Dangers of Aspirin
by Cindy Lizotte
For many people, a quick and simple pain relief is a dose of aspirin or similar pain medicine. So, when a dog is in pain, some owners assume that aspirin may be safe for their dog as well. Although aspirin isn’t necessarily deadly to dogs, it is not typically recommended due to dangerous side effects. Most veterinarians will warn against aspirin for this reason, as well as the fact that there are other more effective and safer alternatives created especially for dogs. Even if your dog is sore from romping in the beautiful spring weather, don’t give aspirin. There are plenty of alternative options for pain relief.
Aspirin is an analgesic drug, commonly used as a minor pain relief and an anti-inflammatory medication. Aspirin belongs to a class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often denoted as NSAIDs. Almost all NSAIDs irritate the stomach and can cause stomach ulcers.
NSAIDs for Dogs
Pain control and relief is a popular issue for many owners with dogs suffering from either acute or chronic diseases and disorders. As an owner, you are aware of when your dog is in discomfort, whether it be a bit of soreness from excessive playing or severe pain in an emergency situation. Regardless, finding safe and effective pain relief options for your dog is an important, and ongoing, search for many owners.
NSAIDs generally work well for dogs and most are relatively safe when recommended dosage is given. However, almost all NSAIDs do come with a range of side effects. Usually, side effects occur when excessive amounts of the drug are given too frequently or for too long, but side effects can still pop up despite following instructions.
One major issue with NSAIDs is the ill-effect that they have on your dog’s digestive tract. The stomach and the intestines are sensitive areas of the body and particularly at risk. This upset can then lead to ulcers. Ulcers can be dangerous, especially if the wall of the stomach perforates.
NSAIDs also reduce blood supply to the kidneys. In an older patient with unknown kidney disease or border-line kidney disease, NSAIDs can push borderline patients into kidney failure.
There are other cells in the body that NSAIDs can adversely affect. Platelets are the little ‘sticky’ cells that cause blood to clot. When NSIADs are given, especially over time, platelets become less ‘sticky’ and are essentially deactivated. This translates to delayed clotting times and potential for excessive bleeding.
Sometimes patients do require NSAIDs for pain control. especially if nothing else works. If this is the case for your dog, your veterinarian will recommend a full blood profile be performed before starting the drug or shortly after a trial run. This will check liver and kidney function at a minimum. Many veterinarians require rechecking these blood values every 3-6 months after the NSAID is started.(1,2) Some clinics recommend yearly blood panels before refilling prescriptions.
If your dog takes NSAIDs, be aware of the warning signs of side effects, such as:
- Change in appetite
- Stool changes (very dark in color, diarrhea)
- Urine changes (color or smell change)
- Jaundice (yellowing) of the eyes, skin
- Change in water consumption
- Change in skin color, such as redness or a rash
Common NSAIDs for Dogs
- Rimadyl (carprofen)
- Metacam (meloxicam)
- Deramaxx (deracoxib)
- Previcox (firocoxib)
Alternatives for Pain Management in Dogs (3)
- Acupuncture ( Dr Cindy Lizotte offers Acupuncture services at the Elmwood Veterinary Hospital (www.elmwoodvethospital.com)
- Massage, physiotherapy, Reiki, Chiropractic sessions, etc.
- GAGs (glucosaminoglycans, such as Glucosamine), Green lip mussels (Paw Osteosupport product https://www.pawbyblackmores.com/products/ostesupport-joint-care-powder-dogs)
- Herbal Products, such as Elimay’s Pain Care, RX vitamins Nutriflex
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin C
- Narcotics, such as Tramadol
- Cartrophen (pentosan polysulfate sodium (http://www.cartrophen.com/dog_owners_what_is_cartrophen_vet.html)
If your dog is in any kind of pain, consult your veterinarian first before giving any sort of pain medication, especially pain medications designed for humans. Dogs have different metabolisms, so many options, such as aspirin which is relatively safe for us, yet can cause major side effects in our canine counterparts. Therefore, it is always best to consult your veterinarian for a canine option that is both safe and effective.
(1) Sharkey, M. et al. Advice to Dog Owners Whose Pets Take NSAIDs. Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation FDA Veterinarian Newsletter. 2006. Volume XXI, No I.
(2) Shell, Linda. Aspirin Toxicosis. Veterinary Information Network Associate Database. 2006.
(3) Dodds, Jean. Alternative Therapies for Pain Management. Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club Symposium Proceedings. 2013.