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Dog Pain Medication
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Ibuprofen and aspirin for dogs

Medications like ibuprofen and aspirin are often the first thing you reach for when you have a headache or pain in your body. They’re easy to buy and last a long time, so you’re likely to have some of these pain relievers in your medicine cabinet. But can you give pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen to your dog?

When your dog is in pain, you want to help them as quickly as possible. Before you decide to give your dog ibuprofen or aspirin, make sure you understand the risks of giving human medications to pets and, as always, consult your veterinarian first if you still have questions.

Can I give my dog aspirin or ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen and aspirin for pets

aspirin and ibuprofen are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. The active ingredients in these medications helps reduce inflammation, fever, and pain by targeting an enzyme to halt the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins contribute to inflammation and pain, but they also have important functions unrelated to pain—interrupting their production can upset the body’s balance and cause issues ranging from vomiting and intestinal issues to impaired kidney and liver function.

These side effects can occur in people or pets who take an incorrect dosage or have an allergic reaction, so it’s very important to exercise caution when giving pain relievers like these to your dog.

What types of NSAID are available?

There are different types of ibuprofen and aspirin available, usually in pill form, both over-the-counter and by prescription. When you buy standard strengths of these medications from your local pharmacy or drugstore, they are usually available in lower doses, and sometimes in extra-strength versions too. However, to get stronger painkillers, you can get a prescription, which might be used to manage chronic or strong pain.

Ibuprofen is also available in gels or creams, as well as sprays. You can usually find ibuprofen pills in different types too, such as tablets or caplets.

The risks of giving your dog ibuprofen or aspirin

It seems logical that if NSAIDs work for people, they could also help your dog—perhaps you could give your dog baby aspirin as a low dosage, mild alternative. Unfortunately, this familiarity is what leads to ibuprofen and aspirin being listed among the Top 10 most common toxins in pets. Giving your pet aspirin or ibuprofen is risky without veterinary supervision. It’s difficult to account for all the differences between dog breeds—like size, age, weight—and that’s before you account for individual health conditions from dog to dog.

If given incorrectly—such as an improper dosage—ibuprofen or aspirin can be fatal for dogs in extreme cases. Common side effects include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers (hole in the stomach lining)
  • Ineffective pain relief that's not worth the risk (baby aspirin)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Kidney or liver problems
  • Bleeding disorders

Your dog may have a sensitivity you’re not aware of, or you may give your dog too much, resulting in poisoning.

What to do if your dog has already had a pill?

If you’ve already given your dog aspirin or ibuprofen before reading this and realizing it could be dangerous, don’t panic. Call your veterinarian immediately. They may instruct you to induce vomiting (do not do this unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian). They will also advise you on what symptoms to look for, and what to do if you notice your dog’s health getting worse.

If your dog has swallowed multiple pills, call Animal Poison Control immediately.

Safer alternatives to ibuprofen and aspirin for dogs

If your dog is in pain, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible (or take to an emergency vet if the pain is severe). Your veterinarian may offer treatments, therapies, or other methods to reduce your pet’s discomfort.

They can also prescribe a number of medications designed just for dogs, including:

  • Carprofen
  • Deracoxib
  • Firocoxib
  • Meloxicam
  • Gabapentin
  • Tramadol

In some cases, pain management may also be achieved by making changes to your dog's diet and exercise routine. Maintaining a healthy weight is better for their joints, so it's an especially good idea for dogs with arthritis or similar chronic conditions.

When treating your dog with ibuprofen, aspirin, or any other medicine, always start by talking with your veterinarian.

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