Potential Side Effects of NSAIDs
About 1% of pets taking NSAIDs have a problem or side effect because of the drug. A common NSAID side effect is gastric ulcer. Your pet may refuse to eat, vomit, and pass dark, tarry stool. Another side effect is kidney damage, causing your pet to drink more and urinate more, a condition called PUPD, or polydipsia, polyuria. Pets may become anemic with pale gums, or they may have yellow (icteric) gums. It is also common for NSAIDs to damage the liver. Fortunately, for most pets the organs return to normal when the NSAID is withdrawn.
In humans, some COX 2 inhibitors affected prostaglandins that protected the heart so that some people taking these drugs suffered heart attacks. Pets don't have the same predisposition to heart attack as humans do, but research has not clarified the full effect COX 2-inhibiting NSAIDs will have on pet hearts.
Can I Give a Human NSAID to My Pet?
Medications for people, including NSAIDs, don't necessarily act the same in pets as they do in people. It is never wise to use them without specific veterinary instruction.
Can I Give Human Aspirin to My Pet?
Medications for people, including aspirin, don't necessarily act the same in pets as they do in people. Humans often take enteric-coated aspirin, but it is unwise to use these tablets in pets. Enteric coating prevents aspirin from dissolving easily so that it can sit in the pet's stomach for a long time. It's possible for aspirin to "collect" in the stomach, exposing the pet to a toxic dose. It's better to use aspirin, like Excel Aspirin, specifically developed for dogs, or to use a powdery, uncoated aspirin that dissolves easily. It's never wise to use aspirin without specific veterinary instruction.
For cats, aspirin is usually not a wise choice because they metabolize it so slowly it can only be given twice a week. This isn't sufficient to help them with pain. Your veterinarian can recommend more effective analgesics.
Rimadyl and Your Pet's Liver
Rimadyl has caused liver problems in some dogs—usually Labrador retrievers. They become lethargic, don't eat, vomit, and develop diarrhea. These side effects occur to about 1 in 5000 dogs receiving Rimadyl.
Veterinarians diagnose the liver toxicity with blood tests, and they find that the majority of these dogs make a full recovery after stopping the medication. Some dogs, however, can die or need to be euthanized because of liver damage.
Piroxicam (Feldene) and Cancer
A new use for the NSAID piroxicam is treating cancer of the mouth (squamous cell carcinoma) and of the bladder (transitional cell carcinoma).
As with most things in nature, any medicine that can do so much good, has the potential to do harm. To prevent harm, most NSAIDs require a veterinarian's prescription. Some NSAID side effects warrant your veterinarian requesting blood tests to confirm that the NSAIDs have not damaged the stomach, liver, or kidneys. Some NSAID side effects warrant your veterinarian requesting blood tests to confirm that the NSAIDs have not damaged the stomach, liver, or kidneys.
To prevent the need of NSAIDS for arthritis pain, keep your pet's weight down and start him or her on joint supplements when he or she is young. We recommend Adequan for Dogs (Rx), Glyco-Flex Soft Chews, 1-800-PetMeds Super Joint Enhancer (for dogs), and Missing Link with glucosamine. In addition, some veterinarians recommend using Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in Lipiderm, Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet (for dogs) and 1-800-PetMeds Brite Coat XS to protect the kidneys, and using Denosyl to protect the liver.