Is aspirin better than ibuprofen for dogs?

When it comes to managing pain and inflammation in dogs, two of the most common over-the-counter medications used are aspirin and ibuprofen. But is one better for canine health than the other? There are some important factors to consider when choosing between these two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for your furry friend.

How do aspirin and ibuprofen work?

Both aspirin and ibuprofen work by inhibiting cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes which are involved in the production of prostaglandins that promote pain, inflammation, fever and blood clotting. This makes them effective options for relieving mild to moderate pain associated with arthritis, joint injury or postoperative pain. However, there are some differences in how they specifically act:

– Aspirin irreversibly inhibits both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. COX-1 protects the stomach lining while COX-2 mediates inflammation and pain. This means aspirin can cause more gastrointestinal side effects than ibuprofen.

– Ibuprofen reversibly blocks COX-1 and COX-2. It tends to selectively target COX-2 which gives it more anti-inflammatory properties with less adverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract.

So in theory, ibuprofen seems to offer advantages over aspirin. But there are other factors to consider when it comes to canine use.

Is aspirin safe for dogs?

Aspirin can be safely used in dogs, however proper dosing is important. The recommended dose is 5-10 mg per pound every 12 hours. Higher doses can lead to toxicity. Some potential side effects of aspirin include:

– Stomach ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding
– Loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea
– Liver damage at high doses
– Blood clotting abnormalities
– Allergic reaction in some dogs

Aspirin should also be avoided in dogs with pre-existing liver disease, bleeding disorders, or recent surgery as it can increase bleeding risk. And it should not be combined with corticosteroids like prednisone as this further increases the risk of stomach ulcers.

Is ibuprofen safe for dogs?

Ibuprofen is not recommended for use in dogs. Even at doses as low as 50-100 mg per pound, ibuprofen can cause serious adverse effects in canines including:

– Stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding or perforation
– Kidney damage or failure
– Increased bleeding risk due to platelet dysfunction
– Lethargy, ataxia, seizures

These effects occur because dogs do not metabolize and eliminate ibuprofen as efficiently as humans do. Toxic doses can accumulate rapidly leading to overdose symptoms. Ibuprofen toxicity can be fatal in dogs if not treated promptly with supportive care and discontinuation of the medication.

Aspirin dosage for dogs

The generally recommended dosage of aspirin for dogs is:

– 5-10 mg per pound of body weight
– Given every 12 hours

So for a 20 pound dog, a typical dose would be 100-200 mg (1-2 standard strength 325 mg tablets) every 12 hours. It’s best to consult your veterinarian for the appropriate aspirin dose based on your dog’s specific health status and needs. Extended use requires regular veterinary monitoring to watch for potential side effects.

Ibuprofen dosage for dogs

Ibuprofen should not be given to dogs due to the high risk of toxicity. There is no established safe or recommended dosage. Even small amounts can be dangerous. Human tablets should be kept well out of reach of pets. Seek immediate veterinary care if your dog accidentally ingests ibuprofen.

Aspirin vs. ibuprofen: Which is better for dogs?

When comparing aspirin and ibuprofen for canine use, aspirin is the safer choice when used responsibly under veterinary guidance. Reasons aspirin is preferred include:

1. Aspirin can be used safely in dogs at proper dosages

While ibuprofen is strictly dangerous for dogs, aspirin can be used safely within the recommended 5-10 mg/lb dose range. Veterinary supervision is still advised, especially for high risk dogs or long term use.

2. Aspirin is effective for pain, inflammation and fever in dogs

Numerous studies and clinical experience show that aspirin adequately reduces pain, inflammation and fever in dogs when dosed properly. It lasts 4-6 hours.

3. Wider margin of safety

The toxic dose of aspirin in dogs is much higher (200-300 mg/kg) than the toxic dose of ibuprofen (50-100 mg/kg). This gives aspirin a wider safety margin in dogs.

4. More cost effective treatment option

Aspirin is inexpensive and readily accessible as an OTC medication. This makes it more cost effective for long term pain management in dogs compared to some prescription NSAIDs or opioids.

5. Familiar medication to most dog owners

Since aspirin is already a common household medication for people, most dog owners are familiar with its administration and potential side effects which facilitates safer use in dogs.

However, ibuprofen should NOT be given to dogs:

1. High toxicity risk even at low doses

Ibuprofen can cause kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, seizures and even death in dogs at doses as low as 50-100 mg/kg. The toxic dose threshold is very low.

2. Dogs cannot metabolize ibuprofen effectively

Dogs lack the liver enzymes necessary to properly metabolize and excrete ibuprofen, allowing it to quickly accumulate to toxic levels.

3. No established safe or therapeutic dosing for dogs

Due to the narrow margin of safety, there are no recommended dosing guidelines for ibuprofen in canines, unlike the established 5-10 mg/kg dose for aspirin.

4. Requires veterinary prescription

While aspirin can be purchased over-the-counter, ibuprofen would require obtaining a prescription from a vet which is unlikely.

