It is not unusual for older dogs to experience the pain of arthritis. Low-dose aspirin, also called "baby" aspirin, is one method of managing that pain. While prescription drugs such as Rimadyl or Metacam, might provide more effective long-term pain relief, low-dose aspirin can be an inexpensive supplement in a dog's arthritis regimen.
Dogs and Arthritis
In 2001, the University of Pennsylvania reported on research based on a sample of approximately 16,000 dogs that showed certain breeds were more prone to arthritis than others. This report indicated that hip laxity, a contributor to canine hip dysplasia, was also associated with canine arthritis. For this reason, larger breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia, such as Golden and Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards, are more prone to canine arthritis.
Properties of Aspirin
Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It is a pain reliever that can be used to treat discomfort and reduce swelling. Although coated aspirin that dissolves in the stomach can be used by dogs, enteric-coated aspirin, which dissolves in the intestines, is not recommended for use by dogs.
Dogs that Can be Treated with Aspirin
Most dogs of any size can be given baby aspirin, as long as the dose is correctly calculated. However, according to It's a Dog's Life Toronto, young dogs should not be given aspirin because the enzymes needed to process the drug are not present in their bodies. Refrain from giving baby aspirin to any dog under one year of age without consulting a veterinarian.
Treating an Arthritic Dog using Aspirin
According to the Placerville Veterinary Clinic, if a dog "needs aspirin more than once or twice a week, [the owner] should change to something more effective." Small dogs should be given no more than one half a tablet or 40 mg of baby aspirin (based on 8 pounds/3.62 kg body weight). For every 8 additional pounds, it is safe to increase the aspirin dosage by approximately 40 mg.
Aspirin Side Effects
It is possible for a dog being treated with aspirin to experience an upset stomach or ulcers due to being given aspirin. Prolonged aspirin use or overdose can lead to aspirin toxicity, which is characterized by kidney failure, depression or even bloody vomit, among other symptoms. Aspirin toxicity even can be fatal if treatment is not provided. While aspirin can be a valuable treatment tool in treating arthritis, it can also be harmful if used improperly. If aspirin is to be given for more than several days, the a veterinarian should be consulted before continuing its use.