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Guide to Pain Medications for Dogs

Part 3 of 3 - Watch for Adverse Reactions


Updated June 27, 2014

Bad Reaction? Stop Medicine and Call a Veterinarian

If you suspect an adverse reaction to an arthritis medicine, stop administering the medicine and contact a veterinarian immediately. Some reactions are mild and go away after stopping the medicine.

When giving a pet an NSAID, watch for these side effects, which are listed on the Client Information Sheet and on the drug label:

  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Change in bowel movements (such as diarrhea or black, tarry, or bloody stools)
  • Change in behavior (such as decreased or increased activity level, seizure, aggression, or lack of coordination)
  • Yellowing of gums, skin, or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Change in drinking habits (frequency or amount consumed)
  • Change in urination habits (frequency, color, or smell)
  • Change in skin (redness, scabs, or scratching)

These side effects are the most common. But not all possible side effects are included on the Client Information Sheet or on the drug label. Always contact your veterinarian if you have questions about your dog's arthritis medicine.

What starts out as a minor problem can rapidly progress to an emergency. An owner should be encouraged to call his or her veterinarian with any concerns about the arthritis medicine the dog is receiving. You may even call the drug manufacturer's toll-free number that appears on each Client Information Sheet. When problems are experienced with a product, the manufacturer may have specific recommendations for your veterinarian regarding tests and treatments.

Arthritis Medicine for Dogs: Medicate Under Veterinary Supervision

The FDA has approved some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for use in dogs. In the United States, there are no oral NSAIDs approved for use in cats. Veterinarians can, however, legally prescribe human drugs to animals unless it presents a risk to the public health. This type of use is known as extralabel, or off-label, for uses not listed on the label. Extralabel use can also mean prescribing a drug to a different species, for a different condition, or in a different dosage than that for which the drug was approved. For example, a veterinarian may prescribe a lower dose of an NSAID drug approved for dogs to a cat with an inflamed joint.

But pet owners should not give their own arthritis medicine to pets or otherwise medicate their animals without veterinary supervision, says Michele Sharkey, D.V.M., in the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Different species metabolize drugs differently, she says. "You take aspirin or Tylenol on any given day for a headache and not think twice about it, but dogs are more sensitive to aspirin than humans, and one Tylenol can kill a cat. Pet owners should always work with their veterinarians to make medication decisions."

Arthritis Medicine for Dogs: Report Bad Reactions

If you or your veterinarian suspects that an adverse reaction is related to the use of an arthritis medicine or any drug, it should be reported to the pharmaceutical company. Usually, the veterinarian reports it, but if the veterinarian doesn't, the owner should. The company, by law, has to report all adverse reactions to the FDA, which looks for signals of increased frequency and severity of adverse reactions. The FDA works with the pharmaceutical firms to address these events and improve the ability of the product to be more safely used.

If unable to report problems directly to the pharmaceutical company, veterinarians and owners are encouraged to report veterinary Adverse Drug Experiences (ADEs) and suspected product failures to the government agency that regulates the product. Adverse experiences with NSAIDs should be reported to the FDA's CVM.

FDA-Approved NSAIDs for Use in Dogs

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, below is the NSAID, drug manufacturer, and manufacturer's telephone number for assistance or to report suspected adverse reactions:

  • Etogesic (etodolac), Fort Dodge Animal Health, (800) 533-8536
  • Rimadyl (carprofen), Pfizer Animal Health, (800) 366-5288
  • Metacam (meloxicam), Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc., (866) 638-2226
  • Zubrin (tepoxalin), Schering-Plough Animal Health Corp., (800) 224-5318
  • Deramaxx (deracoxib), Novartis Animal Health US Inc., (800) 332-2761
  • Previcox (firocoxib), Merial Ltd., (877) 217-3543
  • Novox (generic carprofen), IMPAX Laboratories Inc./ distributor Vedco Inc., (888) 708-3326

Questions regarding ADE reporting should be addressed to:

Center for Veterinary Medicine
Division of Surveillance, HFV-210
7519 Standish Place
Rockville, MD 20855
(888) FDA-VETS (332-8387)

Related About.com Topics


Pain Drugs for Dogs: Be an Informed Pet Owner. Linda Bren (edited), FDA Consumer magazine, Sept-Oct 2006

Go Back to Part 1 ----- Guide to Pain Medications for Dogs ----->

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