Tylenol is a popular, over-the-counter fever reducer (antipyretic) and pain reliever (analgesic), but that doesn’t make it safe for our pets. In fact, this pharmacy staple is very toxic to cats and dogs due to its active ingredient acetaminophen, which causes life-threatening illness.

How is Tylenol toxic to dogs and cats?

When a cat or dog ingests Tylenol, the liver breaks the acetaminophen down into toxic substances that damage the liver cells and red blood cells. Cats are at a greater risk of toxicity, because they lack certain enzymes that are needed to break down and clear acetaminophen properly from the body.

Although rare, dogs and cats may also suffer from a condition called Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye, from acetaminophen toxicity.

Be aware that Tylenol is present in a large number of medications used for pain relief, cold/flu, and allergy relief. If you suspect your pet has consumed any Tylenol products or the generic acetaminophen, it is an emergency! You need to take your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately.

Signs of Tylenol (acetaminophen) toxicity

Your pet may or may not show symptoms, but be sure to look out for

  • depression
  • weakness
  • trouble breathing
  • muddy or brown colored gums
  • yellowing of the skin or mucous membranes (icterus)
  • vomiting
  • hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • dry eye (discharge and squinting)

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Treatment for Tylenol (acetaminophen) toxicity

Acetaminophen toxicity can lead to death and requires prompt veterinary care to give your pet the best chance of recovery. Treatments may include:

  • in-hospital monitoring and intensive nursing care.
  • decontamination of the stomach and intestines.
  • medications and procedures to protect and reduce the severity of the damage to the red blood cells, liver and other organs.

How to prevent accidental ingestion of Tylenol (acetaminophen)

The goal is to minimize the risk of exposure in your home. Follow these tips to protect your pets:

  • Never administer any over-the-counter or prescription medications to your pets.
  • Keep all medications inside secure, chew-proof containers and store out of reach or even in a separate room from your pets.
  • If your veterinarian advises to give an over-the-counter medication to your pet, stick to the recommended brand/product and safe dosage.

If you have any lingering questions, make sure to speak with a licensed vet in the US or Canada. Petplan pet insurance covers vet visits – even the ones online! You can get the answers you need without leaving the comforts of your home.

Apr 28, 2020
Pet Health

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