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Can Dogs Take Aspirin? Facts & Risks (Vet Answer)

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

By Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

sick australian shepherd dog lying on the floor

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Written by

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a common pain medication for humans. When people get a headache, there is an automatic instinct to reach for the bottle of aspirin and pop one to help alleviate the pain. That can raise the question as to whether a dog can take aspirin. The short answer is no. If you see your dog in pain, you might have the urge to share some of your common medications with them. But you need to resist the urge.

Aspirin is not approved for veterinary use and its ideal dose in dogs is unknown. You should never give your dog any medication that has been made for human consumption. Very occasionally vets can prescribe aspirin to dogs, but the use and dosage is very different to that in humans. You should only ever give aspirin under the direction of your veterinarian.

Aspirin is prescribed for different things in dogs than it is in humans. It is not used to treat headaches in dogs and should not be used as a painkiller. There are much better and safer drugs for this, and it is very easy to cause serious harm to your dog if aspirin is over or misused. Here is what you need to know before you give your dog any aspirin.

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What Is Aspirin?

Aspirin is a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It works by targeting inflammation and is used to treat pain, aches, headaches, and fever. Aspirin belongs to the same family as ibuprofen, naproxen, and carprofen, and these other medicines are never prescribed to dogs. They can, in fact, be toxic to them.

Image Credit: Shane Maritch, Shutterstock

Only Give Aspirin With Advice From Your Veterinarian

You should only give your dog medication at the direction of your veterinarian. It can be unwise and dangerous to give your dog medications off the shelf without any direction from a veterinarian. Dogs’ bodies work completely differently from human bodies, and they do not digest, absorb, and process medication in the same way that humans do. That means you might think you are helping your dog by giving them medication from your own stash, but in reality, you could be harming them, ending up in the emergency clinic.

It is very important to mention that cats are much more sensitive to aspirin poisoning than dogs and you should be extra careful not to leave any aspirin tablets around if you have cats at home.

For example, aspirin is used to treat headaches in humans, but in dogs, it is used to prevent clot formation in certain types of anemia and very occasionally to treat pain caused by osteoarthritis. If that is surprising to you, you are not alone. Many people don’t realize that human and dog medications are very different from one another.

Thoroughbred Corgi dog is examined. Veterinary clinic
Image Credit: Andrii Medvednikov, Shutterstock

Dog Medication vs. Human Medication

One reason that dogs can’t take human medicine (and vice versa) is that dog metabolism is different from human metabolism. That means that a dog will digest, absorb, and process a pill completely differently than a human would. That can lead to unpredictable results if you give drugs to your dog without your veterinarian’s guidance.

Generally, in veterinary medicine, drug doses are calculated very carefully, based on patient weight. There is a huge variety of dog sizes and breeds and therefore one size tablet does not fit all! Human medicines are designed for people and, even though some of them can be used in both species, some others can have very different effects in dogs leading to severe side effects or even poisoning.

Owner giving medicine in a pill to his dog
Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

When to Avoid Giving Your Dog Any Aspirin

We have explained the reasons why you should not give aspirin to a healthy dog. Furthermore, if your dog has any of the following health issues, you should never give aspirin in any of the following circumstances.

  • Taking other medications
  • Allergies to aspirin or other NSAIDs
  • Digestive problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver problems
  • Bleeding issues
  • Cancer

This is why it is so important to only give medication that has been prescribed by your veterinarian. Your vet not only knows the right dose to give to your dog, but they know how each medication interacts with others and which dogs are contraindicated depending on your dog’s health problems.

a sick beagle dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: Elena Loza, Shutterstock

Signs of an Aspirin Overdose (Toxicity)

Many dogs can develop dangerous side effects and toxicity when they receive the wrong dose of aspirin. Your dog may develop aspirin intoxication if you give too much aspirin in a short amount of time, if given an incorrect dose, if it was mixed with other medications, or if your dog has any of the conditions listed above. Toxicity is also possible if your dog accidentally gets into aspirin you have lying around the house. Some dogs like to chew up pill bottles, and if they get into aspirin, they can get sick.

These are the signs that you need to look out for that could indicate that your dog ingested too much aspirin. If your dog has any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately.

  • Noticeable loss of appetite
  • Vomiting with or without blood
  • Diarrhea with or without blood
  • Hemorrhage or severe bleeding
  • Lethargy
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Stop producing urine
  • Excessive thirst
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Ignoring these signs can lead to massive health issues or even death. These severe side effects and potential dangers are yet another reason that you should avoid giving aspirin to your dog unless it is expressly prescribed by your veterinarian.

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While it is possible that your vet prescribes aspirin to your dog in certain circumstances, you should not give your dog aspirin without a veterinarian’s consent. Aspirin works very differently in dogs. Aspirin toxicity can be deadly and is very serious. Never give your dog aspirin without a veterinarian’s prescription.

Featured Image Credit: Stéphanie Briand, Pixabay

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