If your dog ate Excedrin migraine pills, you are right to be concerned. This over-the-counter medication is harmful to dogs. In this article, veterinarian Dr. Ivana reviews this popular over-the-counter drug, explains why it is dangerous and what to do if your dog eats Excedrin Migraine pills.
What is Excedrin Migraine?
When it comes to dogs, pain management is not something to be trifled with. Pain killers formulated for humans are not appropriate for dogs. In fact, the term “not appropriate” is an understatement – human pain killers can be lethal to dogs or cause long-term side-effects that require life-long medications to mitigate the damage.
An example of a popularly misused human pain killer is Excedrin Migraine. What is Excedrin Migraine? Excedrin Migraine is among the most popular over-the-counter headache pain relievers in the USA.
Excedrin Migraine is a cocktail of three different drugs – two painkillers and one amplifier used to boost the analgesic effect. The two painkillers are the non-steroid drugs – acetaminophen and aspirin, and the amplifier is caffeine.
Each Excedrin Migraine tablet/capsule contains 250 mg acetaminophen, 250 mg aspirin, and 65 mg caffeine.
How does Excedrin migraine work? When there is an injury or damage, the cells respond by releasing a substance called prostaglandin. Basically, the prostaglandin acts as a pain signal. The nerves pick up the released prostaglandin and transport it to the brain. The brain signals there is an on-going painful process, and pain is created.
Acetaminophen and aspirin act by preventing the prostaglandin released from damaged or injured cells. No prostaglandin means no pain signal and consequently no pain creation.
The caffeine works as an “analgesic adjuvant” – it boosts the acetaminophen and aspirin’s analgesic effects by approximately 40 percent.
Is Excedrin Migraine Dangerous to Dogs?
Yes, Excedrin Migraine is dangerous to dogs because it contains, not one, but three potentially toxic ingredients. Namely, in the right dose, all three components of this drug can be lethal to dogs.
Plus, when non-steroid drugs are used together, they boost each other’s effects. However, it is not just the wanted effect that is boosted – they also increase the risk of exhibiting unwanted and life-threatening side-effects.
Why is Excedrin Migraine dangerous? In a nutshell, Excedrin Migraine is dangerous because all of its three components are toxic dogs, and when used together, they amplify each other’s toxicity.
Acetaminophen Toxicity in Dogs
As mentioned, acetaminophen is toxic to dogs. Amounts exceeding 75 mg per kilogram of body weight are considered toxic to dogs. Since each Excedrin Migraine pill contains 250 mg acetaminophen, just one Excedrin migraine pill can be lethal to dogs weighing less than 3.3 kilos (without considering the amplifying effect).
Signs of acetaminophen poisoning include:
• Gray or brown-colored gums and mucous membranes
• Swelling and edemas of the face, neck, legs and feet
• Fast and labored breathing
• Jaundice (yellowish coloration of the skin and whites of the eye)
• Hypothermia (decreased body temperature)
• Lethargy, seizures and coma.
Aspirin Toxicity in Dogs
Aspirin is prescribed to dogs in doses between 5 and 10 mg per kilogram of body weight. Amounts exceeding these recommendations are potentially dangerous or even lethal. A single Excedrin Migraine contains 250 mg aspirin.
If there is a 10-kilos dog, its therapeutic aspirin dose would be 50 or 100 mg, based on its needs. The Excedrin Migraine pill exceeds the recommended amount, and it exceeds it 2.5 to 5 times. Basically, one Excedrin Migraine pill can cause aspirin poisoning in dogs weighing less than 25 kilograms.
Signs of aspirin poisoning include:
• Bloody diarrhea (due to bleeding stomach ulcers).
Aspirin damages the red blood cells and can cause multiple organ failure. If the stomach ulcers it causes perforate the stomach’s lining, secondary peritonitis is likely to occur.
Caffeine Toxicity in Dogs
The lethal dose of caffeine for dogs is around 150 mg per kilogram of body weight. Since each Excedrin Migraine pill contains 65 mg caffeine, one Excedrin Migraine pill is not lethal to dogs, but it is enough to cause negative side-effects such as irregular and speedy heartbeat and seizures.
Simply put, the amount of caffeine contained in an Excedrin Migraine pill is enough to cause damages to the central nervous system, heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Help, My dog ate Excedrin Migraine pills!
Whenever a dog eats something it is not supposed to, time is of the essence. It is vital to take your dog to the vet’s office as soon as possible. The sooner the vet initiates treatment, the better the chances of a positive outcome.
If you caught your dog eating the pills, it is advisable to induce vomiting before rushing to the vet. However, if it has been more than an hour since your dog ate the pills, there is no point in vomiting induction.
Keep in mind that the vomiting induction does not eliminate the need to visit the vet. Since Excedrin Migraine pills contain three dangerous and potentially lethal components, seeing the vet is not optional – it is mandatory.
Once at the vet’s office, the vet will perform a thorough physical examination and order some laboratory tests, such as complete blood count, chemical blood profile, and urinalysis. The goal is to assess the damage level.
Based on the findings, the vet will initiate immediate and intensive treatment. If still in the one-hour window, the vet may induce vomiting once again. If it has been more than an hour since the ingestion, the vet will administer activated charcoal whose purpose is to absorb the remaining toxins from the stomach and prevent their future absorption.
Then, the vet will administer intravenous fluids and symptomatic therapy. The dog is hospitalized more often than not because it needs on-going supportive treatment and close monitoring for long-term side-effects.
Regardless of how many Excedrin Migraine pills the dog ate, the survival chances are significantly higher if treatment was initiated promptly. So, once again, when it comes to eating Excedrin Migraine pills, time is of the essence.
Are Other Excedrin Products Toxic to Dogs?
The Excedrin product line includes four different products: Excedrin Extra Strength, Excedrin Migraine, Excedrin PM Headache, and Excedrin Tension Headache.
Excedrin Extra Strength and Excedrin Migraine contain the same three active ingredients – acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. Excedrin PM Headache contains acetaminophen, aspirin, and diphenhydramine. Finally, Excedrin Tension Headache contains acetaminophen and caffeine.
All in all, it is safe to assume that all Excedrin products are dangerous and potentially lethal to dogs.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.