“Can I give my dog aspirin?” You probably ask this question if your dog suffers from minor aches and pains. Humans often use aspirin to treat pain, but can you give it to your dog? The answer to that question is no, you cannot give aspirin to your dog unless your veterinarian specifically instructs you to do so. This is because it is very easy to accidentally give your dog too much aspirin, as the difference between a proper dose and an overdose is quite small. You can easily poison your dog if you give them an inappropriate dosage of aspirin, which can cause extreme side effects and even death. Here is what you should know when it comes to giving aspirin to dogs.
How Is Aspirin Bad For Dogs?
Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that relieves pain by inhibiting enzymes that produce prostaglandins, which contribute to inflammation. Reducing inflammation is good, but prostaglandins are responsible for other important functions, like maintaining blood flow to the kidneys, protecting gastrointestinal lining, and helping blood clot normally. It is very easy for a dog to overdose on aspirin and throw all of these bodily functions into disorder, which can be fatal.
Because the risks of giving dogs aspirin are so high, you should never do it unless your veterinarian instructs you, and even then, you must follow directions closely or you could end up harming or killing your dog. Here are just a few of the situations where giving a dog aspirin can have dire consequences.
- Improper dosage. The difference between a healthy dose and a dangerous dose of aspirin for dogs is small. You must receive instructions from a trained veterinarian before giving your dog aspirin.
- Drug sensitivity. Some dogs are particularly sensitive to NSAIDs. Even if you give your dog a correct dose, they may still experience side effects.
- Allergies. As with almost all medications, there is a risk of allergic reaction.
- Other medications. Other drugs, even over-the-counter medications, can cause bad reactions when mixed with aspirin.
- Medical conditions. Aspirin can worsen certain conditions, especially kidney disease, liver disease, bleeding disorders, ulcers, or vitamin deficiencies.
- Different formulas. Some kinds of aspirin are designed for adults, some are for children, and some have varying strengths. Some pills have coatings that dogs’ digestive systems won’t break down. Your vet can tell you which aspirin is appropriate, if any.
- Pregnant or nursing. Dogs that are pregnant or nursing should almost never take medication without veterinary supervision.
When Is Aspirin Good For Dogs?
Aspirin should only be given to dogs when recommended by a veterinarian. There are certain formulas of aspirin specifically for dogs that may be safer than human aspirin. Usually, a vet will only prescribe aspirin for a short-term condition. Aspirin is not a good solution for long-term pain management in dogs due to the high potential for side effects. Vets typically prescribe other forms of treatment for chronic conditions, such as arthritis, and will only prescribe aspirin for a maximum of about five days–and even that is on the high end. There are usually safer, more appropriate medications and treatments for pain in dogs than aspirin.
What Are The Side Effects Of Aspirin In Dogs?
Even if your veterinarian prescribes an appropriate dose of aspirin to your dog, you may see concerning side effects. These aren’t necessarily a reason to panic, but you may wish to call your veterinarian to discuss alternative forms of treatment, especially if the symptoms do not disappear quickly. Here are a few of the minor side effects associated with aspirin in dogs.
- Upset stomach
- Loose stools, black stools, or diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
Some side effects of aspirin in dogs can be quite serious, and if they are not addressed, they can lead to ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, or organ damage. If you see these more serious side effects, you should stop giving your dog aspirin and contact your veterinarian immediately. Here are a few side effects of aspirin in dogs that are a cause for concern.
- Vomiting (especially if vomit looks black like coffee grounds)
- Bloody stools
- Mucous in stools
- Black, tarry stools
What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Too Much Aspirin?
If you suspect or know that your dog has taken too much aspirin, call an emergency veterinarian immediately. You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at (888) 426-4435. This service is available all day, every day, though you may be charged for the call. Either way, you’ll likely need to seek emergency treatment right away. The vet may need to pump your dog’s stomach, administer activated charcoal, give IV fluids, or perform a blood transfusion. It is best to seek treatment as soon as possible, as even after a few hours, the damage to your dog’s vital organs may be permanent or result in death. Here are a few symptoms that indicate your dog has overdosed on aspirin.
- Bleeding or blood loss
- Collapse or loss of consciousness
- Weakness or dizziness
- Pale gums
What Are Safer Alternatives To Aspirin For My Dog?
There are many medications that are safer and more effective for treating pain in dogs than aspirin. Your veterinarian can decide which medication is best, and it will likely depend on the type of pain or condition that is being treated. Rimadyl, Etodolac, and Meloxicam are three commonly prescribed medications to treat pain in dogs. Gabapentin, Prednisone, and Tramadol may be prescribed in some cases, too. There are several forms of over-the-counter pain medications to treat minor pain symptoms in dogs, but you should always ask your veterinarian before giving your dog any drugs.
For chronic conditions, such as arthritis, your vet may recommend forms of treatment that do not rely on medication or work in conjunction with medication. Acupuncture, hydrotherapy, massage, weight control, exercise, and dietary changes can all help arthritis symptoms improve in dogs. Several foods and supplements may reduce pain from arthritis, too, including fish oil, glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and turmeric. Talk to your vet if your dog needs long-term treatment for a chronic pain condition.
How do you treat your dog for minor pain symptoms? Has your vet ever prescribed aspirin for your dog? Let us know in the comments below!