As dog owners, it can be hard to see our furry family members in pain. When we’re in pain, it’s easy for us to just take an aspirin and call it a day. But what about our dogs—many people wonder if they can give a dog an aspirin? Instead of a late-night check-in with Dr. Google, talk to a vet now and keep reading to learn more about how to manage your dog’s pain.

What is aspirin?

Aspirin is classified as an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), which includes pain relievers or pain killers. You might have heard of other NSAIDs like ibuprofen, carprofen, and nabumetone and seen brand names like Advil and Aleve on the shelves at your local pharmacy.

Human and animal cells produce compounds called prostaglandins. When we’re ill or injured, these compounds promote inflammation that’s necessary for our bodies to heal. But this inflammation can often cause discomfort and less commonly fever. Luckily, NSAIDs can help reduce the symptoms of pain, fever, and inflammation we experience when our bodies heal naturally.

Is aspirin okay for dogs?

The short answer is no. Aspirin for dogs is not safe.

Although there are a number of over-the-counter treatments for humans that can be used for dogs with approval from a vet—artificial tears, topical antibiotic ointment, and antihistamines, to name a few—aspirin is never OK for your pets. In short, there is no aspirin dose for dogs that is considered safe.

“Although a common at-home NSAID for humans, aspirin is not approved for use in dogs,” said Rick Paynter, DVM, director of medicine at Owings Mills Veterinary Center in Maryland. “Because there are FDA-approved alternatives for dogs that have significantly less risk available by prescription through your veterinarian (i.e. carprofen), I strongly discourage the use of aspirin for pain relief in dogs, and recommend contacting your veterinarian for dog-safe alternatives.”

Giving your dog aspirin can cause serious illness, including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Acid-base abnormalities
  • Hemorrhage
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Death

An overdose of aspirin, even low-dose aspirin or “baby aspirin,” can result in permanent liver damage or kidney damage in dogs.

So, if your dog has osteoarthritis or other inflammatory issues, don’t worry, you’ve got options. A vet can prescribe an approved medication to help make your dog more comfortable.

You might be wondering about other pain relievers like Tylenol. You should never give your dog Tylenol either. Tylenol is highly toxic to dogs and is not a safe option to relieve their pain. The toxic amount depends on the weight, age, and general health of your dog. The larger the dose ingested, the greater the risk of toxicity.

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Aspirin alternatives for dogs

Carprofen is one drug that is FDA-approved and is used to treat osteoarthritis and other conditions.

Other possible options for pet pain relief include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massages
  • Physical therapy including aquatic therapy
  • Dietary modification & weight loss, if needed
  • Dietary supplementation with natural anti-inflammatory foods and vitamins
  • Regular low-impact exercise

Navigating injury and illness for our pets is challenging—we’re here for you. If you have questions about giving your dog any medication, you should always speak with a licensed veterinarian first.

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