Using Aspirin for dogs in pain can be fairly safe provided you're very careful about getting the dosage correct, and that you don't use it as a long-term treatment.
If you want to give Fido some aspirin for pain or discomfort, there are a lot of things you need to know before you pop that first pill in his mouth.
Aspirin can have side effects which range from mild to severe (even life-threatening), and it's important to understand how this drug works and what safety precautions you need to follow.
Use these links to jump straight to a specific section or simply scroll down to get all the information you need on giving aspirin to your dog.
Aspirin is primarily a pain-killer. It is also a blood-thinning medication and reduces the bloods' ability to clot.
It can relieve pain effectively, and relatively safely, in your dog when used for SHORT PERIODS.
However, it's made from acetylsalicylic acid and when used for an extended length of time it can actually destroy cartilage and end up making joint problems much worse.
Because aspirin also thins the blood it can make existing blood clotting disorders worse, or cause internal bleeding.
There are some health conditions which can interact with aspirin in a dangerous, even fatal, way.
If your dog has any of these issues, please do not give him aspirin without consulting your veterinarian first.
Regular 'people' aspirin formulas shouldn't be given to a dog for more than 5 days maximum.
Because Aspirin thins the blood, it's not a good choice for dogs/pups who have had surgery or an injury as it could cause more (or internal) bleeding, which could be very serious.
Aspirin that has been specifically formulated for dogs is the recommended choice, but remember that these also have a recommended duration of use.
To avoid the common side-effect of stomach or digestive system irritation, choose 'buffered' or 'enteric-coated' tablets.
Opinions vary on whether or not dogs are able to absorb the full dosage of medication from enteric-coated tablets because it takes a long time for Fidos' stomach acids to break down the coating.
Buffered aspirin is a better choice because it contains ingredients which help to minimize the inflammation or irritation but still allows the drug to be absorbed properly.
The absolute best choice for your dog is a buffered aspirin which has been specifically formulated for dogs.
Giving your dog the correct dose of aspirin is critically important because an overdose, even a small one, could have disastrous consequences.
It might help to know that a standard adult Aspirin tablet is 320mg and a baby aspirin tablet is usually 80mg.
Aspirin formulated for dogs is available in different dosages.
For small breeds you often see 60mg tablets. For larger breeds 300mg tablets are common.
It's very important to make sure that you get the dose right, especially when you're treating small/tiny dogs or puppies, and using low-dose tablets makes this easier to do.
The chart below will help you find the recommended dosage of aspirin for your dog.
The blue line is the minimum dosage (always start with this) and the red line shows the maximum dosage.
For example, using the chart you can see that a 40lb dog should be given 200mg, and the maximum dose for the same dog would be 400mg.
Instead of worrying about getting the right formula of regular aspirin, it's much easier (and safer!) to use Aspirin that has been especially designed for dogs.
For most dogs there shouldn't be any appreciable side effects of giving them aspirin for a few days as long as you keep within the recommended daily dosage above.
Small or tiny dogs, and young puppies are at the biggest risk of problems and you need to be especially careful about measuring out the correct dosage (this of course applies to ALL medications) for your dog in these situations.
Aspirin has the side-effect of interfering with the blood-clotting process and is irritating to a dogs' stomach.
The side effects of giving aspirin to dogs are usually seen in the digestive system, but it can also affect the kidneys and liver which are involved in breaking-down and excreting the drug.
The mildest and most common ones can include:
The more dangerous side effects of aspirin in dogs occur when the lining of the stomach, intestines or bowel is irritated or damaged.
This can cause pain and internal bleeding.
Organ damage is also a possibility, especially with long-term use, maximum dosage or overdose.
The most worrying of these aspirin side effects include:
These symptoms are very serious, so please get your dog to a vet right away if you notice any of them!
You can help minimize the digestive irritation caused by aspirin by making sure that you never give it to your dog when he has an empty tummy.
It's frighteningly easy to give your pet too much aspirin by mistake - either by miscalculating the dose or giving it too often.
Even a little too much can cause serious problems, especially in young puppies, small breeds or senior dogs.
If you realize that this has happened, you need to get veterinary help immediately or your dog could die.
If your regular vet clinic is closed, get him to an emergency pet hospital or 24 hour clinic.
Prompt vet attention and the right treatment could save his life.
Some of the signs of an aspirin overdose are so mild that you may not realize anything is wrong until there's serious trouble,
Several of the signs of aspirin poisoning can also be normal side-effects which are short-lived and not dangerous, but if you're in any doubt always get vet help. Better safe than sorry.
Because of this, it's crucial to monitor and double-check dosage at all times.
Here are some of the symptoms you might see in a dog who has received an overdose of aspirin....
Blood tests can be used to determine the level of aspirin toxicity in your dogs' body.
This knowledge is then used to decide what treatments are needed.
There's an approximately 12 hour 'window' to get veterinary treatment started before symptoms become severe.
This is why it's important to be vigilant about monitoring Fidos' intake of aspirin and any side-effects he may experience.
Your vet may induce vomiting and/or pump your dogs' stomach to remove as much of the aspirin from his system as possible.
But of course, anything absorbed into his bloodstream can't be removed in this way, which is why you need to get help for your dog asap.
If any organ damage, stomach ulcers or damage to the intestines has taken place then surgery or other options may be needed.
Blood transfusions, IV fluids and other treatments might also be used.