Aspirin For Dogs: 6 Risks & 6 Safe Alternatives

I just found out something I didn’t know. They actually sell aspirin made for dogs. 

That really surprised me. 

I know some vets recommend giving dogs aspirin for pain … and I even know a couple of people who give it to their dogs. Which frankly makes me cringe (you’ll see why if you keep reading). 

But I assumed people were using regular old buffered aspirin from the pharmacy. 

Not so …

When I started researching, I found several brands of “Aspirin For Dogs.” Chewy alone has about 8 different ones (and a couple for horses too).

Yes, some manufacturers have made chewable, food flavored aspirin (with terrible fake ingredients). So you don’t actually have to give your dog that tiny little pill.

I find this alarming! The fact that you can buy aspirin for dogs tells me there’s enough demand to make it worthwhile to produce them. 

And that means a lot of dogs are getting aspirin … which is very unfortunate. 

People assume it’s safe because their vet recommends it … and people have been taking aspirin for more than a century! 

So … I realized that the information I’m about to share is very important for dog owners!

I’ll tell you about the problems with aspirin. … and I’ll suggest some much safer natural alternatives you can use instead. 

Of course, aspirin’s a household name that everybody knows. But just in case, here’s a little history … 

History Of Aspirin

Aspirin is the common name for acetylsalicylic acid. It’s one of the best-known pain-relieving drug there is.

Aspirin actually came from a natural herbal medicine. In the 5th century BC, Hippocrates used powdered willow bark to treat pain and fevers. 

Salicin was the medicinal compound in willow bark. In the 19th century, scientists isolated this ingredient. They converted it to salicylic acid.

In 1853, a French chemist, Charles Frederick Gerhardt, neutralized salicylic acid. He buffered it with sodium (sodium salicylate) and acetyl chloride. This created acetylsalicylic acid.

In 1899, a German chemist at Bayer named Felix Hoffmann, found Gerhardt’s formula. Hoffmann convinced Bayer to market this “new” wonder drug.

Aspirin’s patent dates back to February 27, 1900. And of course, as you know, Bayer still makes aspirin today. 

And today’s aspirin is definitely not natural any more. It isn’t safe for your dog, either. 

What Aspirin Does

Aspirin is a NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory drug (NSAID). 

It’s a pain reliever used to manage mild to moderate pain like headaches, muscle aches and toothaches. Some people may take it to help with the pain and inflammation of arthritis … though today there are other more popular arthritis drugs. 

Like other NSAIDs, aspirin blocks pain messengers called prostaglandins in the body. It does this by inhibiting COX1 and Cox2 enzymes that produce prostaglandins. 

Aspirin also interferes with the body’s blood clotting cells, called platelets. So doctors often prescribe daily low-dose aspirin as a blood thinner.

It’s supposed to reduce the risk of blood clots, clogged arteries and heart attack …. but recent studies have found it’s not very effective at reducing cardiac deaths. And it may even contribute to cancer (more about that when I get into side effects).

Aspirin’s still a very popular drug … even though many people take alternative NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen. Acetaminophen (Tylenol or paracetamol) is another popular pain reliever.

Caution: please don’t EVER give your dog ibuprofen (Advil) or Naproxen (Aleve). These drugs are both toxic to dogs … even though vets may prescribe Naproxen. Some vets may also recommend Tylenol, but its safety is doubtful in dogs. 

So … when you call your conventional vet because your dog is limping or showing pain, he might say, “Oh, he’ll be fine. Give him a buffered aspirin.”  

But, even though your vet might say this, think twice. Because aspirin can have some serious side effects

And, by the way, it’s not formally approved for veterinary use

6 Risks That Aspirin Has To Dogs

While the occasional aspirin might not be too harmful …  longer term use can cause some damage. 

First of all, it may be counterproductive in your dog’s recovery from illness or injury. 

