What is the Proper Aspirin Dosage for Dogs?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington

Aspirin has been around for ages, and it is one of the essential medicines today. It is efficient for a variety of aches and ailments, and millions around the world use it on a daily level. In fact, you probably already have this popular headache medication in your medicine cabinet. But if it works for you, will it work the same for your pet? When your doggo is hurting, you might reach for aspirin in an emergency. However, you should first consider whether this medicine is safe to give to your dog, and if it is, what is the proper aspirin dosage for dogs?

When you have a headache, you probably reach into your medicine cabinet for a bottle of aspirin. Over-the-counter pain relievers like this are inexpensive to purchase, easy to find, and they work well for general pain relief. That makes them very popular around the globe. When your dog is in pain, however, the solution may not be quite so easy as with us humans. So don’t rush into things, and refrain from barging into the medicine cabinet. Keep reading to learn more about whether aspirin is safe for dogs and, if so, what the proper dosage is.

Related: Can I Give My Dog Aleve?

Is It Safe to Give Your Dog Aspirin?

Aspirin was discovered sometime in the mid 1800s, and was an instant hit in the medicinal world. It belongs to a class of medications known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs. These medications are available over-the-counter in various forms such as controlled release tablets and immediate release tablets. Dosages vary as well, and there are various formulations to treat specific forms of pain. One of the primary uses for aspirin, however, is to treat pain and inflammation related to various forms of arthritis. Surely you’ve used it on occasion, when having a stubborn headache or a toothache. So, when your pupper is aching, it would seem logical to reach for aspirin as a quick solution. But is it so?

You’d feel good to know that veterinarians sometimes prescribe aspirin to dogs suffering from musculoskeletal inflammation or osteoarthritis. Aspirin works by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase which produces inflammatory prostaglandins. Unfortunately, in addition to inhibiting this enzyme, aspirin also acts as an anti-coagulant which prevents the blood from clotting. Though NSAIDs like aspirin have fewer side effects than steroidal medications, there are definitely some risks included. If you do give your dog aspirin, do so only with your veterinarian’s guidance and follow his dosing instructions carefully. Needless to say, you should never take such matters into your own hands and pretend to be a veterinarian. Before any medication is administered to a dog, there are numerous things that need to be taken into account – by professionals. The breed, the size, the medical issue, the proper dosage, and so on. So, the first thing you should always do is seek the help of a veterinarian. They’ll tell you what needs to be done.  

Related: Meloxicam for Dogs: Is It Safe?

What’s the Proper Dosage of aspirin for Dogs?

While aspirin is not approved by the FDA for use in dogs, some veterinarians do prescribe it. The recommended dosage is somewhere between 10mg and 40mg per kilogram, depending on your dog’s condition. You should also know that there are different kinds of aspirin out there and not all of them are safe for dogs. Enteric-coated tablets, for example, are designed to protect the lining of the intestines from irritation, but this coating can prevent your dog’s body from breaking down and absorbing the tablet. As you can see, there are plenty of risks involved, and those risks are known by veterinarians. Don’t try to do this on your own. 

Before giving your dog aspirin, make sure you tell your veterinarian about any other medications he may be taking. Aspirin can interact poorly with digoxin, certain antibiotics, anti-coagulants, corticosteroids, and various other drugs so it pays to be cautious. Even if you don’t think it is significant, tell your veterinarian everything so he has enough information to determine the level of risk that comes with giving your dog aspirin. Only after all of these facts have been established, can the treatment proceed. 

What Are the Potential Side Effects?

While it may technically be safe to give your dog aspirin, there are safer options – drugs that have been approved by the FDA for treating pain in dogs. And these are usually the first choices of all vets. Still, if you do give your dog aspirin, be on the lookout for side effects because they can happen even if you administer the proper dosage. Potential side effects of taking aspirin may include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Ulcers
  • Black, tarry stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hemorrhage
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Even if you use the right dosage, you should still monitor your dog closely after giving him aspirin to make sure he doesn’t have a negative reaction. After all, no two dogs are exactly the same, and some minor (or major) side effects might appear even with all the proper steps taken care of. If you notice any of the symptoms above, or if your dog just starts acting differently, take him to the vet immediately for treatment.

What Does Aspirin Poisoning In Dogs Look Like?

