If you’re like most people, you reach for aspirin, ibuprofen or some other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, when you want to relieve pain. So it should be no surprise that NSAIDs also are the most commonly used pain reliever for dogs.
NSAIDs help control pain by relieving inflammation – the body’s response to irritation or injury – which is what makes them so effective for arthritis and other joint pain, as well as muscle aches and post-surgical pain.
They are generally safe for dogs, but still account for the largest number of what the Food & Drug Administration calls “adverse drug events” (ADE) in pets. So special care needs to be taken when they are used.
The most commonly reported ADEs for dogs are mild, but if untreated can result in serious complications. Things to watch for include your dog not eating or eating less than usual, changes in drinking, lethargic behavior or depression, vomiting, diarrhea, yellowing of the gums, skin or whites of eyes, or changes in skin, including increased scratching.
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms while taking NSAIDs, stop giving the drug and contact your vet immediately.
Other things to help ensure safe use include:
- Never give your dog an over-the-counter NSAID you may use. Use only NSAIDs that are FDA-approved for dogs. Currently, these are Etogesic (etodolac), Rimadyl (carprofen), Metacam (meloxicam), Deramaxx (deracoxib), Previcox (firocoxib), zubrin (tepoxalin), novox (carprofen) and Vetprofen (carprofen).
- Follow the directions for use given by your vet. Don’t increase the dose, frequency or length of time you give the drug without first talking with your vet.
- Don’t use any drugs in addition to an NSAID without checking with your vet. In particular, don’t use aspirin or corticosteroids along with an NSAID to your dog.
- Don’t assume an NSAID prescribed for one dog is safe for another dog. Always consult your vet.
By the way, there are no FDA-approved NSAIDs for long-term use in cats. Cats can’t break down NSAIDs as well as other animals, and this significantly increasing the dangers of their use.
More information on drug safety for pets is available from the FDA here.