It’s heartbreaking to see your dog in pain. Whether your dog hurts a paw and is limping around, or is showing some other sign of distress, you want to give your fur baby relief as fast as you possibly can. As a result, you might wind up asking yourself, “Can I give a dog aspirin?”
Before you open that medicine cabinet, however, you need to keep some things in mind.
Two Different Schools of Thought
Some experts believe you should never give any sort of human medication to a dog – no matter what amount you may be considering. They believe that aspirin and other human pain relief drugs could be dangerous, and possibly even fatal.1
Aspirin eases pain by blocking something called “cyclooxygenase.” This is an enzyme that produces compounds known as prostaglandins. These compounds trigger inflammatory responses that result in pain.2
But prostaglandins also play a key role in helping your dog’s body function the way it should. For example, they help make sure the kidneys get enough blood. Prostaglandins also produce mucus that protects the gastrointestinal tract from being damaged by stomach acid. These bodily functions won’t happen if prostaglandin production is inhibited by taking aspirin.3
There are some conditions in which giving your dog aspirin would be okay. For instance, your vet may specifically recommend it for dogs suffering from musculoskeletal inflammation or osteoarthritis. The reason is that aspirin is an anti-inflammatory, and may provide relief for dogs suffering from these conditions.4
Potential Side Effects and Dosage
Dogs can suffer serious side effects from aspirin. These include internal bleeding, vomiting, loss of appetite, kidney damage, and, tragically, death in some instances.5 In addition, there are some instances where aspirin can cause potentially dangerous interactions with other medications your dog might be taking.6
You should never give aspirin to a dog unless your vet says it is safe to do so.
And, if your vet gives you the okay, follow their dosing instructions to the letter. Giving your dog too much aspirin can be incredibly dangerous. Many vets will recommend not giving a dog aspirin for between 10-14 days if he or she has taken any other type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID.7
Different Types of Aspirin
If your vet says you can give your pet aspirin, make sure they tell you not only the exact dosage, but also the right kind of medication to administer. Some types of aspirin may not work as well. Even worse, they could be dangerous. Here’s a quick look at the different kinds of aspirin that are available:
· Plain aspirin – Plain, or uncoated, aspirin is strictly meant for humans. It could easily irritate a dog’s stomach lining and result in bleeding.
· Aspirin with an enteric coating – Aspirin with an enteric coating is designed to protect the stomach. But it doesn’t work for dogs, because their bodies can’t fully break down the coating. As a result, they won’t be able to get any pain relief from the drug.
· Buffered aspirin – Many vets recommend buffered aspirin for dogs. It helps protect the stomach, but a dog can still absorb the medication. Always check to make sure the label says “buffered” if you are giving aspirin to your pet. Ask your vet if you’re not sure whether the aspirin you have is buffered.8
Giving Aspirin to Your Dog
There are a few different methods you can try when it comes to giving aspirin to a dog. Like other pills, you can try wrapping it in some meat, or mix it with your dog’s favorite food. Or you can place the aspirin on the dog’s tongue and gently pat your pet’s throat to encourage them to swallow it.
Aspirin should never be considered anything more than a short-term solution to pain relief. Stop giving it to your dog after a maximum of five days. Always give the medication with food, and watch your dog closely for any signs of problems. Check the label closely to make sure the drug doesn’t contain any caffeine because that can be very dangerous to dogs.9
Aspirin and Puppies
You should never give aspirin to a puppy, no matter how small the dosage. The reason is that their bodies have not yet developed the enzymes needed to process the medication. Giving aspirin to a puppy could be fatal, so talk to your vet about other alternatives.10
Other Remedies for Pain
Visit your vet’s office to see if they can recommend medications that don’t have the side effects associated with aspirin. You might also want to consider other alternatives to deal with your pup’s pain.
For example, if your dog is suffering from arthritis, you should massage their joints on a regular basis. If your dog has suffered an injury, or recently had surgery, keep your pup in a quiet room to reduce stress. Make sure you come in regularly to give your dog plenty of affection and attention. You might also think about putting a heating pad under a towel in the dog’s bed.
The Bottom Line
So, back to the original question, “Can I give a dog aspirin?”
Again, while you can give aspirin to a dog under some circumstances, you must be extremely careful. Aspirin is only recommended by vets in specific situations and in a dosage that is exactly right for your dog’s particular situation. Never, ever administer any sort of human medication before first talking to your vet.