Can You Give a Dog Aspirin?

A Google search of “what can I give my dog for pain” will result in millions of pages of information; some educational; some not so helpful. It’s difficult when your dog is in pain and you don’t know how to fix it. Unfortunately, dogs can’t sit us down and tell us what ails them. So, in the absence of an immediate vet, we’re often left to our own devices, and the plethora of conflicting information we find on Google, to help us with a solution.

You might be tempted to give your dog medicine from your own cabinet. Sometimes that might be a viable option but not always. Aspirin is one of the cases where it’s best to stick with vet-approved medicines.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, commonly called NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). These drugs help to control signs of arthritis, including inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and joint pain in humans. There are also NSAIDs for animals which have been tested for specific animal breeds (such as your ailing dog).

Human approved pain-relief products are not good alternatives to approved veterinary pain-relief products. Many human-approved drugs, such as aspirin, can be toxic to animals. The use of approved animal NSAIDs is always preferable because the FDA has reviewed data establishing the safety and effectiveness of the animal product for its labeled use.

According to the FDA, even if data show an NSAID, such as aspirin, is safe and effective in people, the drug may not be safe and effective in dogs because the drug may:

* Last longer

* Have a higher absorption rate in the stomach and small intestine

* Reach higher blood levels

Dogs metabolize aspirin more slowly than people and these differences may lead to toxic effects in pets, such as bleeding, ulcers, gastrointestinal upset, and kidney damage. It would be difficult to determine the correct aspirin dosage to give your dog even if doing so for a very short amount of time. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some dogs given aspirin at some point that lived to tell about; it may have even relieved their pain. However, it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

A main benefit of an FDA-approved nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug for a specific animal breed is that it has been shown to be safe and effective in that species when used according to the label. Pain relievers meant for people do not have the same assurances of safety and effectiveness in pets. Arthritis in dogs is a leading cause of pain so there are medications specifically targeted to decrease their pain allowing them to move more easily. In addition, the use of dog steps can help prevent unnecessary stress to their joints.

Remember to always check with your veterinarian before giving your pet medications, particularly those coming from your own medicine cabinet.