Human giving a puppy a pill

Key takeaway

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are an effective tool for reducing inflammation, which can help treat a lot of medical conditions in dogs. However, there may be side effects if your dog takes anti-inflammatories, and choosing an FDA-approved anti-inflammatory is important. Before you give your dog any medication, including anti-inflammatories, talk to your vet about potential side effects and whether NSAIDs are right for your dog.

What to Know About Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories for Dogs

Inflammation can cause a lot of problems for your dog, so you might be wondering if you can give your dog anti-inflammatory medication. In fact, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed or recommended by your veterinarian if your dog is dealing with certain medical conditions. These medications work to reduce inflammation, which provides relief from dog joint pain and other associated disease processes1. However, NSAIDs also come with side effects, so there are downsides to be aware of.

While an anti-inflammatory for dogs may be the right treatment option in some cases, these drugs aren’t always the best route. Some dogs are also more susceptible to NSAIDs, so it’s important to talk to your vet before administering medication. If you’re wondering about using an anti-inflammatory for dogs, here’s what you need to know first.

What Are Anti-Inflammatory Medications for Dogs?

Anti-inflammatory medications for dogs are medications that are designed to reduce inflammation, which is part of the body’s immune response. The problem is, this immune response can lead to swelling, pain, and other symptoms that can make life difficult for your dog2.

Some chronic conditions cause inflammatory cells to be sent out by the body when there’s no illness or injury. Your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to treat dog arthritis and other conditions that cause joint pain and swelling. If your dog is limping or seems to be in pain, you should talk to your vet about their condition and whether anti-inflammatory drugs are the right treatment option.

How anti-inflammatory medications for dogs work

Most anti-inflammatory drugs are considered non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which means they don’t use steroids to reduce inflammation. While steroids are an effective method of treating inflammation in dogs and people, they can also cause several side effects.

What Are Side Effects of Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Dogs?

While an anti-inflammatory for dogs can help treat inflammation, it can also cause several side effects. Depending on the type of anti-inflammatory drugs you administer to your dog, here are some of the potential side effects2:

Side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs for dogs

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased or no appetite
  • Yellowing of the gums or whites of the eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased activity level

These side effects are a result of the way NSAIDs work in your dog’s body. NSAIDs work by blocking a specific enzyme that limits the production of prostaglandins, which are part of the body’s process for dealing with an injury2. The problem with this is that a lack of prostaglandins can cause other symptoms, including stomach issues and dog lethargy.

Before you give your dog any medication, make sure you talk to your vet about the potential side effects. Only your vet can decide what medication is safe for your dog, what a safe dosage is, and how to administer that medication.

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Having an Allergic Reaction to NSAIDs

While the side effects we talked about previously are somewhat common with NSAIDs in dogs, some dogs are actually allergic to NSAIDs and suffer much worse side effects. As a pet parent, it’s important to recognize the signs of an allergic reaction if you’re administering NSAIDs to your dog. BEST is an important acronym to remember. Here’s what it means2:

  • B-Behavior changes
  • E- Eating less
  • S- Skin redness or scabs
  • T- Tarry stool, diarrhea, or vomiting

Signs of an allergic reaction to anti-inflammatories for dogs

Behavioral changes are a common sign of medical issues in dogs. Reading dog body language can tell you a lot about how your dog is feeling, so keep an eye on their behavior.

Loss of appetite is another common sign that your dog is dealing with a medical issue. If your dog suddenly stops eating or isn’t eating as much after taking NSAIDs, they may be having an allergic reaction.

Changes in skin condition can also indicate an allergic reaction to an anti-inflammatory in dogs. If you notice skin redness or scabs on your dog, they could be having an allergic reaction to NSAIDs. However, these skin problems can also be caused by other medical conditions, so you should consult a vet, especially if your dog’s face is swollen.

When a dog is having an allergic reaction to NSAIDs, you may also notice tarry stool, diarrhea, or vomiting. After administering NSAIDs, check to make sure your dog isn’t having problems defecating.

If you think your dog is having an allergic reaction to NSAIDs, you should consult a vet immediately. Allergic reactions can lead to further medical complications, and it’s important to get your dog off NSAIDs if they’re causing problems. In the meantime, wait to administer additional doses of NSAIDs.

What Are FDA-Approved Anti-Inflammatory Medications for Dogs?

