NSAIDs for Dogs | What You Need to Know

What All Dog Owners Should Know About NSAIDs

Arthritis and joint problems consistently rank among the top reasons dogs are taken to visit the vets. Studies have shown that canine arthritis can affect as many as one in five adult dogs.

Dogs damage their joints and soft tissues in a variety of ways. Through injury, infection, growth defects, autoimmune disease, arthritis and degenerative joint disease. These all can cause sudden or slow but progressively degenerative changes in your dog’s joints and result in pain and inflammation.

NSAID DrugsAnti-inflammatory drugs such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox and Metacam are some of the most commonly dispensed drugs by vets. These drugs are collectively known as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs. They are very effective at reducing inflammation but unfortunately only mask the symptoms. They do nothing to treat the underlying cause of arthritis. There is even evidence to show that they may actually increase the damage. Moreover, they are usually only effective during the early stages of the disease. Once joints degenerate beyond a certain point (and they will), the drugs just do not cut it anymore.

Few drugs are without possible side effects. The potential side effects of veterinary NSAIDs are numerous; they can be severe, and even fatal; their development can be completely unpredictable; and most importantly, they can be irreversible.

Inhibiting the Pro-Inflammatory Enzyme Prostaglandin

These medications alleviate the pain and the inflammation caused by dog arthritis. They do this by inhibiting the pro-inflammatory enzyme prostaglandin. Unfortunately, when NSAIDs suppress the inflammatory properties of prostaglandin, they also suppress the enzyme’s other functions.

When NSAIDs inhibit the effects of prostaglandins, it can cause toxicity. NSAID toxicity can be dangerous, and if left unchecked, it can be fatal.

Stomach Upset

NSAIDs can cause ulcers because prostaglandins are an important component of the protective lining of the stomach and upper intestine. Signs that your dog might be suffering from ulcers caused by NSAIDs are vomiting, change in appetite and blood in the stool. When these symptoms are observed, this is an emergency and you should immediately take your dog to the vets.

Kidney Damage

The kidneys are dependent on prostaglandins which ensure that enough blood reaches the kidneys. When there is too much NSAID in your dog’s system, this can potentially reduce the blood flow to the kidneys, compromising their ability to function. If you notice any changes in your dog’s behaviour or physical condition, it would be best to visit a vet so that a blood test can be performed to check for kidney damage.

Liver Malfunction

Like most drugs, NSAIDs will negatively affect liver function. NSAIDs can cause inflammation of the liver. Symptoms include an enlarged liver, abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes). At worse NSAIDs can also cause acute liver failure resulting over time in the liver stopping to function, causing pain, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, muscle tremors, disorientation or confusion and jaundice.

Blood tests should be done before any NSAID is dispensed to confirm normal liver and kidney function, red blood cell count, and other parameters. These tests need to be repeated at regular intervals to confirm that the NSAID is still being tolerated. The medication should be stopped immediately if any symptoms develop. In addition, NSAIDs must never be given with aspirin or any form of steroid; doing so can result in death.

The Role of Joint Supplements

One of the major reasons proactive vets recommend oral joint supplement products such as Joint Mobility is to reduce or eliminate the need for long-term Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) use. Dogs who develop osteoarthritis, tend to be older and often have other conditions in addition to arthritis, such as kidney or liver problems.

If NSAIDs must be given, they should never be prescribed without concurrent joint support administration such as a quality joint supplement because reducing pain without reducing degeneration potential is just bad medicine. Of course, in the ideal world, we want to reduce or eliminate the need for NSAIDs altogether.