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NSAIDs for Dogs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Published: September 2020 | Updated: September 2022

You may be tempted to give your dog a pill that will make his pain go away, but non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can actually be harmful to your pet. Even though the side effects of NSAIDs for dogs are not well-researched, there is evidence that these drugs can cause kidney problems, gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding, liver disease, and heart failure. 

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog after giving him an NSAID for pain relief or inflammation, call your veterinarian immediately. Before reaching that point, let’s discuss the purpose and potential pitfalls of NSAIDs so that you can make informed decisions for your dog.

What are NSAIDs? 

Ibuprofen is one of many common over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for humans. 

When you are dealing with everyday aches and pains, one of your first “go-to’s” is probably to reach for an NSAID, such as Ibuprofen or Advil. We’ve all been there before with headaches, sore muscles, and back pain. Our first reaction is to get to the medicine cabinet and pop a few aspirin!  

What’s the Harm in Using NSAIDs?

While these drugs are not necessarily bad (there is a definite time and place to use these anti-inflammatory drugs), long-term use of NSAIDs can have negative side effects. This is probably not that surprising. Most of us are aware that long-term use of any drug typically comes with a pro/con list. 

And it’s no different for your dog. The difference is that your dog probably isn’t complaining about a headache. Dogs are far more likely to be experiencing joint pain that is limiting their daily activity.  

The scenarios have some differences. You taking 2 aspirin on Tuesday for a random minor headache is much different than your dog’s constant joint pain, which would require consistent NSAID use

How can you help relieve your dog’s pain without causing bigger problems and side effects down the road?

What Do NSAIDs Do?

We’ve got to start with a little background about the role that NSAIDs play in the body. Basically, when any cell becomes damaged as a result of injury, trauma, illness, or degeneration (such as what occurs in canine arthritis), an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX) becomes activated. The activation of COX causes the cell to start producing prostaglandins. 

Prostaglandins are interesting because they are neither good nor bad; they play different roles in the body depending on what is going on. 

When they are showing off their good side, prostaglandins offer protection to the stomach and digestive tract lining, but when they are showing their bad side, prostaglandins can create a major inflammatory cascade and pain within the body.

This is simplifying it a little bit, but you just need to know that NSAIDs act by blocking COX, which, in turn, decreases prostaglandin production. This means that pain and inflammation decrease, but at the same time, the body loses some of the positive effects of prostaglandins.

Are NSAIDs Safe for Dogs? 

It's not uncommon for people to ask their vet if it's safe to give their dog non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs are often prescribed to help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, but they can be dangerous for dogs.

When the positive effects of prostaglandins are dampened, this leaves your dog’s stomach and digestive tract vulnerable to damage. 

Long-term use of NSAIDs in dogs has some pretty nasty side effects, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Ulcer development
  • Bloody/tar colored stool
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased physical activity, and worse. 

Can You Give Your Dog Ibuprofen?

When we have a headache, one of our first reactions is to reach for the bottle of ibuprofen sitting in our medicine cabinet. So, can we do the same for our dogs?

The answer is no. Dogs are much different than humans, and human drugs may reach higher blood levels, be absorbed faster, and react differently within a dog’s body. So even if you think your dog is in pain, don’t head to your medicine cabinet!

Talk to your veterinarian about using NSAIDs for your dog first. 

Some common NSAIDs for dogs are carprofen, deracoxib (deramaxx), firocoxib (previcox), grapiprant, meloxicam, and robenacoxib. There are different manufacturers that sell these drugs, so if you are using any joint pain meds for dogs, look for the drug name on the label, rather than just the brand name/manufacturer, so you know if you are using a dog NSAID.

And, to be clear, too much of any NSAID (dog or human) or long-term use will negatively affect your pet. But, of course, if they really need an NSAID, make sure it is species-specific and discuss it with your vet.  

What Can I Give My Dog for Joint Pain?

What should you do if NSAIDs are not the best solution for treating joint pain and arthritis in dogs? Without the use of traditional anti-inflammatory medications, what can we give our dog to reduce the pain they are feeling or help them be more mobile? How can we ease their achy joints? 

These days, it is hard to shop anywhere without seeing the words “natural,” “organic,” and “anti-inflammatory.” If you’re wondering whether or not these are buzzwords, you’ve come to the right place. 

The short answer is that they are more than buzzwords, but there is also a lot of misguided information out there. 

What is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory for Dogs?

There are many “natural anti-inflammatories” on the market that have not been scientifically proven as a natural remedy for joint pain in dogs. They are based on nice ideas, rather than research. 

There’s a lot of benefit to using a natural anti-inflammatory for dogs, especially if it works, without all those awful side effects listed above that typically come with NSAID use. 

Enter: Rocket Animal Health’s Canine Cush, which has been formulated to reflect current research about the best, safest ingredients to use for your dog’s joint health. Not only is it designed to have maximum anti-inflammatory benefits, there are also ingredients to help decrease anxiety and pain, support the immune system, and rebuild the joints

How to Tell if a Dog Joint Supplement is Natural

If it says "chamomile" or "valerian root," that's a pretty good sign of naturalness. You can also look at the active ingredient—the one that actually does something in your body—and make sure it's not synthesized or man-made. When you're looking to find out if a medication is natural, take these facts into consideration: 

  • Natural medications are made from plants, not synthetically produced.
  • Natural medications are free of preservatives and other additives that may be harmful to the body.
  • Natural medications will have been tested by scientists and approved by the FDA before they can be sold to consumers.

Natural medications are made in small batches, so they won't have any negative effects on the environment or the people who live near where they're being made (like pollution).

CBD as a Natural Anti-Inflammatory for Dogs

We understand the importance of your dog's health, and we know how hard it is to find natural medications that work.

That's why we've created Canine Cush—a treat containing CBD oil for dogs. It's made from all-natural ingredients, so you can rest easy knowing that it won't have any side effects on your pup. And it's safe for them to take every day!

Try Canine Cush today for safe, daily joint pain relief for dogs!