Choosing the right anti-inflammatory for dogs is important, and looking at FDA-approved anti-inflammatories is a good place to start. Here’s a list of some of the FDA-approved anti-inflammatory medications for dogs2:

  • Carprofen: Carprofen is a chewable tablet for dogs that can be used to treat inflammation and joint pain. Brand-name tablets include Rimadyl, Novox, and Vetprofen.
  • Deracoxib: Deracoxib is available in beef-flavored tablets and is used to treat pain that results from osteoarthritis as well as pain caused by dental or orthopedic surgery.
  • Firocoxib: Firocoxib is a COX-2 inhibitor that’s used to treat pain in both dogs and horses. Brand names for this medication include Equioxx and Previcox.
  • Grapiprant: Grapriprant (Galliprant) is mostly used to treat mild and moderate cases of inflammation that occur as a result of osteoarthritis. 
  • Meloxicam: Meloxicam is one of the few FDA-approved anti-inflammatories for dogs that can also be used for humans. This anti-inflammatory can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis in people and general pain and inflammation in dogs.
  • Robenacoxib: Robenacoxib is also a COX-2 inhibitor used to treat inflammation in cats and dogs. The brand name for Robenacoxib is Onsior.

Each anti-inflammatory for dogs is a little different from the next. Some of these drugs function differently from others and are used to treat different specific medical conditions. Before you give your dog any of these NSAIDs, make sure you talk to your vet about choosing the right one for your pooch.

How to Administer Anti-Inflammatories to Your Dog

As a pet parent, knowing how to administer medication to your dog is important. While you shouldn’t give your dog anti-inflammatories without permission from your vet, you should know how to administer them when you need to. Here’s a quick three-step process for administering anti-inflammatories to your dog2:

  1. Talk to your veterinarian: The first step is talking to your vet about giving your dog NSAIDs. While NSAIDs can be very helpful for certain conditions, your vet may recommend against them for treating certain conditions. For minor pain or inflammation, your vet may recommend anti-inflammatory foods for dogs. It’s also important to talk to your vet about which NSAID is right for your dog because certain NSAIDs may cause allergic reactions or harsh side effects.
  2. Administer anti-inflammatory medication: Once you’ve talked to your vet and they’ve told you it’s okay to administer NSAIDs, it’s time to administer the medication. Make sure you read the label on the medication you’re giving your dog and follow the instructions. You can check out the Client Information Sheet to learn more about a drug. FDA-approved NSAIDs can only be administered orally or through injection. 
  3. Monitor for side effects: Now that you’ve administered the NSAID, you need to keep a close eye on your dog and watch out for any side effects. The side effects your dog is experiencing can help you determine how they’re reacting to NSAIDs, which tells you if you need to make an emergency trip to the vet. With Dutch, you can get online vet help to discuss the side effects your dog is experiencing, so you don’t have to worry about driving them to the vet.

Are Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Humans Safe for Dogs?

Dog eating an anti-inflammatory pill

While anti-inflammatory medications for dogs can be an effective treatment option, it’s important to choose the right medication. NSAIDs that are designed for use in humans may cause problems for dogs, cats, and other smaller animals. You should never give your dog NSAIDs that are made for humans unless your vet tells you it’s safe. If you do use human NSAIDs for your dog, make sure you talk to your vet so you’re giving them the right dose.

The good news is your vet can help you find safe alternatives to human anti-inflammatory drugs. You can ask your vet about FDA-approved NSAIDs for dogs, such as the medications we talked about previously. You may also want to ask your vet about trying a natural anti-inflammatory for dogs, whether that means switching to an anti-inflammatory diet or trying a supplement that can help reduce inflammation.

Whatever you do, you should never give your dog any kind of medication or supplement without approval from your vet. Even making a major change in your dog’s diet isn’t advised if you don’t have the guidance of an expert. Fortunately, Dutch makes it easy to get in touch with a vet through telemedicine for pets, so getting expert advice from your veterinarian is easy.

Final Notes

While an anti-inflammatory for dogs can help treat a lot of conditions related to inflammation, choosing the right NSAIDs is important. You shouldn’t administer any drugs unless your vet says they’re safe for your dog. This includes NSAIDs that are designed for humans, which can be very dangerous for dogs. Once you administer NSAIDs, make sure you keep an eye out for side effects and signs of an allergic reaction.

As long as you’re using them right, NSAIDs can be a great way to treat several medical conditions in dogs, including osteoarthritis and other inflammation-related diseases. If you need advice from a vet about using an anti-inflammatory for dogs, Dutch can connect you with a vet who can talk you through your options. With online vet help from Dutch, you can take care of your pets from the comfort of your home.

References

  1. Edwards, Scott H. “Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Animals.” Merck Veterinary Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/pharmacology/inflammation/nonsteroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs-in-animals

  2. “Get the Facts about Pain Relievers for Pets.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/get-facts-about-pain-relievers-pets