Veterinary nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to control fever, pain, and other signs of inflammation in animals. 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.
Veterinary NSAIDs are approved for various uses in companion animals (dogs, cats, and horses) and in two food-producing species (cattle and pigs):
All approved veterinary NSAIDs are only available by prescription. A veterinarian’s expertise is required to determine if an NSAID is appropriate for the animal and to monitor the animal’s health while taking the drug.
Due to their pain-relieving, fever-reducing, and anti-inflammatory properties, NSAIDs have many benefits for animals and can lead to improved quality of life, but they can cause side effects. As a group, NSAIDs may affect the kidneys, liver, and stomach and intestines. Veterinary NSAIDs have not been studied in dogs, cats, horses, and pigs that are pregnant, nursing, or intended for breeding.
Some Reported Side Effects of Veterinary NSAIDs
Dogs and Cats
- Not eating or eating less
- Being less active
- Ulcers in the stomach and intestine
- Not eating or eating less
- Ulcers in the stomach and mouth
- Eating less
- Ulcers in the abomasum (the fourth and final stomach compartment in ruminants)
- Effects to the reproductive cycle, labor, and post-partum period (the period of time right after an animal gives birth)
Most side effects in animals are mild, but some can be serious and require medical care, especially if the drug is not used according to the directions on the label. Serious side effects include bleeding ulcers and perforations (holes) in the stomach and intestines, kidney and liver problems, and even death in some cases. Veterinarians and owners should discuss the benefits and risks of an NSAID before deciding to use it in an animal.
The labels for all NSAIDs that are approved for animals contain detailed information about the risks of these drugs. The NSAID Labels page of Animal Drugs @ FDA includes the labels for many approved veterinary NSAIDs.
FDA encourages pet owners, animal producers, and veterinarians 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.
Client Information Sheets
Many NSAIDs approved for oral use (given by mouth) in dogs, cats, and horses come with a Client Information Sheet. Veterinarians should give these sheets to owners with every NSAID prescription and owners should read the information carefully. The Client Information Sheet provides owners with important safety information in a user-friendly way, letting them know about possible side effects and when to call their veterinarian if problems occur. The sheet also includes other valuable safety information and the drug company’s contact information.
The NSAID Labels page of Animal Drugs @ FDA includes the Client Information Sheets for many approved veterinary NSAIDs for dogs, cats, and horses.
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