Aspirin and Your Dog: Only With Vet Approval

Bulldog at vet hospital
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When your dog is in pain, you naturally want to help by providing medication to make it go away. However, providing your pet with human medications (like aspirin and acetaminophen) can cause more problems than it can cure. Avoid giving your dog pain relievers unless recommended by your veterinarian.

It's important not to just give your dog a drug because they're not acting normal. Even if your dog is in pain, you may not know what exactly is causing the problem. To get to the root of the issue, you want to bring your dog to the vet. This will help clarify exactly what's going on and where the pain is coming from.

Aspirin and Your Dog

Although aspirin is sometimes used for dogs, it's often for specifically easing the pain of arthritis. Even then, it's only provided with caution and veterinary supervision. This is because drugs that contain acetaminophen (like Tylenol) are very toxic to pets, and are potentially fatal to both dogs and other animals, like cats.

Aspirin, in particular, is placed in a class of drugs called NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Dogs are extremely sensitive to the gastrointestinal effects of NSAIDs, which includes pain, bleeding, and ulceration, among other side effects. Interestingly, coated aspirin helps with gastrointestinal effects, and may be recommended by a vet. At the end of the day, however, aspirin is tricky with pets and can cause many issues. In fact, aspirin can cause birth defects, so it should especially never be given to animals that are pregnant.

Finally, aspirin also interacts with several other drugs, like cortisone, digoxin, several antibiotics, phenobarbital, and furosemide (Lasix). It's a good practice to check in with your veterinarian regarding what's going on with your pet and what the best drug is, before trying to do a quick fix with a pain-reliever.

Drugs for Dogs and Cats

Canine NSAID drugs such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, and Previcox can be good alternatives to aspirin for canine arthritis. Similarly, Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, such as Cosequin, can also ease the pain for arthritic pets. Plus, they can be used alone or with NSAIDs and other therapies.

Before using these medications, see a veterinarian who can evaluate your pet for pain level, overall health, and bloodwork (which will allow your vet to see liver and kidney indications). 

If your pet is showing any signs of illness, consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible. As with any drug, it's imperative that you only give it to your dog under the advice and supervision of your veterinarian.

When to See a Vet

If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a poison or overdosed, call your veterinarian or national hotline immediately. You can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-222-1222), for instance.

Sometimes it's hard to know when there's a real emergency. Whenever you're in doubt, you can always call your veterinarian's office to get feedback on whether or not your pet needs to come in for a visit. Certain things can be managed at home, like minor injuries, but larger symptoms like lumps, shortness of breath, and vision problems require a trip to the vet.

How to Administer Medicine

You can give your dog about 5-10mg of human aspirin per pound of body weight, according to fidosavvy.com. Simply give your dog this dosage twice a day (once per 12 hours). It's very important that you get the dosage right, especially for younger and smaller dogs. This is because they're unable to metabolize pain medications as well as older dogs can. Additionally, their liver and kidneys are immature which means their dosage is often much lower than that of an adult dog.

Since it's not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it's best to get approval and the right dosage from your veterinarian first. Overdoses on this type of medicine can, unfortunately, be fatal. Plus, your vet might be able to recommend some alternative medicines like Carprofen.

Side Effects to Watch For

If a vet advises you to give your pet aspirin, you'll want to keep an eye out for any side effects. Look for signs of vomiting, diarrhea, mucosal erosion, ulceration, and a black or tarry stool. Any of these symptoms are very serious and should be immediately discussed with your vet. At the same time, you'll want to stop providing any more aspirin to your dog.

Your dog can also experience an overdose, which can show in the following ways:

  • No appetite
  • Throwing up
  • Watery stool
  • Acid-based abnormalities
  • Hemorrhage
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Death