Unfortunately, dogs can suffer from aspirin poisoning. It may happen if dogs get into aspirin or other salicylate-containing products in your house and take in too large a dose. It may be you giving too large a dose. It could come from a single incident or repeated dosing for something like osteoarthritis. Either way you take it, the options and scenarios are numerous, and once the deed happens, you should know the symptoms to look for and how to prevent the worst from happening. 

As we’ve said, if your dog has other medical conditions like clotting disorders, liver or kidney disease, that may put them at greater risk of aspirin poisoning. Particularly if your dog is already taking steroids or other NSAIDS.

Because aspirin and other NSAIDs block some of the chemical processes in your dog’s body that can cause inflammation, they can also block important processes that are key to your dog’s kidney, liver and clotting functions too. This is how poisoning occurs.

Initially, you may not see any signs or symptoms of aspirin poisoning. The biggest issue you’re likely to see is gastro problems and ulceration (which will cause bleeding). Your dog may have abdominal pain, vomit, have diarrhea or really dark stools. They may not have an appetite and their gums may turn pale. They may be depressed or lethargic and even have what looks like seizures or coma. If your dog has accidentally taken any aspirin/salcylates, you have to contact your vet and/or the Pet Poison Helpline asap. The number is 1-800-213-6680. Even if you are using the proper dosage of aspirin for dogs, you still want to watch–everybody metabolizes differently.

Natural Ways to Help Ease Discomfort in Your Dog

When our dogs are showing signs of pain or discomfort, we naturally want to find a solution to make them feel better. In some situations, this may be accomplished through the use of pain medications as prescribed or recommended by your veterinarian. However, there are other ways that you can help to make your dog as comfortable as possible. These methods are a great choice if you are waiting for the pain killers to take effect or for situations where pain killers may not be recommended.

  1. A common solution used for our own aching joints, hot and cold therapy can help to provide temporary relief of aches and pains. Try applying an ice pack or a heating pad to the area of your dog’s body that is causing discomfort. Be careful not to apply extreme heat or cold directly to their skin as this can cause additional problems. Instead, you can wrap the ice pack or heating pad in a towel to provide a layer of protection. If an ice pack is not an option, you can reach into the freezer for anything handy – a bag of frozen vegetables is a good example. 
  2. If your dog’s aches and pains are caused by a condition like arthritis, you may be able to manage their ongoing pain levels using a joint supplement. Containing beneficial ingredients like glucosamine, repairing the cartilage in your dog’s joints to strengthen them and prevent pain. This isn’t a miracle solution that will eliminate any problems that they are facing, but it can help significantly.
  3. There are some food and ingredients that have been credited with having anti-inflammatory properties. Including these items in your dog’s regular diet can help to regulate and manage any ongoing pain. Some popular examples are turmeric and fish oil.Advise with your vet about such foods. 
  4. Alternative therapies aren’t just for humans! Consider reaching out to a holistic veterinarian or alternative practitioner of acupuncture or massage therapy to discuss the treatment options for your dog. Not only will these treatments help to relieve pain by encouraging blood flow and circulation, but they can also help to reduce your dog’s stress levels.
  5. Provide your dog with a comfortable orthopedic dog bed to relax and sleep on. Not only will this help immediately by allowing them to rest comfortably, but the bed can also help on a more long-term front. Orthopedic beds are designed to avoid pressure points. If your dog often sleeps on the hard floor or ground, switching to an orthopedic bed can help to prevent triggering this pain moving forward.
  6. Limit activities like jumping up on furniture and climbing stairs that can trigger additional pain. If necessary, use special measures to prevent them from jumping up. Sometimes, dogs retain their enthusiasm even when their body can’t follow. You can also use safety gates to block off stairways and, where possible, provide a ramp for easier low-impact access.

While none of the options here is a substitute for proper veterinary care, they can be used in conjunction with your dog’s medical care to provide comfort and relief. However, if you do notice that your dog is showing signs of pain, it is recommended that you start by contacting your veterinarian to ensure that there isn’t an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

In the end, it goes a long way to repeat once more that no pet owner should take such things into their own hands – no matter their experience and confidence, a veterinarian is a medical professional and only they can prescribe proper treatment. This is not only related to dogs but all other pets as well. If you notice any aches or symptoms, get in touch with a veterinarian as soon as possible. Giving pets medicines of your own choosing can only cause more trouble than good. 

Of course, taking good care of your pet is imperative in every way – establish a good routine of health care, and ailments should be less likely to happen in the first place.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

More by Kate Barrington