What Are NSAIDs?
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are a class of drugs used primarily to treat pain and inflammation. NSAIDs act by lowering the production of chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause irritation to joint surfaces, contribute to joint deterioration, and stimulate nerve endings causing pain. NSAIDs are commonly prescribed for post-surgery, injury, and arthritis. The most familiar NSAID for humans is Ibuprofen.
Why Are NSAIDs Being Prescribed for Your Pet?
The most common reasons your dog or cat might be prescribed an NSAID are for management of pain associated with surgery, and for the treatment of chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis. In some cases NSAIDs are used for the treatment of specific forms of cancer. As long as there are no visible side effects and regular blood work shows no signs of trouble, it is safe to use these medications daily for an indefinite period of time under medical supervision and with a prescription.
If you think the medication is no longer necessary, or may be causing side effects, please call your veterinarian.
Commonly Used NSAIDs
There are several NSAIDs that have been developed specifically for pets. They were designed to give pain relief, while decreasing the risk of stomach upset in dogs and cats.
- Rimadyl/Novox (carprofen)
- Previcox (firocoxib)
- Deramaxx (deracoxib)
- Metacam (meloxicam)
What Are the Side Effects
Side effects associated with NSAID therapy in dogs and cats are generally mild but can include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, black stool, and blood in the stool*. These signs are secondary to gastrointestinal irritation and ulceration from the NSAID. It is common for your pet to also be receiving Pepcid (famotidine) or Prilosec (omeprazole) as an aid to prevent any gastrointestinal irritation while receiving this medication.
Rarely, liver and kidney values may be elevated secondary to NSAIDs, and therefore it is essential to have routine bloodwork (minimally every 3 months preferred).
Most patients will recover from any side-effects quickly simply by discontinuing the medication; however, pet owners should always report any side effects to their veterinarian so that they can receive proper recommendations for their pet’s care.
*If your pet is receiving NSAIDs and you notice dark tarry stools, bloody diarrhea, or vomiting, please stop the medication and contact your veterinarian immediately.
Can I Use Similar Drugs Designed for Human Use?
Many of the NSAIDs people take are highly toxic to dogs, in some cases, leading to death. Since human medications have not been tested for dogs, their safety is unknown, and they should never be given to dogs without veterinary supervision.