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Health & Wellness

Can I give my dog aspirin?

This is one human medicine that isn’t good for pets

For people, aspirin is a go-to medicine cabinet staple that we turn to for all things achy, sore or feverish. So, it stands to reason that when our best friends start to exhibit similar symptoms, we'd spring for the same medicine. After all, it's hard to see our loved ones in pain, and it's only natural to gravitate towards what we know. But, as well-intentioned as that may be, aspirin doesn't have the same beneficial effects on dogs as it does on people. In fact, it can cause way more harm than good, according to Dr. Whitney Fry, a veterinarian from Sagamore Animal Hospital in Rye, New Hampshire. 

Is aspirin good for dogs? 

For an over-the-counter medicine that seems utterly commonplace and harmless for people, aspirin is not safe for pets. 

"You shouldn't give aspirin to your dog or cat," Dr. Fry says. "It has a different mechanism of action in dogs, and a more potent effect." She adds that aspirin can cause gastrointestinal upset and/or ulcers, and higher doses of aspirin can even lead to kidney damage. 

If you see your best friend is clearly sore or aching — or perhaps they recently underwent surgery and are ailing from postoperative pain — there are safe alternatives to aspirin that will get the job done. 

Aspirin alternatives for dogs

With your vet's permission, Dr. Fry recommends giving your pup a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory that's designed specifically — and safely — for dogs, like Rimadyl, a type of veterinary drug that’s generically called carprofen. 

"It's like the doggy equivalent of aspirin," she says of the drug that's made to reduce inflammation, ease pain and mitigate fevers in pets. While usable for dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds, it's often a staple part of pain management commonly used for older dogs with osteoarthritis. 

And while not readily available over-the-counter at your average human pharmacy, it's something that can be prescribed by your vet, available in chewable tablets or caplets or even as an injection for more emergency situations.  

Signs of an overdose in pets

If something should go awry and you suspect your dog may have gotten into some human aspirin somehow, here's what to look out for and when to bring your friend into a vet clinic: 

"You might see vomiting and diarrhea, and blood in the vomit or stool," Dr. Fry explains. She also points to loss of appetite, low energy, depressed mental activity and lethargy as common signs that dogs may have pawed their way into some aspirin by mistake. For dogs who have kidney issues, she notes that you may see increased thirst and/or urination occur. 

Side effects to watch for

There are some side effects to watch for when giving your pet any doggy-friendly aspirin alternatives, as the gastrointestinal tract is still prone to reactions. While not nearly as pronounced or as dangerous as an accidental aspirin dosage, side effects of a drug like Rimadyl can include vomiting and diarrhea, and although kidney-related issues are a rare response, they can happen, in which case a visit to your trusted vet is in order.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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