Are Pain Medicines Safe for Pets?

September 19, 2016 in Aerowood Animal Hospital


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a class of drugs extensively used in both human and veterinary medicine for their anti-fever, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, and they are the most commonly prescribed pain relievers for animals. Inflammation—the body’s response to irritation or injury—is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. NSAIDs work by blocking the production of chemicals produced by the body that play a role in inflammation.


NSAIDs are often used for osteoarthritis therapy in dogs. Some NSAIDS are also used to manage pain after surgery in both dogs and cats. No NSAID has been approved for long-term use in cats.


NSAIDs carry risks as well as benefits, however, and all dogs and cats should undergo a thorough physical examination by a veterinarian—including a discussion of the pet’s medical history— before beginning NSAID therapy. It’s also important that you know about possible side effects, including those that could signal danger.


Risks related to NSAIDS include gastrointestinal ulcers/perforations, kidney, and liver toxicity (damage done by exposure to medications or chemicals). These drugs must be used cautiously in animals with pre-existing kidney or liver problems.


Some of the most common side effects of NSAIDS in animals reported to the FDA are vomiting, diarrhea, decreased to no appetite and decreased activity level. While your animal is taking NSAIDs, continuously monitor the pet for these side effects as well as looking for blood in the feces, tar-like stools, yellowing of the whites of the eyes, or yellowing of the gums. If you see these, give us a call immediately. Other reported side effects include stomach and intestinal ulcers, intestinal perforation (a hole in the wall of the intestine), kidney failure, liver failure and death.


Giving two NSAIDs at the same time, or giving an NSAID with a steroid, such as prednisone, can significantly increase the risk and severity of side effects, especially gastrointestinal toxicity. Risks associated with NSAIDs are detailed on the package inserts and the client information sheets that accompany all FDA-approved veterinary oral NSAIDs.

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