Can (and Should) You Use Aspirin to Treat a Dog’s Limp?

Pet Health


October 18, 2021

The last thing any dog owner wants to see is their four-legged friend howling out in pain. There’s nothing quite as heartrending as an innocent creature limping in pain, especially when it’s a loyal friend such as your beloved dog. The urge to help your dog in such a situation can be strong, but how can you be sure you’re actually helping and not doing more harm than good?

Case in point, aspirin. For humans, it can be an incredible relief as an over-the-counter painkiller. For dogs, however, it’s a much more complex (and potentially toxic) story.

Why Is Aspirin So Problematic for Dogs?

Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory agent used for over-the-counter pain relief – but that’s for humans. For dogs, aspirin isn’t as casual as simply popping a couple of pills and waiting a couple of hours to feel better. Instead, it is treated far more like a high risk medication that should only ever be doled out by vets, and even then only in severe situations.

When given under the wrong circumstances or in amounts that are too much for your dog to handle, aspirin can cause canines all kinds of trouble. Most notably, it can lead to aspirin poisoning and a host of serious side effects, including bloody stool, diarrhea, bloody vomit, lethargy, hyperthermia, seizures, and even potentially death.

Aspirin isn’t the only thing that raises this problem with dogs, either. There are other types of salicylate-containing compounds as well as other over-the-counter treatments (including acne cream, makeup, shampoos, and so on) that can also cause poisoning and other problems.

When Vets Use Aspirin

That being said, these nightmare scenarios are just that – worst-case situations that can arise when aspirin is given to dogs in an improper manner. It does not mean that aspirin cannot be given to dogs under any circumstances. It does mean, however, that you probably should not be giving any to dogs unless under explicit orders to do so from your vet.

Even then, you’ll need to follow their instructions and dosages to the letter to ensure your dog does not suffer any inadvertent poisoning. What’s more, vets don’t use the over-the-counter variant used by humans, but a dog-specific type of aspirin. The FDA does not explicitly okay the use of aspirin in dogs, though it does approve of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as:

  • Carprofen
  • Deracoxib
  • Firocoxib
  • Grapiprant
  • Meloxicam
  • Robenacoxib

Vets can resort to aspirin when dealing with conditions such as osteoporosis or musculoskeletal inflammation, where its status as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent makes it a natural choice. Both of these are also conditions where your dog may be left with a limp. However, you shouldn’t make the decision to use aspirin unilaterally and should instead consult with a vet before giving any to your dog.

What Kind of Limp?

All of this is putting the cart before the horse, however, or in this case the limp before the treatment. Not all dog limps are the same, and knowing which kind your four-legged friend is dealing with can help you decide which course of treatment is right for your dog. When working with your vet, they are bound to ask questions about the nature of the limp.

For example, when did the limp start? Was it gradual? Have they suffered any trauma? What leg is involved? Are they limping with more than one leg? Do they carry or drag their leg along while walking, but balance on it as normal when standing upright? Does your dog stumble when trying to walk? Do they take shorter steps than normal? Do they hold their leg above the ground entirely?

You’ll want to keep an eye out for signs of lameness, which can result from debilitating injuries to one or more parts of their leg (bones, nerves, ligaments, tendons, skin, and so on). Some causes are obvious, such as broken bones. Others may be harder to diagnose, such as infections or nerve damage. Once again, you’ll need to take your dog to a vet to be sure.

Helping Your Dog Recover

Whether or not your vet prescribes aspirin to help your dog deal with the pain of a limp, the road to recovery will involve much more than that. It’s important to recognize that that road can split off into many paths, and that the road to recovery isn’t always a linear or smooth one. Your vet may recommend different treatments at different times depending on your dog’s condition.

Some of the treatments they may recommend include:

  • Applying a heating pad or ice pack to the affected area
  • Ensuring your dog rests
  • Using a brace to support the affected bone or joint
  • Physical therapy
  • Massaging the leg
  • Surgery

This last option is obviously the most drastic, and is undertaken in the event of severe damage to the leg. Your vet may request an MRI beforehand to have a clearer picture of what’s going on before going forward with the surgery.

Other Options Besides Aspirin

Just because your dog has a limp doesn’t mean you need to resort to aspirin. There are many other pain relief options that you may wish to employ instead, not the least of which being CBD oil. There are a wide variety of CBD oils and gummies that are specifically formulated for use as a pain relief agent for dogs, and don’t have the same poisoning problem.

If you do opt for CBD oil, you’ll want to first check its legal status in your state or province. Even so, there is some evidence to suggest that it can be quite effective for dogs suffering from pain as well as seizures and other issues, so it may be an option worth exploring.

In addition, there are a wide range of all-natural options available. You might decide that Boswellia is a good pain relief agent for your dog, or think that devil’s claw is worth a try. With so many options to choose from, you’ll once again want to consult with your vet. They can help you determine which option, if any, fits your dog’s needs, size, and breed.

If you have come here by Googling “can I give my dog aspirin for a limp” you should hopefully see by now that the matter is a lot more complex than that.

On the one hand, there are limited conditions under which aspirin may be able to help your dog with pain. On the other hand, it will not cure your dog’s limp, and it must be prescribed in a very specific manner by a vet.

For addressing the pain as well as for treating the limp itself, there are many other, possibly safer options available.