Common Side Effects of Canine Pain Medication

If your dog is recovering from surgery or suffering from a painful health condition, your veterinarian may prescribe canine pain medication to provide relief from his condition. Most medicines of this type are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs.

Commonly Prescribed NSAIDs

NSAIDs are potent drugs that are only available with a prescription. Your veterinarian may prescribe them to relieve pain caused by joint trouble, hip dysplasia, or a variety of other canine health concerns. Some of the most frequently used NSAIDs include:

  • Metacam
  • Deramaxx
  • Previcox
  • Etogesic
  • Rimadyl
  • Zubrin

Adverse Effects of NSAIDs

Like with any prescription drug, be very careful when giving your dog pain medication. Keep to the prescribed dosage and watch for symptoms of increased pain or other health problems. While NSAIDs are used effectively to control inflammation, joint pain, and other health concerns, they may cause mild or serious side effects in certain animals or if administered improperly. The most common side effects are relatively mild and may pose no long-term health risk to your dog. However, notify your vet if you notice any of them, as they may indicate a more serious underlying condition. Some of the common side effects of NSAIDS include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Digestion problems, including vomiting and diarrhea
  • Depression or lethargy

Serious Health Risks of NSAIDS

NSAIDs are cleared out of your dog's system by the liver. Pets with known liver conditions should not take NSAIDs, and occasionally pets that are otherwise healthy may suffer liver damage or failure. Similarly, on a rare occasion NSAIDs may cause kidney damage. Other side effects of canine pain medication are serious and require immediate examination by a veterinarian:

  • Internal bleeding (indicated by blood in vomit or stool)
  • Ulceration of the intestines and stomach

The risk of your dog developing serious side effects increases if you treat him with NSAIDs for an extended period of time. Canine arthritis medication that is used to relieve chronic arthritis pain is one example of an NSAID used over a longer duration. Medicines prescribed as pain relief for dogs should be taken for the shortest length of time and in the smallest dose possible to still be effective.

As NSAIDs have developed and improved in recent years, side effects are generally becoming milder and less frequent. Still, it is important to be aware of the potentially lethal risks that any pain medication carries. If your veterinarian prescribes an NSAID or other pain-relieving drug for your pet, pay careful attention to your dog's original symptoms and any new concerns that develop. If he displays any of the side effects listed here, or if his original symptoms persist, consult your veterinarian immediately.

With careful monitoring by you and your veterinarian, these drugs are typically highly effective in reducing your dog's pain and improving his quality of life.