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Why Can't I Give My Dog Baby Aspirin?

Updated on December 22, 2016

“Can I give my dog baby aspirin?” Well, before you do, consider this statement by Paracelsus, a fifteenth century Australian physician/alchemist, “What is there that is not a poison? All things are poisonous; the dose determines that a thing is not a poison.”1

The reality is all drugs have the potential to be life-threatening if used improperly or in the wrong dose. Here we discuss the dangers of giving dogs medications that are formulated for humans, and provide you with facts so you can answer this question for yourself.

It's always wise to get the vet to answer your questions about pain relief for your pet.
It's always wise to get the vet to answer your questions about pain relief for your pet. | Source

What Is Baby Aspirin?

Baby aspirin is one of a group of drugs classified as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), which are used to relieve pain and to reduce inflammation. One baby aspirin tablet contains 81 mg. of aspirin, while one aspirin tablet contains 325 mg. of aspirin.

Dogs and humans metabolize drugs differently. An 81 mg. dose of aspirin is not eliminated from the dog’s body as quickly as it is from the human's so there is a greater risk of the drug accumulating in an organ like the kidney and leading to toxicity. According to a report in the Merck Veterinary Manual, “the elimination half-life of aspirin in dogs is 7.5 hours.”2

Factors like the size of the dog, the weight, the age, and the overall health contribute to the risk factors. For instance, one baby aspirin tablet does not have the same effect on a Saint Bernard as it does on a Chihuahua.

Your vet considers all these factors and rules out other diseases before he or she decides to use a NSAID as a treatment for pain. Because he or she is acquainted with your pet's total health history and state of health, they are in the best position to decide upon the appropriate treatment and dosage amounts.

Is Aspirin Safe for Dogs?

What About Side Effects?

The Merck Veterinary Manual states, “Gastric ulcers were seen by day 30 in 66% of dogs given aspirin at 35 mg/kg, PO, TID.”3

Gastric ulcers and kidney failure are the most common adverse side effects of NSAID toxicity in canines. Symptoms of aspirin toxicity include but are not limited to diarrhea, vomiting, bloody stools, seizures or death.

Why Would the Vet Prescribe This?

Vets may prescribe baby aspirin for dogs to relieve pain from sprained muscles or joint pain from conditions like arthritis. It is sometimes used post operatively to treat pain. However, they may prefer to use one of the safer canine-formulated NSAIDs like Rimadyl ® or Deramaxx ®.

How Much is Safe?

Deciding on the proper dose is best left up to the vet because determining the proper amount of aspirin in relation to the dog’s weight is difficult.

According to an article by Dr. Mike Richards, the recommended dosage range is between 5 to 15 mg per pound of body weight.

Given that baby aspirin is sold in 81 mg. tablets, it is easy to imagine how difficult it is to calculate the effective dose, and then cut the pill into precisely the right milligram dose.

Going back to the Merck Veterinary Manual, we find: "Because aspirin is not approved for veterinary use, definitive efficacy studies have not been performed to establish effective dosages.”3

Clearly, trying to decide whether or not to give a dog aspirin is a complicated decision, which is probably better left to a professional.

Now that you know the facts, you are in a better position to answer the question “Can I give my dog baby aspirin?” and you realize why you shouldn't.

It's really important to know what you are doing before you give any first aid treatment to your pets.

References

1 - Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital, University of California, Davis, Animal Pharm News, August 2004, Toxicology for Companion Animals, accessed 10/20/2010

2 & 3 - Merck Veterinary Manual, Specific Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, Aspirin, 2008, accessed 10/20/2010

Vet Info, Aspirin Tolerance, Mike Richards, DVM, accessed 10/20/2010

Should I Give My Dog Aspirin? Your Thoughts?

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    • DonnaCosmato profile image
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      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you for reading this and commenting on it, Sinea Pine. According to the experts I interviewed, there are specially formulated medications (prescription and OTC) to treat canine conditions such as arthritis that are safe to use.

      I'm actually working with several of them now on a follow-up article to this one that deals specifically with the recommended medications for pain relief for dog arthritis.

      I'm curious to learn what they suggest as I've had dogs in the past with arthritis and it's so hard to watch them limping around the house. I'm planning to post it here in early December if I can coordinate all the interviews in a timely manner.

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 5 years ago from Northeastern United States

      This is so interesting. Our son's dog, Cooper, has arthritis and the vet sent them to Petsmart to buy an over the counter dog aspirin with glucosamine in it. I assumed that the aspirin was like humans take. There must be a difference.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
      Author

      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for reading this and commenting!However, just to be clear,if a vet prescribes this for your pet, you can trust his or her professional judgment. I'm just suggesting that as owners we not try to self-diagnose:)

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      My vet has told us to use baby aspirin on our dogs in the past. If I had read your article before I would have thought tw3ice before I did. Thanks

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
      Author

      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks, Hillbilly Zen! Have I told you yet how much I love your dry sense of humor? Thanks for stopping by and taking time to read and to comment - I really appreciate you:)

    • Hillbilly Zen profile image

      Hillbilly Zen 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Great Hub, Ms. Donna, and great cautionary "tail" ;) Up and useful!

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
      Author

      Donna Cosmato 5 years ago from USA

      You're welcome, Barbara! I had no idea before I was assigned this series and did this interview that something as commonplace as baby aspirin could be so deadly. I'm glad this was useful for you.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Kay Badder 5 years ago from USA

      I guess calling the vet first is the best option. Many times, he'll prescribe things like Benadryl for allergies etc that are human drugs, but your helpful article lets me know not to try anything he hasn't told me to give the dog. Thanks for the info.

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