Acetaminophen Toxicity in Dogs

Acetaminophen toxicity in your dog is almost always fatal unless medical attention is delivered immediately. Most commonly, a dog is given acetaminophen by an owner as a means of alleviating pain or reducing fever. Acetaminophen is a medication that you should never give to your dog because even small doses can be lethal.

Toxic Effects

The liver is responsible for creating sulfate and glucuronic acid; however, only a certain amount of sulfate and glucuronic acid is considered normal. The liver also creates metabolites; which react to the sulfate and glucuronic acid when they are produced for assistance in digestion. The overall function of the liver is to create these agents and to keep them maintained at normal levels.

When acetaminophen is ingested by your dog, it is immediately transported to the liver where it begins to mesh with the agents produced by the liver. This is a natural process, but the problem is that the liver cannot digest acetaminophen in its entirety. So, what happens is that the liver is no longer able to use sulfate and glucuronic acid to control the metabolites. The metabolites then attach to the cells of the liver and are sent out into the blood stream. When this happens, those cells begin attacking the liver and eventually cause its destruction.

In addition, when these altered cells are sent out into the blood stream, they begin attacking the red blood cells. The red blood cells are responsible for carrying hemoglobin, or oxygen, to the various different cells and organs of the body. The problem with this is that when the red blood cells are attacked, they are less efficient in their duties and your dog becomes oxygen depleted. 

Signs of Toxicity

Because acetaminophen is almost always fatal to dogs, it is important that you make sure that your dog is never allowed to ingest it. However, it your dog comes into contact with acetaminophen and swallows it accidentally, you should watch for the following signs:

  • General fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Jaundice of the eyes and gums
  • Pain in the abdomen area

It normally does not take long before these signs become apparent in your pet. Acetaminophen is extremely toxic to your dog and the situation can become life-threatening as soon as one hour after ingestion.

Emergency Care

If your dog accidentally swallows acetaminophen, it is important that you are aware of what type of emergency care your dog demands. Because death can occur within one hour to five days, there are no extra minutes to be spared in contemplation of what to do.

Your dog may naturally vomit after ingestion of acetaminophen; however, if it is very minimal, or not at all, you absolutely need to induce vomiting. This is only way to effectively rid your dogs system of the poison.

Because you cannot do everything at home that needs to be done to help your dog, you need to seek medical attention immediately. The veterinarian may continue the induction of the vomit, as well as procedure similar to pumping of the stomach to get all of the acetaminophen out of his system.

Your dog may also require the use of intravenous fluids so that he does not dehydrate. Likewise, your dog will probably receive supplemental oxygen until the situation has been cleared.