1. Aspirin Can Reverse Healing

Remember I said NSAIDs inhibit prostaglandins? 

Well, that may be a good thing for pain. But it’s not a good thing for other bodily functions. Because prostaglandins do some good things in the body too. 

So when aspirin inhibits prostaglandins, it can have some other unwanted effects. 

Prostaglandins release when the body needs them. So if your dog has an injury, prostaglandins create inflammation, pain and fever. 

These symptoms are part of the body’s natural healing process. So while aspirin may reduce pain and inflammation … it can lower your dog’s ability to recover

This reduced healing ability can have serious effects. Especially if you’re using aspirin or other NSAIDs for joint pain.  Several studies show that NSAIDs can cause cartilage to break down … and increase arthritis symptoms. Not exactly what you need in a dog with existing joint problems! 

2. Aspirin Can Cause Ulcers

Your dog needs prostaglandins to help protect his stomach and intestinal lining. Without this protection, he could develop an ulcer. Ulcers are a common side effect of regular aspirin use

And if your dog gets an ulcer, continuing to give him aspirin could cause a perforated or bleeding ulcer. 

3. Aspirin Can Cause Bleeding

Because aspirin acts as a blood thinner, it can stop blood from clotting when your dog has a bleeding wound … or if he has to have surgery of any kind.

Dogs with Von Willebrand disease definitely shouldn’t have aspirin. Von Willebrand disease is a lifelong bleeding disorder where the blood doesn’t clot.

Even worse, aspirin could cause internal bleeding, which you might not notice until it’s too late. This could be from an ulcer, or in any part of the digestive tract.  

Aspirin can sometimes also cause hemorrhagic stroke, from bleeding in the brain. A 2018 study found hemorrhage was more common in people taking aspirin than those on placebo. 

4. Aspirin Can Cause Liver Damage

Regular use of aspirin can cause liver damage, because the liver absorbs these toxins. The liver is a detoxification organ, but having to process too many ongoing toxins can cause harm. So aspirin can lead to problems like hepatitis and acute liver failure. 

5. Aspirin Can Cause Kidney Issues

Prostaglandins help blood reach the kidneys. So aspirin can reduce blood flow to these vital organs and stop them from doing their job. 

If you give your dog aspirin on a regular basis, you should also worry that it could increase his cancer risk.

A 2018 study followed more than 19,000 adults over 65 with no heart disease, dementia or disability.

Half received daily aspirin and half received placebo. 

Cancer was responsible for 6.7 deaths per 1000 person-years in the aspirin group … compared to 5.1 in the placebo group. Cancer-related death occurred in 3.1% of the aspirin group and in 2.3% of the placebo group.

Because there have been studies in the past showing aspirin may reduce the risk of certain cancers … the results surprised the authors of this study.

And in this study, death from all causes was higher in the aspirin group than the placebo group. 

Signs Of Aspirin Side Effects

If your dog takes aspirin, watch for these adverse reactions:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting, especially with blood in vomit
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Panting
  • Bleeding
  • Pale gums
  • Black tarry stools (indicating internal bleeding)
  • Blood in urine (indicating kidney problems or internal bleeding)
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

If your dog’s taking aspirin and you see any of these symptoms, consult your vet. 

Even if your dog isn’t on aspirin, the more serious symptoms could mean toxicity from some other cause. Or your dog could have got into your own supply of aspirin or other medicines.

6 Natural Alternatives To Aspirin

There are many natural solutions for managing your dog’s pain, depending on what’s causing it. Here are a few suggestions.

1. CBD Oil 

Whether your dog has an injury or ongoing joint pain, studies show a good full spectrum CBD Oil can help … without aspirin’s side effects. 

CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory. It works by binding to CB1 receptors in the brain. These receptors stimulate the immune system to reduce inflammation. 

CBD also helps change the way your dog’s brain perceives pain. It binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and nervous system.

