Aspirin is a common drug 💊 pretty much all of us have in our medicine cabinets. We use it for aches, pains, 🤒 headaches, and all manner of other purposes. The question is, can you give it to your dog 🐶 too?
Nobody likes to see their fur baby in pain or sick, and if aspirin helps us when we’re ailing, surely it would help them, too, right?
In today’s blog post, I go an inch wide and a mile deep to discuss aspirin for dogs. From the safety of aspirin for dogs to the risks, to safe aspirin alternatives, to holistic pain management options for your dog.
As always, if you are looking for research-backed 📚 dog care guidesyou can actually trust, feel free to visit my blog and search by topic. I’m sure you'll learn a thing or two that will improve your dog’s life.
When it comes to giving dogs aspirin, the truth is perhaps a bit more complicated than you might think, so read on to learn everything there is to know about aspirin for dogs.
Aspirin is a type of drug intended for human consumption. It’s used to treat pain, inflammation, or arthritis and it’s part of a group of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
At toe beans, we are fanatics of pet parent education. We believe educated and well-informed pet parents make better decisions on behalf of their beloved fur children.
And so, as a general rule of thumb, before you administer anything to your dog, it is always wise to educate yourself about it.
Here's what VCA animal hospitals says about aspirin for pets:
“It’s use in cats, dogs, and small mammals to treat excessive clotting, inflammation, fever, and pain is 'off label' or 'extra label'. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.” – VCA Animal Hospitals
Now the question you might have at this point is, what is extra label drug use aka ELDU? Here is what the American Veterinary Medical Association says about it:
“ELDU describes the use of an approved drug in a manner that is not in accordance with the approved labeling, yet meets the conditions set forth by the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994 (AMDUCA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.” – American Veterinary Medical Association
Although the FDA has approved some NSAIDS for veterinary medicine (such as Carprofen, Deracoxib, Firocoxib and a few others), aspirin is not one of them.
Is Aspirin Safe for Dogs?
Yes, but also no. Aspirin can be safe for some dogs in the right dosage, in moderation, and of course so long as it is used under the supervision of a veterinarian.
You should always talk to your vet before giving your pup a non-prescribed medication. Every pup is an individual, so their medical background and currently prescribed medications will need to be taken into consideration.
So, while it’s safe when used properly, if your dog knocked over a bottle and ate the pills, you'll need to rush them to the emergency vet.
Keep in mind that aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) is also an ingredient in other products such as topical medications, make-up and even shampoo. So, if you get regular puppy kisses, they could be ingesting small amounts on a regular basis.
As with any drug, the key is dosage. Taking too much aspirin can be deadly.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, there are no guarantees of safety when administering human aspirin to your dog.
Nevertheless, as noted above, while aspirin itself has not been approved for dogs, there are several other NSAIDs that have been reviewed and FDA approved for use in dogs.
Keep in mind though, they all require a veterinarian prescription. You should stay away from over-the-counter NSAIDS for pets.
Here's the official FDA’s position about the use of OTC NSAIDS for pets:
“No over-the-counter NSAIDs for dogs and cats are FDA-approved. Any NSAID marketed for dogs or cats online or in a pet store without the need for a prescription from a veterinarian is an unapproved animal drug, meaning FDA has not reviewed information about the drug. An unapproved animal drug may not meet the agency’s strict standards for safety and effectiveness and may not be properly manufactured or properly labeled.” - FDA
You may have heard of many people that have successfully given aspirin to dogs who may also have even had their vets prescribe it. You may also have run into “canine aspirin” online.
Emily Bebout, a veterinary information specialist at the pet poison helpline warns about the use of OTC NSAIDs for your dog.
"I completely understand why owner’s give dogs OTC medication. Your vet is closed, and your dog is in pain. We all hate to see our furry companions in pain and want to do whatever we can to ease their suffering. However, giving medications that are not prescribed can cause more harm than good." | Pet Poison Helpline
Very important to emphasize here, once again, is that aspirin is not technically studied and approved as a canine medication.
It blocks something called prostaglandins, which are the chemicals that convey pain sensations to the brain from the body.
The medication can temporarily relieve pain, reduce inflammation caused by pain responses, and can reduce fever and the risk of blood clots.
Pain relief is the leading reason to give a dog aspirin. It's one of the more effective low-key pain relievers for humans we've developed as a society, with few side effects compared to something like opioids, and it's relatively safe enough to be sold over the counter. Leg injuries, osteoarthritis, and dental issues are all common sources of pain that aspirin might help treat.
Inflammation and fever can both be addressed by NSAIDs in general. Aspirin might not be the best NSAID to give your pup, but if you're in a tricky situation and can't get a prescription for several days, it might suffice in a pinch. You might consider taking your dog to the emergency vet if they're in that sticky a situation, though.
Blood clot risk. Sometimes your dog might have a condition or be on other medications (or after a surgery) where blood clotting can be a real risk. In these cases, a bit of aspirin can be a good way to help thin out the blood and minimize the chances of a dangerous clot. This will generally come as a prescription from your vet, though. Note that you shouldn't give your dog aspirin before a surgery, to minimize bleeding risk during the procedure.
A few new studies have been performed that seem to indicate aspirin might be able to help cut back on eye problems in diabetic dogs. More studies will need to be conducted to figure out how and when to administer aspirin for this effect and if it's worth the potential risks, however.
Is Aspirin Risky for Dogs?
Yes. Aspirin can cause a number of different side effects.
“There are specific times when your veterinarian may prescribe aspirin for your pet. Your veterinarian will recommend an appropriate dose and formulation for your pet and their medical condition. If your pet is in pain, do not give aspirin. Contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can recommend a safer and more effective pain reliever made specifically for pets.” - Petmd.com
If your dog is allergic to aspirin, it can cause allergic reactions that can be highly damaging or deadly.
