Can I Give Aspirin to My Dog?
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Being on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, it is no surprise aspirin is commonly found in many households. While it is used to treat pain and other maladies, aspirin is not known as a strong drug. It can be used over the counter and is not known for having strong side effects. For this reason, many dog guardians consider giving aspirin to their dog when they are in pain.
If you ask yourself ‘can I give aspirin to my dog?’, then there are different aspects you need to consider. AnimalWised helps you make these considerations by looking into whether it is safe to give dogs aspirin and anything else we may need to consider.
Is aspirin safe for dogs?
Also known as acetylsalicylic acid, aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Other NSAIDs include ibuprofen which is commonly sold under the brand name Advil. Aspirin is widely used and can be purchase without subscription over the counter. It is used in both human and veterinary medicine, for various purposes. Due to its effect on the blood, it can be used to help problems of the heart. This is why it is used by some as a preventive medicine to reduce the risk of heart attacks and even certain cancers.
For animals, aspirin is most commonly prescribed to treat pain derived from musculoskeletal injuries and to prevent the formation of blood clots. The problem when administering aspirin for dogs is largely down to dosage. As aspirin we buy in pharmacies is for human use, it is specific to human physiology. When a dog is given the same amount, it can lead to poisoning. Dogs cannot metabolize drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol (commonly sold as Tylenol in the USA) in the same way. This means ingredients in these drugs might not properly break down in the body.
Difference between human and canine aspirin
There is no difference between the active ingredients of canine and human aspirin. The main difference is in dosage and other ingredients used to produce the drug. It will depend on the country and region, but dosages come in a variety of sizes. In the US, the standard dosage is 325 mg (it is 300 mg in the UK) and smaller doses are 81 mg (or 75 mg in the UK). For dogs, the standard dosage is 120 mg in the US. Aspirin for dogs is also often made with flavorings appealing to the dog such as beef or liver to encourage consumption.
However, as each dog has its own individual metabolism, different dogs will be more or less sensitive to the drug. For example, a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are very likely to have very different metabolisms. Some dogs may have an intolerance or allergy, so even small doses and trigger a reaction. This is why we should never administer aspirin to our dog without a veterinarian determining the dosage or even if it is necessary. If not, the consequences can be severe.
Symptoms of aspirin poisoning for dogs
Due to its possible side effects, we should not give human aspirin to dogs. As we state above, each dog will have a specific metabolism. A dog's reaction can vary from no reaction at all, mild adverse symptoms or serious drug poisoning. in the case of the latter, an overdose of aspirin in dogs can lead to:
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting with blood
- Stool with a tar-like consistency
- General weakness
- Respiratory difficulties
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
- Changes in urination
- Changes in water intake
- Renal insufficiency
- Cerebral edema
If we have given aspirin to our dog and we suspect an overdose, we need to take them to the veterinarian immediately. For milder cases, gastrointestinal issues may resolve themselves eventually as the drug leaves the dog's system. In acute drug poisoning in dogs, the dog may need intensive care. This may include therapies such as stomach pumping, fluid therapy and various medication treatments to restore health. Blood tests and other diagnostic tools may be carried out to determine the dog's status. These are treatment we cannot provide at home and we risk fatality if we do not take them to a professional.
Baby aspiring for dogs
Due to the ease of access when buying aspirin, alongside its widespread use, many think it is OK to self-administer it to their dog. They may be aware that there are different doses for humans when compared to canines. For this reason, they may think it is OK to give a dog baby aspirin thanks to its smaller dosage. Equally, they may think it is safe to break a standard dose aspirin in half. However, a half dose or baby aspirin for dogs can still cause intoxication. How badly it affects the dog will depend on the size of the dog, its metabolism and its health status.
This is why we need to stress again that the dosage of aspirin for dogs needs to be set by a veterinary medical professional. They will be able to assess the advantages or disadvantages for the individual dog. They can administer any necessary tests and check their medical records to assess whether there are any contraindications for the dog. They will also determine how long aspirin should be administered or if there is any need for it at all. Any prescription they provide will be formulated specifically for dogs.
How to give aspirin to a dog
Based on what we have explained, you will only be able to give aspirin to your dog on the basis of your veterinarian's recommendation. While this will differ depending on the individual, the general guideline for giving aspiring to a dog is 5 to 10 mg per pound (lb) of a dog's weight. This means if you have a small dog such as Pomeranian, they will likely need 25 to 50 mg of aspirin, whereas a Mastiff might need 10 to 20 times this amount.
When you have been prescribed aspirin by a veterinarian, they should give you all the information you need to administer the drug. The drug will only likely be needed once a day. If the dog is in greater pain, they will likely require a stronger medication. Here are some ways dog guardians can administer pills to their dogs:
- You can crumble the aspirin into their food as they are unlikely to find it appetizing.
- If the dog is not eating whole meals (likely due to illness), you can hide the pill in a treat or piece of food such as a cut up hot dog. Give them a normal one first, then the pill piece and then another normal treat to reward them.
- When dogs are not wanting to eat anything, you may have to give them the aspirin pill directly. To do this, you open their mouth, tilt their head back and place the aspirin pill at the back of their tongue. Close their mouth and rub their chin to reassure them and stimulate swallowing.
Some dogs may be unhappy and aggressive when ill, meaning putting your hand in their mouth is unwise. You can buy pill droppers which can help, but ideally you should seek a professional for help.
Anti-inflammatories for dogs
Aspirin for dogs can be harmful in this species. In many cases, a veterinarian will prescribe other analgesics or anti-inflammatories that maintain efficacy but reduce adverse effects. Although humans and dogs can use the same active ingredients on occasion, only the veterinarian can give us the recipe and the appropriate administration guidelines. Therefore, we should never be tempted to medicate ours on our own.
Even anti-inflammatories for veterinary use can cause gastroduodenal ulcers. For this reason, especially in prolonged treatments, we should administer them together with gastric protectors. These are drugs which act to protect the gastrointestinal system from the harm prolonged NSAID use can create.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
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