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Dog Arthritis Medication Safety and Rimadyl by Chris Durin

Dog Arthritis Medication Safety and Rimadyl

by Chris Durin

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There is a lot of concern out there about the use of the non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the treatment of dog arthritis. The most popular of these drugs is Rimadyl, a potent and effective dog arthritis medication. Rimadyl and other NSAIDs are effective and generally very safe medications in dogs but they are not harmless and can have tragic side effects, so here are a few rules to make them as safe as possible.

Rule 1. Decide if You Need Them

The NSAIDs should not be your first choice for dog arthritis treatment unless your dog is suddenly very sore. For the long term control of dog arthritis you are better to start with a joint protector – Adequan injections weekly for 4 weeks and then switch to Dasuquin or Cosequin (Dasuquin is better but they are both good medications). You can add high dose fish oils to this as well.

Other drugs such as Tramadol can be a safer option for short term pain relief if you are trying to avoid NSAIDs.

Rule 2. Make Sure No Other Anti-Inflammatories Have Been Used Recently

The NSAIDs will interfere with other similar medications, in particular aspirin and cortisone. Aspirin causes ulcers in the stomach lining but also causes the production of a substance called alipoxin to protect these ulcers. The popular veterinary NSAIDs inhibit this protection, allowing a little ulcer from aspirin to get so bad that it may even turn into a perforated stomach. If you have used aspirin even just once you should not used the NSAIDs for 2 weeks. Your vet will find something else to keep your much loved dog comfortable.

Cortisone can cause have a double up effect on the gastrointestinal side effects of the NSAIDs so they should not be used together. A lot of dogs are on cortisone for their skin problems so remind your vet about this if he or she is considering NSAIDs for your dogs arthritis. A ‘washout’ of 3-5 days is usually enough.

Rule 3. Avoid Human NSAIDs

Human NSAIDs should not be used in dogs, with very few exceptions. See my post on human medications.

Rule 4. Blood Test Before and During Treatment

I won’t say everyone owner blood tests their dog before using the NSAIDs. However if  you are looking to play it safe I would suggest you blood test the liver and kidneys before using the NSAIDs, 2 weeks into therapy and then every 3-6 months ongoing. Most of the problems with Rimadyl and other NSAIDs are due to dogs with pre-existing liver or kidney disease, so the blood tests can help to pick these problems up. Now I hear what you are saying – we don’t blood test people before they have a course of a human NSAID. True in most cases but did you know that human NSAIDs kill 16,000 people a year? Besides dogs don’t say much so we would often have no idea that they have liver or kidney problems.

Rule 5. Watch Your Dog Closely On Treatment

Despite all of these precautions some dogs will have side effects to the NSAIDs. Statistically they are very likely to happen within the first month – long term use does not seem to present any extra risk. Watch your dog closely for any signs of ill health – vomiting, diarrhea, not eating, not drinking, a yellowing of the eyes and gums in particular. If you pick these signs up fast then your much loved dog is likely to be just fine and in most cases needs no other treatment than stopping the drug. Make sure you see your vet if you have any worries at all.

The Take Home Message?

NSAIDs such as Rimadyl are generally safe and effective. They can make a big difference to your dogs mobility and quality of life so use them if your dog needs them – just be careful and don’t overdo it!

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  • Published: September 2010
  • LearnOutLoud.com Product ID: D037015