Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are extremely valuable in human and veterinary medicine as pain relievers.
Most human drugs in this class should not be given to pets due to undesirable side effects, some of which can be life threatening. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian before giving your pet a new medication.
- Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
- Carprofen (Rimadyl)
- Deracoxib (Deramaxx)
- Meloxicam (Metacam)
Given wisely and with appropriate monitoring, NSAIDs have the potential to significantly improve our pets’ quality of life. At the current time, these drugs are only approved for use in dogs since cats cannot tolerate most drugs in this class. (Meloxicam may be the exception, but its use in cats is off-label and it must be used with caution.)
Note: While there is some concern in human medicine about the risk of heart attack or stroke with the use of COX-2 inhibitors, (such as Celebrex and Vioxx), to date there is no evidence of a similar concern with dogs. Deramaxx is currently the only selective COX-2 inhibitor used in dogs. As a species, dogs are not prone to the same types of cardiac disease as humans, and there have been no reports of these types of adverse effects on dogs.
When Are NSAIDs Used?
- Commonly given to control pain associated with arthritis
- May be used in any number of situations where inflammation leads to pain
- Short term control of pain following surgery or injury
- Long term control of chronic pain such as arthritis
In Long Term NSAID Use:
- A baseline blood panel should be performed to ensure there is no evidence of underlying liver or kidney problems
- The liver is the primary organ involved in metabolism of these drugs
- Changes in dose or drug may be needed if the liver is compromised
- Monitoring liver and kidney values periodically is recommended
- The kidneys can be adversely affected if already compromised, requiring different type of pain reliever be used
Possible Side Effects:
A range of adverse effects are possible, from a mild upset stomach to more serious organ problems, and you should monitor your pet closely for:
- Decreased appetite or refusal to eat
- Vomiting or diarrhea (especially with blood)
- Depression or lethargy
Symptoms may especially occur within the first 3-4 weeks of administration. If your pet shows any of these signs after starting medication, discontinue use of the drug and call the office. Chances are that your pet is just experiencing some mild stomach upset (which can often be avoided by giving the drug on a full stomach), but it is best to be cautious if these signs are observed.
Avoiding Drug Interactions
NSAID side effects are far more common if more than one type (i.e.: aspirin and Rimadyl, Deramaxx and Metacam, etc.) are given simultaneously, or if given with a steroid such as prednisone or dexamethasone.
For this reason, it is very important to tell your veterinarian if your pet is taking any other medication or if your pet has had significant side effects from any other drugs, even medications taken for other reasons.
Some dogs that do not appear to be helped by one NSAID may respond to another, so a change from one to another may be necessary. A rest or ‘washout’ period is needed in this case, to avoid possible side effects. This period may range from 3-10 days, depending on the drugs involved. Switching from aspirin to another NSAID requires the longest washout period. Do not give your dog any medication of this class without consulting your veterinarian first.
NSAIDs, like any other drug, carry the small possibility of side effects, but overall, they have been of great value in maintaining a good quality of life, particularly in our aging pets. Please ask your veterinarian if you have any questions about your pet’s current medications.
You can review a typical arthritis pain control plan HERE.