5. More expensive option

As a prescription-only NSAID, ibuprofen is more costly than aspirin for long term use.

In summary, aspirin, when used appropriately under veterinary supervision, is generally safe and effective for pain management in dogs. Ibuprofen should be avoided due to a high risk of toxicity at any dose. When in doubt, always consult your vet before giving your dog any new medication.

Using aspirin safely in dogs

While aspirin can be used safely in most dogs, some tips for optimal use include:

Follow dosing guidelines

– Only give 5-10 mg per pound of body weight every 12 hours
– Calculate dose carefully and use lowest effective amount
– Never exceed 10 mg/lb without veterinary approval

Consult your veterinarian first

– Have your vet confirm the appropriateness of aspirin for your dog
– Get advice on exact dosing based on health status
– Make sure to monitor for side effects

Use a buffered or enteric coated formula

– These forms are easier on the stomach than regular aspirin
– Reduces risk of gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers

Give with food

– Feeding with a meal helps minimize stomach upset
– Avoid giving on an empty stomach

Watch for side effects

– Discontinue use and call your vet if you notice vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or other concerning symptoms
– Routine blood work helps monitor for problems with extended use

Avoid in high risk dogs

– Puppies under 6 months old
– Dogs with liver disease, clotting disorders or recent surgery/injury
– Dogs on corticosteroids like prednisone
– Cats (highly sensitive to aspirin toxicity)

With judicious use under veterinary guidance and monitoring, aspirin can safely provide dogs relief from intermittent pain and inflammation. But it’s still important to discuss alternatives with your vet if needing long term medication.

Alternatives to aspirin and ibuprofen for dogs

While aspirin may be appropriate short term, there are other prescription NSAID options to consider for regular management of canine pain and inflammation including:

Carprofen (Rimadyl)

– COX-2 selective drug commonly prescribed for arthritis in dogs
– Reduced gastrointestinal side effects compared to aspirin
– Given once or twice daily


– Also COX-2 preferential with less GI effects
– Once daily dosing for chronic osteoarthritis
– Liquid form available for easier dosing


– Injectable NSAID for post-operative pain control
– Fast acting with duration up to 24 hours
– May allow lower opioid doses


– First canine-specific COX-2 inhibitor drug
– Minimal impact on GI tract, kidneys, liver
– Once daily tablet for osteoarthritis


– For chronic neuropathic pain in dogs
– Also helps increase activity and mobility
– May allow lower doses of other analgesics


– Prescribed for chronic neuropathic pain
– Also used as a mild sedative, anti-anxiety medication
– Available as liquid or capsules

Non-drug treatments are also important elements of a multimodal pain management plan. This may include:

– Weight management to reduce joint stress
– Physical therapy and exercise
– Joint supplements
– Acupuncture
– Therapeutic laser therapy
– Massage

Working closely with your veterinarian allows customization of pain control regimens to provide your dog the best quality of life. While aspirin has a place in canine medicine, it’s just one part of a comprehensive approach to responsible pain relief.

Frequently asked questions

1. Can I give my dog baby aspirin?

Baby aspirin is not recommended, as the dosage is difficult to adjust properly for dogs. Adult regular strength (325 mg per tablet) aspirin allows easier and safer dosing based on your dog’s weight. Always consult your vet first.

2. How long can I safely give my dog aspirin?

Aspirin is generally safe for short term use of a few days to a couple weeks in otherwise healthy dogs. Extended use of months or longer requires veterinary monitoring for side effects with routine blood work. Consider switching to prescription NSAIDs for long term use.

3. What are symptoms of aspirin toxicity in dogs?

Signs of aspirin overdose can include:

Mild toxicity Moderate toxicity Severe toxicity
Lethargy Abdominal pain or nausea Bloody vomit or feces
Loss of appetite Diarrhea Ulceration of gums or tongue
Elevated body temperature Blood in urine or stool Difficulty breathing
Bruising or bleeding Coma, seizures, death

Seek immediate veterinary treatment if aspirin toxicity is suspected. Inducing vomiting may be recommended.

4. Can I ever give my dog ibuprofen?

No. Ibuprofen should never be administered to dogs even in very small amounts. Unlike aspirin, there is no established safe dosing guideline for ibuprofen in canines. It can quickly lead to toxicity and serious adverse effects.

5. What if my dog accidentally got into some ibuprofen?

Contact your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic right away if you suspect your dog ingested any amount of ibuprofen. Treatment may include induced vomiting, stomach pumping, or medications to limit absorption. Supportive hospitalization may be needed to stabilize kidney function.

The takeaway

When used responsibly, aspirin can be a reasonable short-term option for treating mild pain or fever in dogs under veterinary guidance. For regular or long-term use, prescription NSAIDs tailored for canines may be safer and more effective. Ibuprofen should never be given to dogs due to toxicity concerns. Your veterinarian can help recommend the most suitable pain medication for providing your furry friend the best quality of life.

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