Woman petting her sick cat in her lap

Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch

  • Prescriptions delivered free to you

  • Fast access to Licensed Vets over video

  • Unlimited video visits and follow-ups

When our feline companions are in pain, our instinct is to provide relief as soon as possible. However, when it comes to pain relief for cats, it’s crucial to tread carefully. Can cats take ibuprofen? While there are certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs ) that are safe for cats under veterinary supervision, ibuprofen is not one of them. 

Ibuprofen should never be administered to cats. Your cat metabolizes medications differently than you do, and certain substances, including ibuprofen, can be highly toxic to them. Ingesting even small amounts of ibuprofen can lead to severe health complications, including gastrointestinal (GI) issues, kidney failure, and, in extreme cases, death.1 

It’s crucial for cat parents to recognize the potential dangers of giving ibuprofen to their feline friends and to consult with a veterinarian for safe and effective pain management options tailored to their specific needs. Can you give a cat ibuprofen? Keep reading to find out why it’s never a good idea to give your cat this pain reliever. 

Risks of Giving Ibuprofen to a Cat 

Can you give cats ibuprofen for pain? No. Ibuprofen is toxic to cats and dogs . While ibuprofen and naproxen are both NSAIDs commonly used in human medicine, these medications pose a significant risk when it comes to our pets.2 Well-meaning pet parents may unintentionally put their pets in danger by administering these drugs to treat pain at home. 

If you’re wondering, “Can I give my cat ibuprofen?” it’s important to understand that common products containing ibuprofen, such as Advil and Motrin, as well as those containing naproxen, like Aleve, should never be given to animals due to the potential for toxicity. 2 Always consult a vet before providing any medication to your pet. How much ibuprofen can you give a cat? Ultimately, zero. Even a small amount, such as 200 mg of ibuprofen, can be toxic to small animals like cats.2

Graphic listing the clinical signs of ibuprofen poisoning in cats

Ingesting ibuprofen can lead to poisoning and cats, and pet parents should be vigilant for the following signs: 

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
  • Black tarry stool
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure3

Large doses of ibuprofen can result in severe consequences, including organ failure and neurological issues such as tremors and seizures. If you suspect your cat has ingested ibuprofen, seek immediate veterinary assistance for a thorough assessment of the situation. Early intervention is crucial to ensure the well-being of your feline companion.3

Alternatives to Ibuprofen 

Pain management in cats requires careful consideration. One common mistake that well-meaning pet parents make is reaching for human medications without a proper understanding of their safety for cats. Ultimately, the best way to treat your cat’s pain is to have them examined and diagnosed by a vet who can provide the proper treatment. Common alternatives to ibuprofen for cats include: 


While ibuprofen is an NSAID that can be toxic to cats, not all NSAIDs are dangerous. Certain prescription NSAIDs can be used for pain relief in cats. These prescriptions selectively block enzymes that produce compounds leading to inflammation and pain while sparing crucial compounds. Examples of prescription NSAIDs include Onsior (robenacoxib) and Metacam (meloxicam). 

Onsior is labeled for short-term pain relief, often post-surgery, and might be used off-label for chronic conditions like osteoarthritis. Similarly, Metacam is FDA-approved for postoperative pain treatment in cats. Oral forms are also sometimes used off-label for chronic conditions.4


In cases where NSAIDs might not provide sufficient relief or when they’re not suitable for a specific cat, veterinarians may try opioids. These medications work by binding to and blocking receptors in the nervous system involved in pain sensation. 

Buprenorphine is a commonly used opioid for cats. It can be administered for short-term pain relief, such as after surgery or injury, or over longer periods for chronic conditions like osteoarthritis or cancer. Administered via injection or absorbed through the mucous membranes in the mouth, buprenorphine is considered safe when used appropriately. 

Tramadol is another opioid available by prescription. It serves both short-term and long-term pain relief purposes and is commonly compounded into a cat-friendly liquid. Tramadol side effects can include dilated or constricted pupils, lethargy, odd behaviors, stomach upset, constipation, and seizures. 


Steroids are anti-inflammatories that can provide pain relief by reducing inflammation. However, they’re typically not used exclusively for pain relief in cats due to potential side effects like delayed healing and the development of diabetes.4 Common steroids include: 

  • Prednisolone: Prednisolone is a corticosteroid commonly prescribed for inflammatory conditions, autoimmune diseases, and certain types of cancers in cats. 
  • Methylprednisolone: Methylprednisolone is another corticosteroid. Like prednisolone, it’s used to suppress inflammation and modify the immune response and may be prescribed for conditions like allergic reactions, skin disorders, and respiratory issues. 
  • Dexamethasone: Dexamethasone is commonly used to treat inflammatory and immune-mediated conditions in cats. It may also be used in emergency situations to quickly address severe inflammation. 

