What Are NSAIDs for Dogs?

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    What Are NSAIDs for Dogs?

    NSAID stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug and as the name suggests, is a pain reliever that reduces inflammation and fever. NSAIDs allow your pet to move and play with less discomfort by inhibiting the chemicals that cause pain and inflammation. They are available as oral medication or given intravenously.

    How Do NSAIDs Work?

    Pain is induced by prostaglandin molecules, which are inhibited by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID). In addition to relieving pain, NSAIDs allow dogs to move, which helps their heart, lungs and digestive system operate correctly. Exercise helps pets maintain their muscles, which helps them keep their joints aligned, resulting in reduced pain.

    What Do NSAIDs Treat in Dogs?

    NSAIDs are used to treat numerous conditions including arthritis, inflammation in the eye (anterior uveitis), knee ligament injury (cruciate disease), hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar dislocation, rheumatoid or septic arthritis, abnormal joint cartilage development (osteochondritis dissecans or OCD), spinal arthritis (spondylosis deformans), and cancéritum. They may also be prescribed for post-operative pain.

    What are the Different Types of NSAID Medications for Dogs?

    A number of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) have been authorized by the FDA for use in dogs to treat pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, as well as pain and inflammation following soft tissue and orthopedic surgery.

    Active Ingredient Brand Names
    Carprofen Marketed under multiple trade names
    Deracoxib DERAMAXX, DOXIDYL*
    Firocoxib PREVICOX
    Grapiprant GALLIPRANT
    Meloxicam Marketed under multiple trade names
    Robenacoxib ONSIOR (for a maximum of 3 days)

    *Indicates an FDA-approved generic animal drug.

    For dogs with osteoarthritis, ONSIOR (robenacoxib) isn’t recommended for long-term usage. When used to reduce pain and inflammation following soft tissue surgery, it should only be taken for a maximum of three days.

    What are the Side Effects?

    Just like with any medication, there is a risk of side effects in dogs with NSAIDs. A gastric ulcer is a common side effect as well as reluctance to eat, vomiting, and passing dark, tarry stool. Dogs who are taking NSAIDs are at increased risk of kidney damage which can result in drinking more and urinating more, a condition known as polydipsia polyuria (PUPD) as well as liver damage. It’s important to note that dogs often go back to functioning normally once they are no longer taking an NSAID medication. Due to the many possible side effects, including kidney and liver damage, they usually require a veterinary prescription. Some veterinarians may do a blood test while the dog is on NSAIDs to monitor their stomach, liver or kidneys in case there is any damage.

    Vets might also want to screen dogs for risk factors before prescribing NSAIDs to help minimize the risk of adverse side effects which may include going over their medical history as well as doing a complete physical examination. They may also do blood work to ensure your dog doesn’t have a preclinical disease such as kidney disease and ensure they are good candidates for NSAIDs.

    How Can You Keep Your Dog Safe From NSAIDs?

    • Learn to recognize potential side effects of NSAIDs. If any are noticed, stop giving the medication immediately and report any side effects or issues to the prescribing veterinarian.
    • Keep the NSAIDs out of reach from your dogs by keeping them locked away and high up. NSAIDs for dogs often come in flavors such as chicken or beef and the smell may entice your dog to get into a bottle. Overdosing is a common cause of side effects.
    • Schedule regular checkups and lab work to monitor your dog’s organs while on NSAIDs. Veterinarians can also look for adverse side effects that you may not be aware of.
    • Report adverse side effects to the FDA to aid in their efforts to monitor prescription drug safety.
    • Give joint supplements and omega3 fatty acids along with the NSAIDs to aid in inflammation relief but consult with your vet prior. 
    • Don’t use two different NSAIDs at the same time unless prescribed to do so.
    • Always consult your veterinarian before giving over-the-counter NSAID medications.

    Learn more about veterinary NSAIDs from the FDA

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