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Controlling Pain and Inflammation in Your Dog with Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Keeping Your Best Friend Active, Safe, and Pain Free


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to control pain and inflammation in dogs. NSAIDs help many dogs lead more comfortable lives, but these drugs should be used carefully because they all can cause side effects, some of which can be serious. The best way to reduce the risk of your dog having a problem with an NSAID is for you to know about the drug and its possible side effects.

What are NSAIDs?

NSAIDs are a group of drugs with pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the body’s response to irritation or injury and results in redness, warmth, swelling, and pain in the inflamed area. NSAIDs reduce these signs by affecting the production or function of certain substances, mainly prostaglandins, that are made by the body and involved in inflammation.

Veterinarians often prescribe NSAIDs for dogs with osteoarthritis, a condition where cartilage—the protective material that cushions a joint between two bones—breaks down over time, causing the bones to rub against each other. This rubbing can permanently damage the joint and cause pain, inflammation, and lameness. Veterinarians also often use NSAIDs to manage pain after surgery in dogs.

All approved NSAIDs for dogs are only available by prescription. A veterinarian’s expertise is required to determine if an NSAID is appropriate for your dog and to monitor his or her health while taking the drug.

In the United States, currently marketed NSAIDs approved for dogs include:

Active Ingredient Brand Names
Carprofen Marketed under multiple brand and generic names
Meloxicam Marketed under multiple brand and generic names
Robenacoxib ONSIOR (for a maximum of 3 days)

*Indicates an FDA-approved generic animal drug.

What should you discuss with your veterinarian before giving your dog an NSAID?

Before giving an NSAID to your dog, you should first talk to your veterinarian about:

  • what the NSAID is being prescribed for
  • how much to give
  • how long to give it
  • possible side effects
  • any drugs or diet changes that should be avoided while your dog is taking the NSAID
  • what tests are needed before giving the NSAID to your dog
  • how often your dog should be re-examined
  • your dog’s medical history, including any previous side effects from a drug
  • all drugs and other products (such as a flea and tick product or a joint supplement) your dog currently receives

NSAIDs approved for dogs often 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.
  • Always provide “Information for Dog Owners” (Client Information) Sheet with prescription.

This means that your veterinarian should examine your dog and may recommend blood and urine tests before your dog starts taking the drug. Every time your veterinarian prescribes an NSAID for your dog, you should receive a Client Information Sheet (also known as the Information for Dog Owner Sheet). You should ask for this sheet if you aren’t given one.  The Client Information Sheet provides you with important safety information in a user-friendly way, letting you know about possible side effects and when to call your veterinarian if problems occur.

You can find the labels and Client Information Sheets for many of the NSAIDs approved for dogs on the NSAID Labels page of Animal Drugs @ FDA.

What side effects should you watch for?

As a group, NSAIDs affect the kidneys, liver, and digestive tract and common side effects in dogs include:

  • Not eating or eating less
  • Being less active or showing other changes in behavior, such as acting withdrawn or generally “off”
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, which may be bloody or tarry (black)
  • Yellowing of gums, skin, or the whites of the eyes (called jaundice)
  • Change in drinking (can be either increased or decreased thirst)
  • Skin changes, such as scabs, redness, or scratching

Most side effects are mild, but some can be serious and require medical care. Serious side effects include bleeding ulcers and perforations (holes) in the stomach or intestines, kidney and liver problems, and even death in some cases.

What should you do if your dog has a side effect to an NSAID?

If you think your dog is having a side effect to an NSAID, STOP giving the drug and call your veterinarian immediately! What starts out as a minor problem can change to an emergency over time. You may sometimes need to get a second opinion. You can even call the drug company about your concerns. The Client Information Sheet includes the drug company’s contact information. Many drug companies offer customer service and technical support if you have questions about or problems with the drug. If your dog has a side effect from an NSAID, the drug company may talk with your veterinarian and recommend specific tests and treatments.

FDA encourages you to work with your veterinarian to report problems with any drug, including an NSAID. For information on how to report side effects, see How to Report Animal Drug and Device Side Effects and Product Problems.

What other things should you know before giving your dog an NSAID?

  • Never give aspirin or corticosteroids (such as prednisone) along with an NSAID to your dog.
  • NSAIDs should be used cautiously in dogs with kidney, liver, heart, and digestive problems.
  • Don’t assume an NSAID for one dog is safe to give to another dog. Always talk to your veterinarian before giving any drug to your dog.
  • Never give your dog an NSAID unless your veterinarian says to do so and always follow your veterinarian’s directions. Do not give a higher dose, give it more often, or give it for longer unless you first discuss this with your veterinarian.

When Giving Your Best Friend an NSAID, Remember These Signs:

Behavior Changes

Eating Less

Skin Redness and Scabs

Tarry (Black) Stool/Diarrhea/Vomiting


STOP the Drug & Call Your Veterinarian!


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