in 2014. If you have unused pills of Zubrin, please do not give any to your Shih Tzu and disposed of them by flushing them down the toilet.
Do keep in mind that just like Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol and other human drugs, long-term use or high doses of canine NSAIDs can cause liver issues and other adverse effects. Common side effects include decreased appetite, weakness and dryness of the eyes. More serious side effects may include yellowing of the eyes, pale gums, stomach distress, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and/or disorientation. If any of these are noticed, you should stop giving the medication to your Shih Tzu and alert the vet.
Shih Tzu should be regularly monitored for these issues. In some cases, a change of diet along with supplements (Omega 3 for example for joint pain) can ease discomfort without having to give a dog prescribed medication.