Too much aspirin, or aspirin too often for too long, can also lead to problems. These problems can include asthma, ulcers in the digestive tract, kidney issues, liver damage, and complications from internal bleeding.
Aspirin can also inhibit the body's ability to heal, both directly and indirectly. Inflammation and fever, while unpleasant and potentially dangerous, are part of the immune system's response to injury and infection. By tamping them down, it makes it harder for the body to fight off invaders. In extreme cases, it can even extend the duration of an illness.
Pain relievers also make it more likely to re-injure an injury that is in the process of healing. Pain is a signal that something is wrong, after all. If your dog strains a leg muscle and you give them pain relievers, they might be too active for their injury and could further exacerbate the injury.
Too much aspirin at once can also lead to aspirin toxicity. This can also occur if you give them aspirin regularly for too long. Symptoms to watch out for include lethargy, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in stool, difficulty walking, and a loss of appetite.
Never give aspirin to young puppies. Their tiny, still-developing systems can't handle it, and it can be extremely dangerous.
How Much Aspirin Should You Give Your Dog?
As little as you can.
There are relatively little sources of guidance on how much aspirin to give a dog. Considerations must be made for the breed, weight, and size of your dog, as well as the reason why you're giving them the pain reliever in the first place.
For safety reasons, you’ll want to talk to your vet and have them do the calculations.
Again, we don’t recommend giving aspirin to your dog, but if you are in a desperate position and you feel you must, the Merck Manual recommends a range of between 10 and 40 milligrams per kilogram of dog weight.
This is for a generally healthy dog, though, so various conditions and health situations can adjust this number.
Don't just wing it!
Remember, aspirin can be very dangerous to dogs if it's administered improperly.
When is it Okay to Give a Dog Aspirin?
The three general reasons why you might give your dog aspirin include:
A musculoskeletal injury, like a sprain, strain, or torn muscle, ligament, tendon, or cracked or broken bone. These sources of pain can be hindering to a pup, and relieving some of the burden can make both them and you feel better. Obviously if you suspect a serious injury, a vet visit should always be a top priority. Plus, your pup may need stronger drugs to control their pain.
An illness that involves a fever and inflammation. Aspirin can help reduce these symptoms while they get over the illness.
Osteoarthritis from aging. Old dogs don't have to worry as much about long-term side effects, and a bit of aspirin can help them maintain mobility and a higher quality of life as they reach their golden years.
I know, I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but it's worth repeating, you generally should not give your dog aspirin without the advice of a vet telling you to do so.
They may have alternative ways you can reduce pain and symptoms in your fur baby, and you need their advice on dosage and frequency.
At an annual check-up consider asking your vet some ‘what if’ questions to see if aspirin would be an appropriate option.
How Long Can You Keep Giving Your Dog Aspirin?
As limited of a time span as possible.
Aspirin doesn't entirely flush out of the system right away, so the longer you keep administering the medication, the more small amounts of it can build up until it eventually reaches a point of causing side effects and problems.
With any medication the goal is to use it for a short of time as possible to reach it’s intended purpose.
If your pup has long-term pain such as osteoarthritis, there are many treatment options available, so discuss your concerns with your vet to determine the best treatment plan to ensure the best quality of life.
Can Aspirin Interact with Other Medications?
Yes. Aspirin can interact with other medications, which is why you shouldn’t administer it without discussing it with your vet.
Aspirin can make other medications either more effective or less effective.
ACE inhibitors, which are used for blood pressure regulation, can double up on anticoagulant effects and cause bleeding problems when taken with aspirin.
Heparin and other anticoagulants have a similar effect. When your dog is taking multiple medications with the same effect, it can go out of control.
Other medications you shouldn't combine with aspirin include:
SSRIs and antidepressants.
Blood glucose-lowering medications.
Steroids like prednisone.
Calcium channel blockers.
Please note this isn't necessarily a complete list, either.
Is Human Aspirin Okay for Dogs?
Not usually, no.
Aspirin can damage your dog’s stomach lining. Aspirin made for people has a coating on it to help protect it while the stomach does its work.
The coating is designed to dissolve as it passes through the stomach, and the medication starts to enter the bloodstream once it passes through the stomach and into the intestines.
Unfortunately, your dog generally can't digest that coating at all. If they eat the pill whole, they won't get the medication entering their system much, if at all.
Alternatively, your vet may recommend buying baby aspirin or grinding up aspirin and adding it to food or a treat. You need to be careful of dosage no matter the avenue of administration.
Are There Alternatives to Aspirin for Dogs?
To recap, aspirin is an NSAID, and there are many other NSAIDs out there, but most human NSAIDs are more dangerous for dogs.
As noted above, these include Carprofen, Deracoxib, Firocoxib, Meloxicam, and Grapiprant. You can find these under brand names like Novox, Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox, Metacam, and Galliprant. These medications will require a prescription from your veterinarian.
There are also other kinds of medications you can give to your dog for pain-relieving effects.
Gabapentin is a painkiller used in both humans and animals and is a good option for nerve pain. It usually causes sleepiness, at least for the first few days.
Tramadol is another possible pain reliever, like a mild opioid. It has a bunch of digestive side effects though, like vomiting and constipation, but it can be an effective option in some situations.
Another option is to look into supplements and holistic medications. Some people swear by turmeric for dogs, though its therapeutic effects are much less than what you get from a real medication.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me! I'm not a vet, but I'm a lover of all four-legged friends, and I do my best to give you all the best information I can. You can drop any potential questions you may have in the comments section down below!
K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more