The 7 Most Popular Dog Arthritis Medications

For the treatment of arthritis, dog NSAIDs are becoming the method of choice for many dog owners. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce dog arthritis pain, stiffness and inflammation and improve the overall quality of life for dogs suffering from this common joint condition.

Dog pain causes the production of prostaglandins, the hormone that causes inflammation. NSAIDs reduce the amount of prostaglandins that are produced, thus relieving pain and reducing swelling.

Prostaglandins are also involved in the process of muscle contraction.

In the past, dog arthritis was treated with low-dose aspirin but the recent development of a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs has changed the course of dog arthritis treatment. Carprofen, firocoxib and meloxicam are long-acting and effective treatments for canine arthritis.

Warning: NSAIDs prescribed for humans should be given to your dog unless specifically prescribed by your veterinarian.

Be aware that there are known side effects connected with these drugs. Discuss these side effects with your veterinarian. He can help you understand the risks and make the best choice for your dog. If your dog has liver, kidney or heart problems, use NSAIDs with caution.

Common Brand Name Canine NSAIDs

  • Etogesic (etodolac) tablet
  • Rimadyl (carprofen) caplet, chewable tablet or injection
  • Deramaxx (deracoxib) chewable tablet
  • Metacam (meloxicam) oral drop or injection
  • Zubrin (tepoxalin) disintegrating tablet
  • Previcox (firocoxib) chewable tablet
  • Novox (generic carprofen) caplet
  • Etogesic

A once-a-day tablet for the control of arthritis pain in dogs.


Rimadyl is one of the most widely prescribed NSAIDs. Given once each day, it is available in chewables, caplets or by injection. Rimadyl is also used to control postoperative pain associated with soft tissue and orthopedic surgeries.


Deramaxx is also used to control postoperative pain and inflammation in dogs over 4 pounds. As with all drugs in this class, side effects involving the digestive system, kidneys or liver may occur.


Metacam is available as an injectible or oral suspension. The manufacturer cites long-term tolerance in many pets, but its list of side effects is the same as all NSAIDs.


Zubrin is a disintegrating tablet that may have a lower risk of intestinal ulceration.


Previcox is a chewable tablet that has been proven to work quickly to reduce pain an inflammation in arthritic dogs.


Novox is a generic form of carprofen. It is available as a caplet.

Possible NSAID Side Effects

The FDA has warned that NSAIDs "may be associated with gastrointestinal ulcers/perforations, liver and kidney toxicity." The FDA recommends veterinary supervision when using these drugs.

Your veterinarian will take a complete medical history and perform blood and urine tests to determine if your dog is a candidate for NSAID therapy. These tests will be repeated regularly to check for liver toxicity reactions.

Discontinue NSAIDs if your dog shows any of these signs:

  • Decrease or increase in appetite or thirst
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or black, tarry or bloody stools
  • Lethargy, seizure, aggression or confusion
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin, gums or eyes)
  • Change in urinary habits (frequency, color or smell)
  • Red, itchy skin

Used properly and cautiously, veterinary NSAIDs will improve your arthritic dog's mobility, reduce her pain and allow her once again to participate in her favorite activities.