Over the years, many clients have asked me, “Can you give a dog aspirin?” This question does not have a 100% clear answer, as sometimes veterinarians will say “yes” and sometimes they will say “no.”
Many years ago, aspirin was one of the only options that veterinarians and owners had to combat pain in dogs. However, times have changed and there are more effective and safer options available. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Aspirin?
Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug. It also can act as a fever reducer, blood thinner and pain killer.
It is commonly used in humans for minor aches and is recommended for people with certain cardiovascular health risks. Like many other NSAIDs, aspirin inhibits COX-1 prostaglandin.
Can Dogs Take Aspirin?
Yes, dogs can take aspirin. Sometimes veterinarians recommend buffered aspirin for very specific medical conditions. Your veterinarian will give a specific dosage.
For routine pain control, most veterinarians do not recommend aspirin for dogs. There are no FDA-approved products or dosages for aspirin in dogs. All dosages are extra-label.
Can Aspirin Hurt My Dog?
Most veterinarians do not recommend aspirin for common causes of pain, such as muscle soreness and arthritis. Aspirin does not provide good pain control and the risk of side effects often outweighs the benefits.
While all medications carry risks of side effects, aspirin for dogs can be especially tricky. This may be why your vet said “no” to aspirin for dogs. Common side effects, even at recommended dosages, can include:
- Stomach bleeding
- Stomach rupture
- Platelet inhibition (decreased blood clotting ability)
The dosage required to provide pain control in dogs will also impair their blood clotting ability.
Aspirin is not recommended for pregnant dogs, as it can cause uterine bleeding, miscarriage, stillbirths and birth defects.
Aspirin toxicity most commonly happens when dogs chew or eat a bottle of the owner’s medication. Also, well-meaning owners can accidentally over-dose their dog with aspirin.
Poisoning typically happens at dosages over 150 mg/kg (that’s about 4 of the 325mg size aspirin tablets for a 20 pound dog).
Signs of aspirin toxicity include:
- Vomiting blood (typically 1-4 days after ingestion)
- Bloody diarrhea
- Stomach rupture
- Abdominal pain
- Light pink or white gums or tongue
If your dog chewed on a bottle of aspirin, or if you think you may have over-dosed your dog, contact your veterinarian immediately.
If your veterinarian or a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital is not available, contact an Animal Poison Control helpline:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control. Help is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A $65 consultation fee may apply. 888-426-4435.
Pet Poison Helpline. Help is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A $49 fee applies per incident. 855-764-7661.
Aspirin cannot be given with many other types of NSAIDs, steroids or antibiotics without serious side effects or drug interactions.
Giving your dog aspirin without specific veterinary instruction can cause problems if your dog needs further treatment or care. If aspirin is in their system, your veterinarian may be limited in what he or she can prescribe to safely help your dog.
For example, your dog tears his ACL ligament while playing on the beach and you go to see your veterinarian. Often, your veterinarian will want to prescribe an NSAIDS that will reduce swelling and help control pain.
If you gave an aspirin before going to the vet – your vet may not be able to provide your pet with this medication for 3-10 days! Due to the blood clotting effects of aspirin, surgery may need to be delayed until those effects wear off.
Always consult with your veterinarian before giving aspirin. There are other more effective pain killers available that carry fewer side effects and risks.
When your vet says “no” to aspirin and recommends a veterinary-approved product – he or she is not just “trying to sell you something” – your dog’s health and safety comes first and foremost.