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📷 by James Yarema

The essentials

  • Don’t give your dog aspirin — Aspirin isn’t recommended by vets to manage pain in dogs because it can be toxic.
  • If your dog accidentally eats aspirin — Call your vet immediately for instructions.
  • Monitor your dog — If your dog has taken aspirin, monitor for signs of aspirin toxicity and call your vet if you notice anything.
  • Consult your vet — Ask your vet about safe ways to help your pup if they’re in pain. They may recommend another NSAID or natural pain remedy.

As a pet owner, you want to do everything you can to keep your pup from experiencing pain. So, while you might be tempted to reach into the medicine cabinet for some aspirin to soothe what’s hurting your pup, you shouldn’t do that.

🚨 Aspirin and other medications classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be toxic in many situations regardless of how small the dose is.

What is aspirin and what’s it used for? 

Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. In this same class of medication are things like Naproxen (Aleve), and Ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin). These human medications are used to treat pain, inflammation and reduce fevers in people. If you’ve ever had a headache, toothache, or swollen ankle, chances are you’ve taken an NSAID before.

Another way these medications are used in humans is to prevent blood clots. Some people take baby aspirin daily to prevent heart attacks. Baby aspirin is also not suitable for dogs, so treat this the same as regular adult aspirin and clear it with your vet before giving it to your pup.

You may be surprised to learn that aspirin is found in other products including Pepto-Bismol, acne medication, and analgesics (topical pain relievers) like Icy-hot and Bengay. This is why you need to keep your medicines (both oral and topical) locked in a cabinet to keep away from your dog.

Vets used to prescribe aspirin for dogs to treat joint pain. However, now there are now (thankfully) safer NSAIDS available for dogs. For an upset stomach, your vet may also recommend treating your dog with Pepto-Bismol, but this isn’t something you should do unless the vet says it’s okay. Your vet can also help you with the proper dosage based on your dog’s size and condition.

Why is aspirin lethal to some dogs?

Aspirin is lethal to some dogs because of how it works. Aspirin blocks inflammatory and non-inflammatory chemical processes in a dog’s body. This medication doesn’t have the capability of inhibiting only the inflammatory chemical processes. By not being selective, aspirin can cause severe side effects like gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure.

There are safer NSAIDs now available for dogs that can block just the inflammatory pathways in a dog’s body and have less side effects. So while aspirin prevents your dog from feeling pain, it can also have a negative impact on your dog’s gastrointestinal system, kidney, liver, and ability to form blood clots.

Your dog’s medical condition may also play a factor in why they might get sick when taking aspirin. If your dog has a history of kidney damage or liver disease, previous clotting disorders, and even if they are taking certain medications like steroids — It may impact your pup’s ability to use aspirin as a safe treatment.

What are the signs of aspirin poisoning in dogs?

You’ll want to monitor for negative side effects of aspirin and signs of aspirin poisoning if your pup accidentally consumed or was given it. These include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in thirst or urination
  • Black, tarry stool
  • Respiratory changes
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Tremors or seizures

Should you see any of these symptoms, it’s important that you call your vet immediately.

🚨 If you can’t get a hold of your vet’s office, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

You’ll need to act quickly because aspirin poisoning can cause liver damage, bleeding disorders, gastrointestinal ulcers, kidney dysfunction or failure, hyperthermia, nervous system dysfunction, bone marrow suppression, coma, etc.

How do vets treat aspirin poisoning?

While there’s no “cure” or antidote for consuming aspirin, your vet will try to remove as much of the toxin as possible. The vet may induce vomiting, use activated charcoal to try to absorb as much of the aspirin as possible, or even hospitalize your pup to provide supportive care. This may include giving IV fluids and running blood work to check for blood loss and elevations in liver and kidney values.

When your dog has completed treatment, your vet will provide additional instructions for you to continue caring for your pup at home. This may include a few days on a bland diet and avoiding aspirin (and other medications like it) in the future.

What are alternative pain relievers for dogs?  

For pain relief, veterinarians are no longer recommending aspirin for dogs due to the severe side effects that this medication can cause. There are much safer NSAIDS available now that your local veterinarian can prescribe. These could include:

  • Carprofen
  • Meloxicam
  • Previcox
  • Dermaxx
  • Galliprant

Tylenol, also known as Acetaminophen, is another over-the-counter medication that people take to alleviate pain. However, do NOT give your dogs Tylenol as it’s toxic! It can cause liver failure and other very severe side effects like trouble breathing and death.

Depending on the nature and severity of your pet’s pain, you may be able to try a natural remedy. Some of these have been shown to improve symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis. These could include:

  • Massage therapy
  • Laser therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Water therapy
  • Herbal supplements including Arnica or CBD oil
  • Joint supplements
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil)

👉 Consult with your vet before giving your dog any herbal supplements.

Alternatively, if your pup’s in severe or more acute pain, they may need stronger pain medication. Your vet may give your pup a prescription for one of the following pain medications:

  • Gabapentin
  • Amantadine
  • Tramadol
  • Buprenorphine

Managing your pup’s pain without damaging side effects will be your vet’s priority. If your pup’s in pain, communicate with your vet and let them know of any symptoms or changes in behavior.

Remember to lock away the aspirin

Keep all types of aspirin including aspirin tablets and products containing aspirin away from your pup. This includes keeping topical products with aspirin and baby aspirin away from your dog.

👉 When used properly, some over the counter medicines are safe for dogs, like Benadryl, which can be used to reduce your dog’s allergy symptoms.