Few things are more heartbreaking than seeing a dog in pain. It’s hard to see anyone in pain, but there’s something about seeing a dog suffer that’s especially heart wrenching. Dogs offer us love and loyalty.
In a world filled with wrongdoing they don’t do anything wrong. To see them, a loveable embodiment of innocence and empathy, filled with pain is absolutely horrible.
It’s only natural that you’d want to do anything you can to help – and if you have painkiller pills on hand, you might well wonder “can I give my dog aspirin?” In short, no – and here’s why.
Why Aspirin for Dogs Is a Bad Idea
For those not in the know, aspirin (aka acetylsalicylic acid or ASA) is an over the counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory pain relief agent. It is non-steroidal, and is a common option for pain relief in humans. We’ll get to how and when some vets use it on pets; however, it carries with it a severe risk of poisoning, especially when used improperly by those outside the veterinary sphere.
That’s largely because how we take aspirin is very different from how dogs do so. All you have to do is pop a couple pills and wait. For dogs, however, taking aspirin is a much more serious and complex process that requires precise measuring, timing, and monitoring of their condition. Over the counter medicine is required for quick, easy, commonplace treatments – none of which describe aspirin for dogs.
Aspirin is hardly alone in this regard. Other salicylate-containing compounds and over the counter substances and wellness products, such as shampoos, acne cream, makeup, and more can all cause severe poisoning in dogs if ingested.
What’s more, if you have a cat, it is likely to be even more sensitive to these poisoning effects, making aspirin an even worse choice for treating them.
Side Effects of Aspirin for Dogs
If you still need more convincing that giving dogs aspirin is a bad idea, let’s take a look at some of the side effects it can have on your four-legged friend. Some common yet violent signs of trouble include:
- Vomiting, especially if it’s bloody
- Black, tar-like stool
- Signs of respiratory distress, such as labored breathing or shortness of breath
- Lethargy and general weakness
- Changes in your dog’s typical thirst or urination levels
In addition to these common negative side effects, things can get worse still. If you notice any of the above symptoms in conjunction with more severe ones (extreme lethargy, vomiting, frequent urination, and other signs of liver trouble), your dog may be suffering from aspirin poisoning.
Severe symptoms of aspirin poisoning in dogs can include bone marrow suppression and problems with your dog’s nervous system (such as collapsing, cerebral edemas, and, even worse, tremors and seizures).
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it needs to see your vet immediately – and if they’re closed, you must take your dog to the closest open emergency pet treatment center. Treatment can require everything from gastrointestinal protectants to supportive care such as IV fluids as well as blood work and careful monitoring.
To make matters worse, your dog can be at special risk if it has any number of serious preexisting conditions, such as:
- Kidney or liver problems
- Complications from previous bouts of bleeding (or bleeding issues in general)
- Allergies to aspirin (obviously)
Veterinary Use of Aspirin
After all of that understandable cautioning, it might seem a bit contradictory to say that vets sometimes do use aspirin on dogs. However, this is only done in very rare and extreme cases. What’s more, vets don’t just offer a couple of over the counter aspirin pills. They offer options that are specially formulated for dogs, and do so with the utmost care, monitoring their condition very closely.
Just as importantly, vets don’t just use the kind of over the counter aspirin used by humans. Instead, they make use of special aspirin for dogs. These aspirins are often dolled out in more dog-friendly doses to avoid poisoning and other problems that can result from them overdosing.
The FDA does not explicitly approve of aspirin for dogs, even though it does allow the use of other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as:
Several of these are marketed under trade names, so check to see what name they’re going by on the market before buying any – and of course be sure to check with your vet.
Conditions Where Aspirin Is Used
Osteoporosis is by far one of the most common conditions in dogs that can be treated with aspirin via a veterinary prescription. They can also prescribe it for musculoskeletal inflammation. Aspirin’s status as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication is obviously well-suited for dealing with that.
How much aspirin your dog is prescribed and what kind is an open question that can depend on its size, breed, and other factors. It’s complex, which is why you’ll want to consult with your vet before giving them anything.
Alternatives to Aspirin
Needless to say, while there are potentially ways of offering some aspirin safely under strict vet supervision, the easiest way of avoiding that nightmare scenario is not to give your dog aspirin in the first place. That said, it can still be incredibly hurtful to feel helpless while your dog’s in pain. Thankfully, there are plenty of treatment painkilling alternatives available.
For starters, you can consult the list of NSAID medications listed above. In addition to those, you might want to consider some natural alternatives.
For example, turmeric, Boswellia, and devil’s claw are all possibilities. Whether or not you trust any of these is your own prerogative. They have differing degrees of effectiveness for different dogs, so you’ll want to see if they suit your dog’s size and breed.
Then there’s the big alternative option – CBD oil. It should be noted that the legality of CBD is still a hotly contested subject across the country, so you’ll need to check its specific legality and limitations in your state. That said, if your dog has pain problems in general or joint or seizure problems in particular, there is some evidence to suggest that CBD can be effective at treating these.
Figuring out what to do when your dog is experiencing extreme pain can send you into a serious panic. However, the best thing you can do is stay calm and call your vet.
In the meantime, consider some of the above alternatives to aspirin, and do what you can to empathize and comfort your dog – a little love goes a long way.