Other Pain Relievers for Cats

In addition to the more commonly known and widely used pain relief options, there are several medications designed for different purposes that have demonstrated efficacy in providing pain relief to cats. 

Gabapentin (Neurontin), for instance, was initially developed to manage seizures and is now used for postoperative pain and chronic pain associated with conditions like osteoarthritis, cancer, and nerve injury or disease. Its side effects are minimal, making it a viable option under veterinary guidance.4 

Other potential options include: 

  • Cerenia (maropitant): Created to control vomiting, Cerenia has a secondary application in pain relief and is often used in combination with anesthetics or other pain relievers. 
  • Amantadine: Originally an antiviral medication, amantadine is now used in combination with other medications to treat chronic pain.

Browse our online pet pharmacy for other cat pain relief medications available with a prescription.


Can you give cats Tylenol? 

Tylenol contains acetaminophen and is toxic to cats. Acetaminophen can cause severe damage to a cat’s red blood cells and liver, leading to a life-threatening condition. Even a small amount of acetaminophen can be harmful to cats.1 

Symptoms of acetaminophen poisoning in cats include: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face or paws
  • Blue or brown-colored gums

Can you give cats Aspirin? 

While aspirin is sometimes used under veterinary guidance for pain relief in cats, it’s crucial to approach it with caution. Aspirin is an NSAID, and its use in cats requires careful dosing and monitoring. Incorrect dosage or prolonged use can lead to adverse effects like kidney damage. 

Always consult your vet before giving your cat any aspirin. If your vet deems aspirin necessary, they’ll provide specific dosing instructions based on your cat’s weight, health status, and the nature of the pain. Additionally, your vet will give you a cat-friendly formulation of aspirin designed for cats to minimize risks. 

Never give your cat aspirin without first consulting your vet because it can be a dangerous medication for them if you’re not careful.

How can I reduce my cat’s pain?

Managing your cat’s pain requires a comprehensive approach, and it’s essential to work closely with your vet to ensure your pet’s well-being. Some general strategies for reducing cat pain include: 

  • Veterinary assessment: Schedule a veterinary examination to identify the underlying cause of pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan. 
  • Prescription medications: Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications that are safe and effective for cats. These medications are specifically formulated to manage feline pain. 
  • Non-pharmacological approaches: Maintaining a healthy weight reduces stress on joints and can alleviate some forms of pain in cats, especially due to conditions like arthritis. Additionally, some conditions may benefit from physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises tailored to your cat’s needs. 
  • Comfortable environment: Provide a comfortable and quiet environment for your cat with soft bedding and easy access to essentials like food, water, and litter. 
  • Regular monitoring: Keep a close eye on your cat’s behavior and overall well-being. Report any changes or signs of discomfort to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Man smiling at laptop during an online vet consultation, orange cat sitting next to him

Final Notes 

While it may be tempting to dig into your medicine cabinet when your cat is showing signs of pain, ibuprofen is simply not safe for them. The toxic nature of ibuprofen for cats can lead to severe health complications, including GI issues, kidney failure, and death. Pet parents should consult a veterinarian for professional advice on safe and effective pain management tailored to your cat’s specific needs. 

Looking for effective pain relief for your cat? Try Dutch today. With a Dutch membership, you get access to a licensed veterinarian from the comfort of your own home. You’ll also receive free prescription delivery and unlimited follow-ups.



  1. “Get the Facts about Pain Relievers for Pets.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/get-facts-about-pain-relievers-pets. Accessed 27 Dec. 2023. 

  2. “Ibuprofen & Naproxen.” American College of Veterinary Pharmacists, 25 Apr. 2023, vetmeds.org/pet-poison-control-list/ibuprofen-naproxen/#!form/PPCDonations

  3. “Can Cats Have Ibuprofen?” Pet Poison Helpline, 7 June 2023, www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-tips/can-cats-have-ibuprofen/

  4. “What Can You Give a Cat for Pain?” PetMD, www.petmd.com/cat/general-health/what-can-you-give-cat-pain.

Memberships to keep your pet healthier

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All memberships include:

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $7/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.