Pet Care Blog

Can You Give Dogs Aspirin For Pain? Vets Say No

Ricky Walther, DVM
Dr. Ricky Walther
Associate Veterinarian - Petco

Seeing your pup hurting is one of the worst things that can happen to you as a pet parent. In these situations, your first thought might be — what can I give my dog for pain?

However, before you give your dog aspirin for pain, there are many things you should know and safety precautions to follow.

Table of Contents

Pro Tip: Too much aspirin can cause poisoning in dogs, so it’s extremely important to use caution and heed your veterinarian’s advice. Pet insurance can help cover the cost of vet exams, medical treatments, and safe pain meds for dogs — so you can save money while giving your dog the quality care they deserve.

What is aspirin?

Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) commonly used as a pain reliever in humans. It alleviates pain by blocking messengers in the nervous system known as prostaglandins.

NSAIDs such as aspirin, naproxen, and carprofen can decrease fever and inflammation. They may also be used as blood-thinners, thereby reducing the likelihood of blood clot formation.

Can I give my dog aspirin for pain?

No, it’s important to note that aspirin is not widely recommended for dogs. This medication is rarely suggested by veterinarians, except in very rare circumstances, because the risks are too significant.

Risks of aspirin in dogs

Aspirin poisoning can occur in a single dose or repeated dosing. It's very easy to accidentally give your dog pain medication in excess quantity or frequency, leading to potentially severe health complications. Too much medication may cause toxicosis, which can be especially dangerous in small dogs, geriatric dogs, nursing dogs, and puppies.

Some of the most common symptoms of aspirin overdose in dogs include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Breathing fast
  • Dehydration
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Severe vomiting
  • Bleeding orally or rectally
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Loss of balance or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Collapse

If you see these clinical signs of toxicity in your pet, be sure to seek help immediately.

Increased risk factors

Some health conditions can negatively impact the usage of aspirin in dogs, further decreasing its safe efficacy. It might reduce your pet’s ability to heal and should NOT be given to dogs with:

  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Drug allergy

Aspirin can also be dangerous in dogs with a recent injury or surgery. Pain medication should always be given with caution and after consultation with a veterinarian, especially if your pet has any of the conditions listed above.

Side effects of aspirin in dogs

Dogs that take aspirin commonly experience adverse reactions. Side effects are usually related to the digestive tract, but the drug can also affect the liver and kidneys. The most common side effects usually include diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

More serious side effects include damage or irritation of the intestines, bowel, or stomach lining. This can cause pain and internal bleeding, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea mucus, vomiting, and black or tarry stools. Organ damage is also a possibility, especially with long-term use or overdose.

Drug interactions with aspirin

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the following medications should be used with caution when given with aspirin:

  • Alendronate
  • ACE inhibitors
  • SSRI antidepressants
  • Aminoglycosides
  • Corticosteroids
  • Digoxin
  • Furosemide
  • Heparin
  • Glucosamine
  • Oral anticoagulants
  • Methotrexate
  • Hyaluronidase
  • NSAIDs
  • Phenobarbital
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
  • Blood glucose-lowering agents
  • Vitamin E
  • Sulfinpyrazone
  • Probenecid
  • Tetracycline
  • Spironolactone
  • Tiludronate
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Valproate products
  • Pentosane polysulfate sodium
  • Urinary acidifying or alkalizing drugs

Be sure to inform your veterinarian about all medications, vitamins, and supplements your dog may be taking upon consultation.

When do vets recommend aspirin for dogs?

Veterinarians do not recommend giving dogs aspirin for pain. However, due to its blood-thinning properties, it may occasionally be recommended for canines with clotting diseases.

Proper aspirin dosage for dogs

Enlist the help of your veterinarian to calculate the correct aspirin dosage for dogs. They will recommend the amount of medication and frequency of administration. The proper dosage will largely depend on your pet’s size and medical history. In general, larger dogs require larger doses of medicine than smaller dogs, however, there are certain circumstances that can impact the safe dose range. Follow your vet’s instructions closely and monitor your pet for potential side effects.

NOTE: No dog should ever take aspirin for more than five consecutive days, regardless of its size.

Types of aspirin for dogs

This over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication comes in several different formats, so when your vet calculates the safe dosage of aspirin for your dog’s condition, make sure to ask about which type is best for your specific pet. For example, enteric-coated tablets are designed to protect humans from stomach irritation, but they’re not recommended for dogs because the coating will remain undigested in canines, causing the medication to be excreted whole through stool.

Vets may recommend baby aspirin for dogs with clotting disorders, especially in small breeds. Baby aspirin contains a lower dose of the active ingredient, acetylsalicylic acid, compared to the standard compound. Other vets suggest a buffered aspirin for dogs because it’s specifically formulated with ingredients that help minimize irritation, but still allows for proper absorption.

Safe pain medications for dogs

If your pet has osteoarthritis or another inflammatory condition, your veterinarian might prescribe carprofen or meloxicam as an alternative to aspirin. In cases of joint pain, vets usually recommend glucosamine supplements for dogs as well as dietary changes that promote joint health.

There are a few natural remedies for dog pain that are believed* to help by reducing inflammation. Some examples include:

  • Turmeric
  • Fish oil
  • Boswellia
  • Chondroitin
  • Devil’s claw
  • Essential oils

There is no scientific evidence as of yet that can support the claims that the remedies above reduce inflammation.

When to see the vet for a dog in pain

Dogs often tend to conceal their discomfort, but there are several red flags you can watch out for. Common signs of pain in dogs include restlessness, limping, crying out, loss of appetite, and constant biting or licking at a certain spot on their body.

If you notice your dog is in pain, don’t try to give them something from your medicine cabinet haphazardly — call your vet instead.

Remember, if you suspect an aspirin overdose or an adverse reaction, contact your vet right away. If they aren’t available, get in touch with an emergency facility.

Key Takeaways

  • Aspirin should never be given to dogs without a veterinarian’s approval and recommended dosage.
  • If your vet has recommended a low-dose NSAID, baby aspirin, or buffered aspirin as a blood-thinner, then follow their instructions carefully.
  • Should you notice any adverse reactions, stop giving your dog aspirin and contact your vet right away.

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Ricky Walther, DVM

Dr. Ricky Walther
Associate Veterinarian - Petco

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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