Aspirin is a common over the counter pain killer and blood thinner, and for many of us, is a staple of our household medicine cupboard or first aid kit. It is also sometimes prescribed under very specific conditions for dogs, and this, along with the fact that we often think of it as a minor painkiller, can occasionally lead to people considering medicating their own dogs at home with aspirin, without speaking to the vet first. However, this can be very dangerous, as aspirin can cause toxicity in dogs if used in the wrong circumstances or in the wrong dosage, and aspirin toxicity is a very real threat if your dog manages to accidentally ingest some of your own aspirin pills too.
In this article we will look at aspirin toxicity in dogs, and what can be done about it. Read on to learn more.
Aspirin is classed as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and has a lot of potential applications. It can be used as a simple painkiller thanks to its analgesic properties, and can also be used as an anti-inflammatory agent to reduce swelling or inflammation, or as an anti-platelet medication, to thin the blood or prevent clotting.
While aspirin used correctly can do a lot of good, it can also potentially be toxic. The body converts ingested aspirin into salicylic acid, which then works throughout the body, having a systemic effect.
If your dog has ingested a potentially toxic dose of aspirin (what constitutes a toxic dose will depend on the size of your dog, as well as other factors) symptoms may not immediately become apparent, sometimes taking hours or longer to be noticeable. Some of the potential symptoms include:
In the later stages of toxicity, collapse and sudden death may occur, so it is important to act on any earlier symptoms promptly, and not just wait to see what happens.
If your dog is prescribed aspirin at the appropriate levels, sometimes, even a non-toxic dose can present with similar symptoms to the above, and so it is important to speak to your vet promptly in the case of any of the above symptoms.
If you know or are reasonably sure that your dog has eaten aspirin, take the bottle along to the vet with you, as this can help them to calculate how much your dog ate, particularly if you are aware of how many pills are missing.
When at the vets, your vet will work quickly to diagnose how severe the associated toxicity is, which will necessitate blood testing for cell count and serum levels, and tests of the blood’s ability to clot naturally. Dogs with aspirin toxicity will also usually be anaemic, and have an electrolyte imbalance.
If your dog receives veterinary treatment promptly, treatment may involve the use of a medication to absorb any aspirin still in the stomach, or remove it so that the body does not process it. When you first call your vet, they may tell you to induce vomiting (and how to do this) at home, but you should not induce vomiting at home by any means without your vet’s approval.
Within the clinic, your vet may induce vomiting, pump your dog’s stomach, or use activated charcoal to absorb the aspirin.
If ulcers or other internal damage has occurred due to ingestion, your vet will usually then prescribe medications to protect the sensitive lining of the gastrointestinal tract, and to promote healing. Fluid therapy and monitoring may be required for some time too, and repeated blood tests in the early stages of treatment will often be important. Once your dog is stable, they will be able to return home, but will usually be required to go back to the clinic in the following days for a check-up.
Like all medications and otherwise potentially harmful substances, the best way to prevent a problem from developing is to keep medications well out of the reach of your dog in the first place! Aspirin is usually fairly bitter tasting, and so dogs will not often ingest large quantities of it out of choice, but some dogs can and will eat anything, and accidents can happen!
It is also of course important never to give your dog aspirin to try to treat minor ills at home, without the direction of your vet. If your dog is prescribed aspirin by your vet, you must stick to the correct dosage and times of treatment, and not make any changes to their routine without first checking with your vet.