Should I give my pet aspirin?

There are so many pain relievers available to humans that choosing just one can be confusing. Not so with our pets. There aren’t many over-the-counter pet pain relievers. When a pet is in pain, owners are eager to give medication to ease that pain, but giving human medications to animals can cause more problems than it cures. Learn why in this article.

Q: Can I give my dog aspirin?
A: My first question in response to this is; what do you want to treat? Most often, the answer is for arthritis, but I have to ask. It is important not to just give a drug because the animal is ‘not himself’ or is in pain where the cause is unknown. A trip to the vet is definitely in order to find out the root of the problem. It may be pain-related, it may not be.

With regard to arthritis, yes, aspirin can be used, but with caution and under veterinary supervision. Aspirin is in a class of drugs called NSAIDs – Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, and dogs are particularly sensitive to the gastrointestinal effects of; pain, bleeding, and ulceration that can be a side effect of these drugs. Coated aspirin may help with the gastrointestinal effects.

Aspirin may cause birth defects, so it should not be given to pregnant animals.

1. Aspirin also interacts with several other drugs, particularly cortisones, digoxin, some antibiotics, Phenobarbital, and Furosemide(Lasix®).

2. Check with your veterinarian about what is going on with your pet and what would be the best drug for the problem. Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements are another alternative for arthritic pets and may be used alone or with other therapies.

Q: What about my cat and aspirin?
A: Cats are much more sensitive to aspirin. Cats cannot break down aspirin as quickly as dogs (or humans), and thus, the cat can be easily overdosed with the accumulation of the drug in the body. In contrast to dogs and humans, cats are typically given much smaller doses at intervals of 48-72 hours. This drug, as with all drugs, should be only used under recommendation and monitoring by your veterinarian. There are alternative drugs available – please speak with your veterinarian.

Q: Can cats be given glucosamine/chondroitin, like dogs?
A: Yes. Check with your veterinarian for available preparations and dosages. Never give dog medications to cats or vice versa.

Q: What about other drugs, like Tylenol® and Advil®?
A: In a word, NO for both of the above. Tylenol is fatal to cats. Neither drug (acetaminophen and ibuprofen, respectively) is routinely used for arthritis.