Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in dogs – both friend and foe
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are among the most frequently prescribed medications given to dogs. NSAIDs provide effective pain relief for a variety of conditions, including post-surgical pain and osteoarthritis, but also have the dubious distinction of being one of the most common causes of adverse drug reactions and accidental poisoning in dogs.
In human medicine, NSAIDs include aspirin, the ibuprofen family, and COX-2 inhibitors. Dogs metabolize NSAIDs differently than people, making them more sensitive to these drugs, which drove the search for alternative NSAIDs that would be effective in dogs but with fewer side effects. As a result, we now have a large number of safer NSAIDs for our dogs.
But, NSAIDs still can cause problems if not administered properly.
NSAIDs affect many different organs such as the kidneys and liver. Although they can be given to dogs with impaired liver and/or kidney function, great care is needed to ensure that NSAIDs are given safely in these fragile patients. Sometimes dosages can be adjusted, and in some cases alternative pain alleviation strategies, such as physical therapy, diet change and weight loss, are indicated.
NSAIDs interact with many other medications. They can cause serious stomach ulcers and bleeding when more than one is given at a time, or if given in combination with corticosteroids (such as prednisone), even when only one or two doses overlap.
We reviewed our Golden Retriever Lifetime Study baseline data to look at NSAID use in this young population of dogs. Almost 370 dogs have either owner-reported or veterinarian-reported usage. Many of these dogs received NSAIDs as part of their pain relief treatment post neutering. We also found that 1 percent of study participants receive NSAIDs on a regular basis, suggesting ongoing pain issues requiring intervention. We will continue to monitor NSAID use as this population ages.
NSAIDs are an invaluable component of pain management strategies and, when used properly, provide excellent pain control. It’s tempting to reach for these drugs when we see our dogs in pain. However, because of potential complicating factors and drug interactions, NSAIDs should only be given after consultation with your family veterinarian.