You can create a lot of problems giving human medications to your pets, even one as simple as an aspirin. Here’s the risk as I explained it to a reader who asked about her pet’s arthritis pain.
Q: My pet is a little achy from arthritis. Is it OK to give her aspirin?
A: Back in the day, veterinarians might sometimes recommend giving an arthritic pet a small dose of aspirin. But that was a long time ago, and now we have a number of pain medications, nutraceuticals and other ways of managing pain that are much better suited to the needs of our dogs and cats.
But why can’t you just give aspirin if that’s what you have on hand? For the skinny, I asked my colleague, pet pain expert Michael Petty, DVM.
While aspirin might seem to help with pet pain, it can cause problems in both dogs and cats and should not be given. One of those problems is stomach ulcers.
“Stomach ulcers are the largest concern we have, and should your pet get an ulcer, it may cost thousands of dollars to treat this life-threatening concern,” Dr. Petty says. “One dog study using an endoscope to look at the stomach lining after aspirin administration showed that there was inflammation present just one hour after a single dose of aspirin. Another study showed that aspirin given to dogs actually hastened the degradation of cartilage.” In other words, it may have helped with the pain initially, but in the long run, it made the pain worse.
Instead of giving aspirin, talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to manage your pet’s pain. Losing weight can be a start. Just relieving the pressure on those joints can do a lot for a pet’s well-being.
Dogs and cats can benefit from injections of a joint supplement called Adequan. Acupuncture, cold laser, hydrotherapy and massage are other options. And there are pet-specific non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications your veterinarian can prescribe to help relieve arthritis pain.
There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.