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Painkillers for Pets

When our pets are in pain, it is difficult for us to watch them suffer. Most of us consider our pets to be a member of the family, so we’ll do just about anything to help relieve their pain—including giving them OTC pain medications made for humans.

While our pets may be our best friends, giving them medication that is prescribed for people can be very dangerous, and in some cases can be fatal.

It is natural for us to want to help our pets. But allowing our pets to take a medication that has not been specifically prescribed for them is not the answer.

The best thing a pet parent can do to help a pet that is in pain is to have a veterinarian prescribe something appropriate.

Treating Pets in Pain

When an animal is experiencing pain, it affects their entire well-being. Managing pets’ pain helps them live a better lifestyle. Typically, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is the classification of drug veterinarians prescribe to help control your animal’s pain and any inflammation that accompanies it.

NSAIDs are known to be effective in managing the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation (redness, warmth, swelling are responses to irritation or injury)
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Join pain

They work by obstructing the creation of prostaglandins, which are chemicals the body produces that cause inflammation. NSAIDs are also sometimes prescribed following surgery or to help treat osteoarthritis. 

It should be noted that there are no approved veterinary NSAIDs for oral use in cats in the U.S.

Talking to your Veterinarian

It is a good idea to have a list of questions ready for the veterinarian before your visit.
You will want to make sure you cover the following information during the visit.

It is best for you to write these questions down and take them with you. Also, you should jot down your veterinarian’s answers for each specific question. Many times, we are so upset about our furry friends we tend to only half-listen, and then can’t remember some of the answers to the questions we asked.

  • For what condition is the NSAID prescribed.
  • Correct dosage and how often.
  • List of side effects possible
  • Items your dog needs to avoid while taking the NSAID.
  • Time-frame for return visit or recurring visits.

Along with these questions, you should bring the following with you to the appointment: prior medical history and drug reactions, as well as any medications or other products your dog currently takes.

Risks of NSAIDs

There are a few things you need to know about NSAIDs before giving them to your dog.

  • Do NOT EVER give your dog aspirin or corticosteroids while on an NSAID.
  • Dogs with liver, kidney, heart and intestinal problems need to be cautious about taking NSAIDs.
  • Do NOT EVER giver your dog an NSAID that has not been prescribed.
  • Do NOT EVER give your dog an NSAID prescribed for another dog.
  • Use NSAIDS only as prescribed.
  • Do NOT EVER adjust the dosage up or down without veterinarian approval.

There are some mild side-effects as well as some serious ones associated with NSAIDs. In rare situations, death can occur. The most common side-effects may affect the liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. Typical minor side effects can include the following:

  • No appetite or a decrease in appetite.
  • Behavioral changes like lethargy or depression.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea or black stool.
  • Yellow gums, skin or white parts of the eyes.
  • Change in drinking habits.
  • Changes to the skin such as redness, scratching or scabs.

Pet owners should STOP giving the NSAID and consult a veterinarian immediately if any signs of side-effects appear. 

As dogs age, many of them experience joint troubles. Pet supplements purchased OTC at most pet supplies store can help too. If in doubt, the best recourse is always to check with your veterinarian.