What Can I Give My Dog for Pain?
The most common answer to a dog health issue like "Can I give my dog aspirin for pain?" is also the most confusing. Depending on whom you ask, you may get a response of "yes," "never," or even "maybe."
The use of aspirin as a pain reliever dates to the 1700s, and many veterinarians do recommend it on a case by case basis for mild canine arthritic pain. Here is a look at what one expert has to say about this puzzling topic.
The Expert Says
According to Dr. Camille DeClement, a board certified veterinary toxicologist for ASPCA Animal Health Services, over the counter (OTC) medicines such as aspirin are metabolized differently in the canine body than in a human body.
The drugs are not eliminated as quickly and can build up to toxic levels and poison the animal. The potential for accidental poisoning causes her to have concerns about the advisability of using medications formulated for humans to treat dogs.
What Is Aspirin
Aspirin is a non-prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) commonly used to relieve pain. It belongs to the salicylic acids group. Using aspirin as a pain reliever offers benefits like these:
- There is no risk of addiction.
- It is an effective painkiller
- It can act as an anti-inflammatory agent depending on the dosage.
However, like most medications, there are also some drawbacks to using aspirin to relieve pain such as:
- It can cause or exacerbate ulcers or kidney problems.
- Aspirin may cause anemia or internal bleeding.
Is there a significant difference between human-formulated and canine-formulated NSAIDs? Yes, there is according to Dr. DeClementi. She stated that in her opinion there are so many safe canine NSAIDs veterinarians can prescribe that it does not make sense to risk a tragic accidental poisoning by giving a dog medicine that was intended for human consumption. She says, "One regular naproxen tablet (220 mg) given to a 60-pound dog can cause ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. If the ulcer perforate, the animal will die."
Best Choice For Your Dog's Health
Because there is a high risk of toxicity, pet parents should rely on their personal veterinarian to evaluate their dog's health, answer questions about pet health, and make recommendations about the approximate medications. Veterinarians take many factors such as the dog's age, weight, overall physical condition, previous medical conditions and current diagnosis into consideration before they decide on a course of treatment.
How Much Is Enough
Determining the correct dose of aspirin to use can be tricky to calculate because some aspirin tablets are measured in milligrams (mg) while others are measured in grams (gr). According to Dr. Brian Beale, author of The Arthritis Cure, "If you have a product that is labeled in milligrams, the recommended dosage, which should be given daily, is one-fourth of a 325 mg tablet for each ten pounds of dog weight."
If you are mathematically challenged, your head may already be spinning with thoughts of performing that calculation when he follows it up with this statement, "If the aspirin you are using is measured in grains, the guidelines are one 5-grain tablet for every sixty pounds of weight, given every twelve hours."
The Bottom Line for Your Pet's Well-being
Given the complexity of doing these calculations at home and then hoping one can split an aspirin into exactly the right amount, many pet owners decide that it is probably not worth the effort or risk. It makes better sense to take a dog to the vet, let him or her do the math, and make the best recommendation for the pet's health and welfare. If your veterinarian does prescribe an aspirin-treatment regime, follow all instructions regarding dosage and administration of the drug exactly. It is better not to stop any prescribed medications unless advised to do so by the vet.
This information is provided for educational purposes only to provide answers to some common dog health questions; it should not be considered veterinary advice. Always check with your personal health care provider for your pet before following any advice such as this.
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Resources and Image:
• VetInfo, “A Guide to Prescription NSAIDS for Canine Arthritis,”
• Telephone interview, Dr. Camille DeClementi, VMD, DABT, DABVT, Senior Director of Knowledge Management, Senior Toxicologist, ASPCA Animal Health Services, 09/24/2010
• The Arthritis Cure for Pets, Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS, and Brenda Adderly, MHA
• ASPCA, "Top Ten Pet Poisons of the Year"
"White GSD at Vet," by Ildar Sagdejev under CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons