Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most widely used medications in veterinary medicine commonly prescribed for pets with various painful and inflammatory conditions, including arthritis and post-surgical pain relief. The most common adverse effects are stomach ulcers, kidney, liver, and blood disorders. When treating chronic pain associated with arthritis, the effectiveness of NSAIDs can be improved by physical therapy, use of joint protective drugs, and diet and exercise to control weight.

There are a number of NSAIDs approved for use in dogs including: Rimadyl (active ingredient carprofen) and EctoGesic (active ingredient etodolac). Feldene (common ingredient piroxicam) is often prescribed for use in dogs with cancer for pain control. There are currently no approved NSAID products for cats in the United States and any NSAID use in cats must be done carefully under a veterinary supervision. Since control of pain and inflammation in pets with arthritis is likely to require some type of prolonged therapy, it is important to know the side effects in arthritic pets treated for greater than one year.

Side Effects of NSAIDs

Although in many pets NSAIDs can be used safely, these drugs have been shown to cause harmful side effects that may affect one or many organs. For example, Rimadyl and EctoGesic can interact with other medications which can result in increased or decreased concentration of the medications in the pet's blood. Drug interaction most likely occurs in pets taking medications for epilepsy, such as phenolbarbital, or for heart failure, such as Lasix (furosemide), digoxin, and Enacard. Below is an incomplete list of potential side effects of NSAIDs.

Gastrointestinal System - Bleeding, ulceration, perforation, inflammation of the pancreas, diarrhea. Older pets are at greater risk for kidney failure. Any time dehydration is present, the risk of kidney disease increases. Pre-treatment blood and urine testing can detect some but not all kidney problems. Elevated liver enzymes, liver failure. The most serious side effect seen in dogs taking Rimadyl was liver disease. Labrador Retrievers seem to have predisposition to develop more serious side affects leading to liver failure than other dog breeds.

Immune System - Anemia, skin reactions

Neurvous System - Seizures, paralysis, unsteadiness

Musculoskeletal System - Both Rimadyl and EctoGesic appear to cause less cartilage destruction than other NSAIDs, although the safety margin in these products is very narrow: elevated dose level of EctoGesic at 2.7 times the maximum daily dose causes gastrointestinal ulcers, vomiting, and fecal blood and weight loss.

In January, 2005, The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center alerted pet owners to the dangers of NSAIDs used for humans, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen.

The effectiveness of NSAIDs can be improved diet and exercise to control weight.

While these medications can be beneficial to humans, they can potentially be very hazardous or even deadly to pets," warns Dr. Steve Hansen, veterinary toxicologist and Senior Vice-President of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

Pets can be ccidentally exposured to NSAIDs by chewing into a medication bottle or ingesting pills left unattended, or as a result of pet owners inappropriately medicating their pets without the direction of a veterinarian. "Pet owners should never give their animal any medication without first talking with their pet's veterinarian," Dr. Hansen advises. Pet owners should store medications in a secure cabinet well out of the reach of animals, as even child-proof containers can be easily chewed open. As with any substance, if you suspect your pet may have become exposed to an NSAID, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435) for immediate assistance.

Common NSAIDs


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