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Guide to Pain Medications for Dogs

Part 2 of 3 - Understanding the Options


Updated June 27, 2014

Ask Questions and Tell All

Ask your veterinarian about the benefits, risks, and side effects of any medications, including NSAIDs. "An informed dog owner is the best defense against serious side effects from NSAIDs," says Sharkey. "Owners should not hesitate to ask questions and inquire about possible side effects or signs to watch for when treating a dog."

Tell your veterinarian your pet's symptoms and current medications, including:

  • prescriptions
  • over-the-counter drugs
  • vitamins
  • herbal supplements
  • flea control products

Giving NSAIDS and other medications together could harm your dog. Aspirin, for instance, may be in a supplement you're giving to your pet, says Sharkey, and should not be used in conjunction with an NSAID.

Ask for the Client Information Sheet

Dog owners should receive a "Client Information Sheet" with every NSAID prescription. Client Information Sheets, also called "Information for Dog Owner Sheets," are user-friendly summaries that explain the results to expect from using the drug, what to discuss with your veterinarian before giving the drug, possible side effects to look for, and other important information. The FDA has helped the pharmaceutical companies who make NSAIDs for dogs develop these sheets for the owners, and the companies provide them with each NSAID they ship.

Ask your veterinarian for the sheet if you do not receive one, and read the information carefully before giving the medication to your dog. If your veterinarian can't provide the Client Information Sheet, you can get one by printing it from the CVM's Web site or by calling the toll-free number of the drug company.

Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D., explains why some veterinarians may be unable to locate the Client Information Sheet. "They often have the role of veterinarian and the role of pharmacist," she says. Veterinary hospitals get shipments of drugs from the pharmaceutical companies or distributors. Then they may repackage the drug in their hospitals' bottles, often in smaller quantities for distributing to clients. In the repackaging process, the Client Information Sheet, which is often printed on the package insert for the veterinarian, may be tossed out inadvertently.

The FDA, the veterinary community, and the pharmaceutical companies are working together to ensure that NSAIDs are used safely and responsibly and that owners are given the Client Information Sheets.

"The pharmaceutical companies are trying to come up with creative ideas to make it easier for busy veterinarians," says Dunham. Many companies are making the Consumer Information Sheet a tear-off sheet that can be easily separated from the drug labeling.

Some companies also are packaging drugs in smaller quantities with the Consumer Information Sheet sealed inside the package. Therefore, the veterinarian can just attach the hospital label and dosing instructions on the drug container without repackaging the drug and inadvertently discarding the sheet.

Through published journal articles, electronic newsletters, and information posted on their Web sites, both the AVMA and the AAHA are reinforcing the importance of client communication regarding NSAIDs, including handing out the Client Information Sheets, to their veterinary members.

Get the Recommended Tests

NSAIDs approved for use in dogs contain the following information on their labels:

All dogs should undergo a thorough history and physical examination before initiation of NSAID therapy. Appropriate laboratory tests to establish baseline blood values prior to, and periodically during, the use of any NSAID are strongly recommended.

If the veterinarian recommends a blood test before administering an NSAID to a dog, don't decline it, advises Sharkey. "There are good reasons for it." The knowledge gained from these tests could be critical in deciding whether the drug is safe to use in a dog.

Testing is particularly important with long-term NSAID use, such as to treat arthritic pain, says Andrews. "It makes sense to do some preliminary screening blood work and periodic tests to identify any problems and monitor how well the pet is tolerating the drug over time."

Work With Your Veterinarian to Find the Best Arthritis Medication Available

Many NSAID choices are available, and selecting the best NSAID for a particular pet is important, says Sharkey. "Sometimes, the process of finding the best one can mean changing the prescription."

NSAIDs for dogs are made in many forms including: caplets, tablets, drops, and injections. Medications include:

  • Etogesic (etodolac)(tablets)
  • Rimadyl (carprofen)(caplets and chewable tablets; injection)
  • Metacam (meloxicam)(drops given by mouth; injection)
  • Zubrin (tepoxalin)(rapidly disintegrating tablets)
  • Deramaxx (deracoxib)(chewable tablets)
  • Previcox (firocoxib)(chewable tablets)
  • Novox (generic carprofen)(caplets)

Go on to Part 3 ----- Guide to Pain Medications for Dogs ----->

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