Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are frequently used in dogs to manage pain and inflammation in dogs. They are used to treat arthritis and inflammation, and they are also used after surgery or injury. You may be familiar with the names of the commonly used drugs Rimadyl, Metacam, Previcox, and Etogesic. If your dog has an acute or chronic condition that results in him being in pain, NSAIDs may be prescribed by your vet to help him feel more comfortable.
Key Things to Ask Before Giving Your Dog NSAIDs
Before using any drug on your dog (including NSAIDs), make sure you understand:
- What the drug is being used for.
- The dose rate for your dog – how much to give and how often.
- How to give the drug – for example, with or without food.
- How long to keep treating your dog – determine if the drug is for short term treatment or if it can be safely be used for the long term.
- How often your dog needs to be checked by your vet.
- Whether there are any interactions between the drug and your dog’s other treatments.
- What the side effects might be from taking the drugs.
You can obtain all this information from your vet, who is the only one who can prescribe these drugs for your dog.
Potential Side Effects – What to Look Out For
While NSAIDs are helpful drugs that will ease your dog’s suffering, they can also cause several unpleasant side effects if you are not careful. A major side effect of NSAIDs is irritation to the upper gastrointestinal tract leading to ulceration and bleeding. Signs of this are:
- Lack of appetite.
- Depression and lethargy.
- Vomiting, especially if the vomit looks like coffee grounds. Coffee ground vomit is produced when there is blood that has been digested by stomach acid.
- Black sticky feces – again the result of blood in the stomach being digested as it moves down the gastrointestinal tract.
NSAIDs may also affect your dog’s liver and kidneys. You’ll notice increased thirst, vomiting, depression, and sometimes yellowing of the gums or whites of the eyes. If you see any of these signs, then stop giving him the drugs and take him to see your vet immediately.
You can minimize the risk of side effects by:
- Not using NSAIDs unless prescribed for your dog by your vet. This includes giving a NSAID prescribed for one dog to your other dog, or even giving your dog a NSAID that you take yourself.
- Following directions closely – use the exact dose at the exact frequency.
- Not using any other medications at same time without checking with your vet first.
Don’t let these side effects scare you from using NSAIDs when your vet prescribes them. These are very useful drugs that are helpful in treating illness and injury in dogs. If used properly, they are safe and effective, and you and your dog have nothing to worry about.
Susan Wright DMV is a vet, a dog expert and freelance writer. Susan shares articles on health conditions that pertain to both people and pets.