Aspirin for Dogs (Is it a Good Idea?)
As dog owners, we’re compelled to be compassionate to our pooches. When we see our pup in pain, we’ll naturally want to help him feel better. During these times, we may think about giving them aspirin, since it helps us with our aches and pains. Should we?
Danger in Your Medicine Cabinet
If you notice that your pooch is in pain, don’t shake a couple of aspirin, or ibuprofen, or Tylenol out of its container and feed it to him. Human meds and over-the-counter pain meds delivered to a dog in such a casual manner can have very dangerous, if not fatal effects for dogs. Therefore, avoid doing so at all costs.
Why Aspirin Poses a Danger
The reason why aspirin straight from your home bottle is so dangerous has to primarily do with blocking a particular enzyme called cyclooxygenase. This enzyme is charged with producing certain hormones responsible for causing inflammation, fever, and pain. If that’s all the enzyme did, there wouldn’t be a problem.
However, the hormones that are blocked also do several key functions in a dog’s body that are essential for healthy day-to-day living. Some of these functions include maintaining a proper blood flow to the kidneys and producing the layer of mucus that protects the GI tract’s inner lining.
If these particular functions are lowered by a severe amount, dogs could develop myriad of health issues. Some of these like vomiting and diarrhea can be mild, while others like liver dysfunction or kidney failure, can be quite serious.
What About Tylenol? That’s Not Aspirin – Is That Safe?
Acetaminophen – the clinical term for Tylenol – is not aspirin, but it poses an even greater danger to your dog. If your pooch takes in a toxic amount of acetaminophen, they can experience the destruction of liver cells, kidney damage, and a severe disruption of oxygen delivery throughout his body.
The amount of canine-related toxicity in acetaminophen as it relates to dogs is in direct proportion of how much is ingested. The larger the dosage, the greater the damage. This is different to how cats react to the drug, as even a tiny dose of the substance is poisonous.
Why Do Some Sources Say Aspirin is Okay for Dogs?
You may have come across a few sources extolling the virtues of giving your dog aspirin to remedy his pain. If so, hearing about how it’s a bad idea to give your pooch aspirin may sound like a contradiction of sorts. However, this apparent conflict demonstrates that dogs and aspirin are not necessarily a black and white issue.
Dogs can have aspirin as long as it’s administered in proper, smaller doses as prescribed by a veterinarian. Indeed, the right dosage of aspirin can allow it to release its pain relief properties without compromising the health of your pooch in other ways. In fact, it can be a very helpful medication in this manner.
The problem with aspirin boils down to the amount given to your dog. Too much aspirin will be toxic for your pooch, which again could be fatal. Considering toxicity begins at about 30 milligrams per pound, you can rest assured the aspirin that you shake out of your bottle will be the wrong dose.
You should never do anything to conceptually lessen the dosage of the aspirin, such as slicing the aspirin in two and giving him half. Frankly, doing something like this is phenomenally stupid, and it still could potentially put your pooch in an unnecessary risk – one that could cost him his life.
You should also avoid the temptation of providing baby aspirin to your pooch. Even though a baby aspirin will have a lower dosage than regular aspirin to compensate for a child’s body size, the dosage is still going to be much greater than what a dog should ingest.
If you see your dog in pain that could conceivably be reduced by aspirin, do the right thing and schedule an appointment with your vet. Your dog may be in a little extra pain between the phone call and the actual visit, but it beats the alternative.
A Look at Dog-Formulated Painkillers
When you take your dog to the vet for pain, he or she may prescribe your four-legged friend an aspirin-like painkiller that’s specifically formulated for your pooch. These drugs, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), help reduce stiffness, swelling, and joint pain, just like aspirin does in humans.
Typical NSAIDs include Rimadyl, Previcox, Meloxicam, and Deracoxib. These drugs typically have very few side effects, but kidney, liver, or digestive problems could develop in rare cases. While the severe side effects are somewhat rare, they can be caught as long as you monitoring your pooch.
If you see your dog exhibiting changes in his behavior or suffering a loss of appetite, this could be a sign of an NSAID-fueled issue occurring. You could also see various physical issues crop up, such as the development of scabby, red skin or tarry and/or runny stool. As soon as you see these signs, go to the vet without delay.
In some cases, your vet could prescribe a painkiller that’s a little heavier duty than mere aspirin. These special painkillers usually are given in conjunction with special issues where the pain is more than temporary.
For instance, your vet could prescribe Amanadine; a painkiller that could help quell the effects of pain derived from arthritis, cancer, or disk disease. Your vet could also prescribe Gabapentin, which hones in on pain derived from nerve damage. If you have an older dog, your vet could administer Tramadol to help with perpetual discomfort.
Sometimes, vets will prescribe supplements to not only thwart pain, but to also help reverse damage that could cause the pain itself. For instance, your vet could prescribe glucosamine if your dog is suffering from weakened cartilage or muscle atrophy. This could accelerate muscle and cartilage repair while it helps minimize pain.
Diet and Pain Prevention
If you’re a little skittish on giving your dog vet-prescribed aspirin, you can help lessen his pain by modifying his diet. This is especially the case if your dog is suffering from a chronic pain issue, such as arthritis. There are a few dietary regiments that you and your vet can deploy to bring about relief.
For instance, foods that have an increased amount of omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce joint inflammation and its associated pain. Also, switching to a low caloric, high protein diet could allow overweight dogs to lose weight without losing muscle mass, which could also reduce inflammation.
What Should I Do If My Dog Accidentally Eats Aspirin?
While you should (hopefully) know by now that you shouldn’t be giving your pooch a painkiller, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t help himself to a pill or two that accidentally fell to the floor. If this happens, there are a few steps you need to take for sake of your dog’s health.
The most important thing to do is to remain calm. You never want to show your pooch that your panicked over his health, because that will only serve to agitate him even more. This could end up causing him more discomfort.
Take your dog to the vet’s office or emergency pet hospital immediately. Don’t play the “wait and see what happens” game in this situation. Remember, taking in too much aspirin is essentially an overdose for your dog – be sure to treat it like one.
You should call the vet office before arriving, as you may be instructed to induce vomiting. Once at the vet’s office, he or she will run a battery of tests to obtain a conclusive and accurate diagnosis. Your dog’s treatment for the condition will largely depend on this diagnosis.
It should be noted that if you’re seeing symptoms that seemingly point to excess aspirin ingestion, that doesn’t mean he’s suffering from the condition. Other serious illnesses such as pancreatitis have symptoms that closely mimic that of aspirin toxicity. Only a succinct diagnosis from your vet will let you know precisely what’s happening.
Taking Preventative Measures
If you have a dog in the house, it is important that you treat storage for your aspirin and other medications in the same manner you’d treat them if children were in the home. Keep aspirin out of the reach of your dogs at all times.
While you do this, don’t underestimating your pooch’s intelligence or penchant for nosiness. Dogs are inherently curious, and some dogs are bred to be detectives of sorts. Make sure your idea of keeping it out of his reach isn’t a place where he can poke around easily.
Be Very Careful With Your Dog
Dogs and aspirin can be a somewhat tricky subject to breach, just because its proper usage can sometimes be so misunderstood. But as long as you keep in mind that the only person allowed to give your dog an aspirin is your veterinarian, you’ll be in good shape. Eventually, your dog will be in good shape, too.