There would be nothing more easy and inexpensive than to give to pets certain common household human medicines, such as tylenol or aspirin, when they are suspected to be in pain. But the do-it-yourself therapy for dogs is never safe. Virtually all drugs produce some side effects, depending on the dose, administration interval and intrinsic patient factors such as species, breed, age, gender, the physiological status (e.g., pregnancy, lactation) and possible pathological conditions, especially gastrointestinal, liver and kidney diseases. The fact that tylenol and aspirin can be bought without the prescription of a physician or a veterinarian doesn't mean they are innocuous drugs. Indeed, they can produce serious, sometimes even fatal, side effects both in humans and in dogs. So, if you suspect that your dog is in pain, before giving him any over-the-counter medications that you have in your medicine cabinet or you can easily buy at a pharmacy, it is important that you ask yourself various questions: is my dog really in pain or does he have any other health problems? Can dogs be given tylenol or aspirin for pain? If so, after considering breed, age, gender and health status, can my own dog be given tylenol or aspirin for pain? And which dose and dosing interval is appropriate for him?
Talk to your Veterinarian about the use of Tylenol
Of course, all these questions can only be answered by a veterinarian. So, making a trip or a call to your veterinarian not only can definitely answer to these questions, but can also be helpful to avoid the devastating consequences that might arise if you inconsiderately give your dog a human drug. First of all, remember that what is good for humans is not necessarily good for dogs. The way in which humans and dogs absorb, metabolize and eliminate drugs from their bodies is different. That’s why the dose of a drug that is therapeutic for a human may reveal itself to be toxic for a pet. One of the most glaring example is the use of tylenol in cats: cats lack in an essential enzyme which is necessary to metabolize tylenol to a relatively non-toxic compound which is rapidly eliminated from the body with the urine. Due to the lack of this enzyme, cats are particularly sensitive to the acute toxic effects of tylenol, including cyanosis (blue discoloration of skin and mucous membranes), facial swelling, anemia, presence of hemoglobin in the urine (chocolate-colored urine) and jaundice. These acute effects are the result of the rupture of red blood cells caused by tylenol itself and irreversible liver damage caused by tylenol’s toxic metabolites. The consequences in cats are dramatic, often fatal, even at the smallest doses of tylenol. Unlike cats, dogs do have the enzyme which is necessary to convert tylenol and its metabolites to a relatively non-toxic compound which is eliminated through the urine. That’s why dogs are less sensitive than cats to the smallest doses of tylenol. Indeed some veterinarians prescribe acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve muscle-skeletal pain in dogs because of its beneficial analgesic effects, minimal risk of bleeding and minor gastrointestinal effects. However, the use of tylenol in dogs without the supervision of a veterinarian is too hazardous and is absolutely contraindicated: a relatively minor error in the dose or in treatment duration is enough to produce irreversible liver damage and even death of the pet, unless intoxication is treated as early as possible.
As concerns aspirin, this drug was commonly used in the past to treat a variety of painful and inflammatory conditions in dogs (especially osteoarthritis). However in recent years its use has declined due to the introduction of safer and more effective products. The most common adverse events related to the use of aspirin in dogs, even at therapeutic doses, include gastrointestinal effects (gastritis, gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers), bleeding disorders and renal dysfunction. Indeed, one of the most common cause of gastritis in dogs is the chronic use of certain medications called non-steroidal ant inflammatory drugs, of which aspirin is the most known representative. In order to avoid any of these side effects, the use of aspirin (preferably buffered or coated aspirin) should be always done under the supervision of a veterinarian. In addition, it is important to remember that aspirin is contraindicated in a variety of pathological conditions, such as active gastrointestinal diseases, renal or hepatic insufficiency or dysfunction, dehydration, hypotension, significant blood losses and any type of suspected or confirmed coagulation disorder, as well as in dogs who have to undergo to surgical intervention (to avoid bleeding complications during surgery). So, before giving aspirin to one’s own dog, it is important to know exactly his health condition. In fact, while a correct dose of aspirin can be beneficial to treat pain in an adult, otherwise healthy dog, the same dose can produce deleterious effects in vulnerable pets such as puppies, old dogs and dogs with the medical conditions above mentioned.
From what it as been said above, it is clear that it is not sufficient to ask oneself the question "can tylenol or aspirin be given to dogs"? It is also necessary to ask oneself the more precise question “can tylenol or aspirin be given to my own dog”? In any case it would be better to answer “no, they can not”. Nowadays, more safer drugs with equal or even better analgesic effect as Ttylenol or aspirin are available on the market, often in the form of medicinal products specific for dogs. So, why to risk? The money saving resulting from the use of tylenol or aspirin to treat pain in your dog, surely does not compensate for the value, the health and the life of your dog himself.