Can I Give My Dog Aspirin?

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on September 05, 2023
4 min read

When you’re in pain, you might reach into your medicine cabinet and take a couple of aspirin to help you manage your symptoms. If your dog is in pain, you might be wondering if you can do the same for them. The short answer is no. 

While your vet may prescribe aspirin to help your dog when they’re in pain, you should not give them the same medication you have in your cabinet. Medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen can be toxic to dogs, even in small doses. Here, you’ll learn more about aspirin and dogs and what you can do to ease your dog’s discomfort.  

It’s hard to see your canine companion in pain. While you might want to do something right away to ease their discomfort, you should not give them the same type of aspirin or other pain medications that you and your family use for headaches or sore muscles. Your dog needs a pain-reliever made for dogs. 

Benefits and risks of aspirin for dogs. Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). In people, it works by blocking pain messengers in the body called prostaglandins. It does the same in dogs. It can help to temporarily alleviate pain and inflammation in the body.

While the medication does reduce pain, it can also lower your dog’s ability to heal. It can be especially risky if your dog has:

  • Aspirin allergies
  • Asthma
  • Ulcers
  • Kidney issues
  • Liver damage
  • Bleeding complications
  • Cancer

Too much aspirin can lead to aspirin toxicity. It may happen when your dog takes too much medication at once. Your dog may also get aspirin toxicity if he takes it daily and it accumulates in his system. Signs of toxicity include:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood in vomit or stool 
  • Difficulty walking (your dog may appear drunk)

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your dog’s vet right away. 

When can you give a dog aspirin? Your dog’s vet may recommend aspirin in certain circumstances. One of the most common situations is to manage symptoms of osteoarthritis. Another common condition your vet may recommend aspirin for is musculoskeletal issues. 

If your vet does prescribe aspirin for your dog, make sure to follow the instructions carefully. Also, keep your eye out for side effects. Take your dog in right away if you notice something is off. 

Can you use aspirin made for humans? Your vet may fill a prescription in the office. They may also suggest that you buy baby aspirin and follow their dosing instructions. Baby aspirin is a lower-dose medication than the regular aspirin you likely have in your medicine cabinet.

While you can use human baby aspirin as recommended by your vet, aspirin made for dogs is typically a better option. Human aspirin has a coating on it that helps to protect the human stomach from irritation. Your dog cannot digest this coating, so the medication may not provide the desired effects.

Aspirin dosage for dogs. The amount of aspirin to give your dog varies based on size. In general, smaller dogs require a smaller dose, and larger dogs need more. Your vet will calculate your dog’s dose, so be sure to follow their recommendations. Again, keep an eye out for side effects, as some dogs are more sensitive to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs than others. 

What to do in an emergency. If you notice any symptoms of aspirin poisoning in your dog, or you see any signs of health complications such as kidney or liver issues — such as extreme lethargy, loss of interest in eating, frequent urination, or excessive drinking — contact your vet immediately. If your vet isn’t open, contact your nearest emergency vet for assistance. 

If your vet prescribes aspirin for your dog, it’s likely because the vet believes it’s in the best interest of your four-legged friend. There are a few additional things to keep in mind when considering this medication.

Long-term effects of aspirin use for dogs. Aspirin is generally a short-term medication for dogs. Using it for long periods of time could allow the drug to build up in your dog’s system, leading to accidental aspirin toxicity.

Alternatives to aspirin. If your dog has osteoarthritis or other inflammatory conditions, your vet may recommend carprofen as an alternative to aspirin. Along with other name-brand medications, meloxicam is another common prescription. 

There are a few natural alternatives you might consider as well, including:

CBD oil may be an alternative in some states, but some state laws don’t allow veterinarians to even discuss this option. Check the laws in your local area. 

If your dog has joint issues, you may also consider a glucosamine supplement or switching to a food that promotes joint health. 

When to call your vet. If you notice your dog is in pain, your first step should be to make an appointment with your vet. Don’t try to medicate him using aspirin in your cabinet, even if you have baby aspirin on hand. Dogs are good at masking their discomfort, but signs to watch for include:

  • Limping
  • Trouble getting around
  • Restlessness
  • Yelping or crying out
  • Decreased appetite
  • Withdrawing from interaction with family
  • Constant licking or biting at one area of the body
  • Growling or snapping if you touch a certain spot on the body