For the best results use a 1000 mg strength full spectrum CBD oil and give 1 dropper per day, straight in your dog’s mouth. If you find your dog needs more to relieve his pain, you can increase the dose. 

2. Turmeric

Turmeric can lower inflammation as well as ease pain and stiffness. So it’s a great choice if your dog has arthritis or other chronic pain.

Turmeric’s active ingredient is called curcumin

Curcumin is an amazing compound with many medicinal properties. It’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and wound healing.

It can help with arthritis, as well as many other diseases.

Studies show curcumin works as well as or better than:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Pain killers
  • Arthritis medication
  • Steroids

How To Give Turmeric or Curcumin

There are several ways to help your dog with this bright yellow spice.

Buy organic turmeric powder and give 1/8 to 1/4 tsp per day per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight. Just add it to his food. 

You can also buy curcumin powder or capsules at a health store. In that case, assume the dosage is for a 150 lb person, and adjust for your dog’s body weight.

You can also buy the whole root in a grocery store and grate some into your dog’s food. 

Or you can buy a supplement with curcumin and follow the directions on the packaging. 

One caution: Turmeric is “warming.” So if you have a “hot” dog who always looks for a cool place to lie down, turmeric or curcumin may not suit him.

3. Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)

If your dog has arthritis, Boswellia, or frankincense, is a good herb to try. Its phytochemicals help control inflammation. A 2004 Swiss study showed 6 weeks of boswellia greatly lowered signs of arthritis in 71% of dogs.

Boswellia is an ingredient in many herbal combination pain and anti-inflammatory remedies. If you buy one of those, follow the package dosing directions. With a product for humans, assume the dosage is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.

When using boswellia alone, give it with food, using 5 to 10 mg per day per lb of your dog’s weight. 

Caution: There are concerns about the sustainability of the Indian Boswelllia serrata tree. So if you choose it, try to find a supplier who sources it responsibly and sustainably.

4. Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

Devil’s claw is an African plant that’s an effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic. 

Devil’s Claw has been quite well researched. Studies show it’s effective for arthritis and muscle pain. It’s a low cost herb that’s widely available at health stores.

Devil’s Claw is usually packaged for humans … so assume the dose on the container is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.

Caution: Don’t use for Devil’s Claw for diabetic, pregnant or lactating dogs. It may interact with some drugs (especially cardiac and hyper- or hypo-tensive drugs). So consult your vet if your dog’s taking any other medications.

5. Cayenne (Capsicum spp)

Cayenne comes from a hot chile pepper. Capsaicin can block pain and increase circulation to connective tissues and joints. This makes it very effective as a pain reliever

You can also buy ointments or creams with capsicum and use them topically on on painful areas. Topical use can reduce pain and activate the body’s own anti-inflammatory response.

For internal use cayenne usually comes in a gel capsule that contains a tiny pinch of the powder. Or, you can just add a small pinch of the powdered herb to your dog’s food.

Caution: Surprisingly, cayenne doesn’t irritate the digestive tract when used in moderation. Although, you may want to avoid it if your dog has a sensitive digestive system.

6. Homeopathic Remedies For Pain

Homeopathic remedies can be very effective for pain. It’s important to choose the remedy that best fits your dog’s symptoms. If your dog’s condition is chronic, consult a professional homeopath. Find one at theavh.org – most will do phone consults.

Some good choices are:

Arnica montana – always the first remedy to give for injuries and trauma

Rhus toxicodendron – for stiffness and pain that gets better with movement. Great for sprains and strains and arthritis.

Ruta graveolens – a good choice to heal ligaments and tendons.

Calcarea carbonica – a remedy for chronic pain … especially if there’s inflammation in the ligaments around the knees or hips.  

For more detailed descriptions check out Dr Todd Cooney’s recommendations here.

Avoid using aspirin for your dog – even if your vet recommends it! 

Instead, try some of these safe, natural options that can relieve your dog’s pain without harming him. 

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