Aspirin works by temporarily blocking the production of prostaglandin, a chemical substance that alerts your brain to the pain and causes the tissue around the injured area to swell. Common conditions that aspirin is used to treat in humans include muscle aches, headaches, toothaches, and the common cold.
Dogs are not exempt from these aches and pains! Have you ever wondered if aspirin can provide your furry friend relief too? Let's take a closer look to see if aspirin is safe for dogs.
Signs of Pain in Dogs and Adverse Reactions to Aspirin
Aspirin can be an effective tool in relieving the pain and swelling that dogs with musculoskeletal inflammation or osteoarthritis experience. Signs a dog in pain may exhibit include whining, trembling, panting, agitation, vocalization, weakness, reluctance to move, restlessness, or increased breathing and heart rate.
Though aspirin can be helpful in reducing pain, there are several potential hazards of administering it to dogs and adverse reactions to the drug are relatively common. Thus, do not give your dog aspirin without direct supervision by a veterinarian.
If your vet gives you the green light to administer the drug, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects so you can monitor your dog's response.
Signs that your dog is having an adverse reaction to aspirin include diarrhea, vomiting, black tar-like stool, decreased appetite, or bleeding. These symptoms may suggest ulceration or mucosal erosion, so if you notice any of them, discontinue use and call your vet immediately.
As with any medication, it is important to monitor your dog's behavior closely. Look for changes in appetite, urination, bowel movements, activity level, and personality, as these can be signs of an adverse drug reaction. Aspirin overdoses in dogs can be fatal, so do not administer any quantity to your canine companion without veterinarian approval!
- Vocalization, like howling or crying out
- Increased heart rate or breathing rate
- Reluctance to move or lethargy
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Changes in appetite
History of Aspirin and its Use in Dogs
Aspirin is derived from willow and birch trees. It is classified as a salicylate, which is a chemical compound found in plant materials. Its first documented use dates back to at least 2,400 years ago when a precursor to aspirin found in the leaves of the willow tree was recognized and utilized for its health benefits.
The discovery of aspirin as we know it today began with chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt in 1853 when he treated acetyl chloride with sodium salicylate for the first time to form acetylsalicylic acid. Over time, the synthesis of the substance has been manipulated and improved by chemists. Aspirin has become a beneficial drug readily used for relieving pain, fever, and inflammation in humans today.
Though aspirin was formulated for use in humans, the drug has come to be safely administered to canines under the correct circumstances. Throughout history, there have been differences in the suggested use of aspirin in dogs. Some people have reported the drug being prescribed by their veterinarians, while others have been warned against its use altogether.
For example, one owner reported her veterinarian prescribing 81 mg/day of aspirin to her 13-year-old Border Terrier who had developed issues with walks and stair climbing. On the contrary, another owner was told not to administer any to her German Shorthaired Pointer experiencing pain. While this might seem ambiguous, administering aspirin to dogs should be done on a case-by-case basis. Whether or not it is safe for your dog depends on their individual health profile and only a veterinarian can determine this for you.
The Science Behind Aspirin Use in Dogs
Aspirin works by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 from producing prostaglandin. Prostaglandin is what promotes fever, inflammation, and pain. Thus, inhibition of prostaglandin production will greatly decrease these symptoms.
However, prostaglandin also plays important roles in the body. It is responsible for producing the mucus layer lining the GI tract, regulating blood clotting, and ensuring adequate blood flow to the kidneys. When these functions are reduced (i.e. by administering aspirin), dogs can experience adverse symptoms that can become serious without medical attention.
Dogs with bleeding or clotting disorders, kidney problems, or liver issues should not take aspirin. Additionally, pregnant dogs or puppies under 8 weeks old should not take aspirin. There are a number of circumstances under which aspirin has the potential to be harmful to your pup. Therefore, it is crucial that aspirin is only used if prescribed by a veterinarian and should it not be administered for long-term treatment.
Training Your Dog to Accept a Pill
In the event that your veterinarian prescribes aspirin to your furry friend, you will have to administer this in pill form. Some dogs accept pills with no fuss at all, especially when they are disguised with something delectable, while other dogs are pickier about their ingestion. There are several different methods to give your dog a pill and the most effective one depends on your dog.
You can try placing the tablet on the back of your dog's tongue and patting their throat to encourage them to swallow it. However, this method may cause your pup to experience an unpleasant taste and spit the pill out.
You are likely to have better luck if you disguise the pill with something highly appealing to your dog, like peanut butter, butter, meat, or cheese. It is important to only use a small amount of food so it will not be too large and require chewing. Another option is using commercially-made treats designed for administering medications, like pill pockets or pliable treats you can mold around a pill. These are available in a variety of enticing flavors and are highly digestible. You can even find specially formulated options for pets with food allergies.
Small amounts of ice cream or yogurt can be used to administer the pill with the added benefit of helping it go down with ease. Moreover, many owners prefer to grind up aspirin and disguise it in food. This decreases the likelihood of irritating the stomach lining, too.
For pets who are highly food-motivated, it may be helpful to offer your dog a primer treat without medication first followed by the disguised pill and then a chaser treat. Building the excitement around receiving the treats is an effective ruse to ensure your dog takes the pill. If one method doesn't work for your dog, don't get discouraged! Wait a bit and then try another.
How To React if Your Dog Displays Signs of an Adverse Reaction to Aspirin
Discontinue use of medication
Contact your veterinarian immediately
Safety Tips for Giving Aspirin to Your Dog
DO NOT administer aspirin unless your veterinarian has prescribed it to your specific dog
Be sure to ask your veterinarian exactly which form of the pill to provide and beware of extra active ingredients, like acetaminophen
Do not administer for more than 5 days
Never give your dog more than is prescribed