Rimadyl For Dogs-Controversy vs. Benefits–YOU Decide

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Is Rimadyl For Dogs Safe? 

To determine if Rimadyl for dogs is safe, one needs to consider the potential for pre-existing or underlying conditions that may cause adverse effects or hypersensitivities to specific drugs. Medication safety can be defined as the freedom of accidental injury or adverse drug events during the course of medication administration.

rimadyl for dogs
Source: 1800PetMeds

Individual drug responses differ due to genetic and physiological differences in drug metabolism, which is evident in both humans and animals. 

What is Rimadyl For Dogs?

Rimadyl for dogs is a trade name of a medication known as Carprofen. Carprofen falls into the non-narcotic class of drugs known as Nonsteroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). This class of drugs is similar to the human medications such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, but it is better suited to the inflammatory pathways in a dog’s physiology.

People often do not associate inflammation with pain, but it is important to note that pain is perceived through several pathways. The definition of pain as per the International Association for the Study of Pain is quoted as the following:

“An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”

Due to the fact that animals do not always overtly vocalize pain, it doesn’t mean that they do not feel pain. Subtle symptoms of pain can include:

  • Lameness, change in gait, or decreased activity levels 
  • Swelling, redness, or increased warmth over the injured area
  • Loss of appetite or depression
  • Increased aggression towards other dogs 
  • Withdrawal from other pets or the family unit
  • Reluctance to move or partake in play
  • Increased breathing or heart rate 

Inflammation is not always automatically associated with pain. However, inflammation has a vital role in the body as it is the immune system’s response to injury or infection. 

Inflammation signals where the body has been injured from inflammatory mediators are vital. They send directions to the immune system to indicate where damaged tissue that requires repair is located. 

The pain generated by the inflammation is a mechanism by which the immune system flags an injured area to the brain. The brain then acknowledges that pain and decreases the use of the affected area. The redness, swelling, and warmth are due to the inflammatory mediators working to heal the affected area. 

Sometimes chronic inflammation or severe inflammation can cause more harm than good, hence the need for anti-inflammatory medications. 

Rimadyl acts on a pathway known as the Cyclooxygenase (COX) pathway, responsible for several functions. The COX-1 pathway is responsible for producing a specific prostaglandin which is a necessary component for certain gastrointestinal functions. The COX-2 pathway generates prostaglandins that are responsible for inflammation.  

Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that have several functions in the body. Nature is all about homeostasis, which is a fancy word for balance. It is essential to understand their tasks because when a drug acts on a pathway and stops a compound from being produced, it may have benefits, but it will also have drawbacks. 

Prostaglandins are essential in gastrointestinal health as they decrease stomach acid production and increase the production of the protective mucus that lines the stomach. Therefore, the adverse effects of COX pathway inhibition can result in stomach ulcer formation and perforation due to a lack of beneficial prostaglandin production. 

Stomach ulcers can cause gastric bleeding, so we see digested blood in the stool that appears black and sticky. Pale gums due to blood loss, vomiting, and decreased appetite also often occur due to gastric ulcers.

Rimadyl specifically targets the COX-2 pathway by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, thereby decreasing inflammatory mediators that are causing pain or excessive chronic inflammation.

Rimadyl enters the bloodstream and acts on the COX-2 pathway, and after several hours it is then changed in the liver and removed from the bloodstream, and excreted for the most part by feces and a small amount through the urine. 

Individual variation in the affinity for COX-2 pathway targeting is one of the reasons why some dogs are more sensitive to the adverse effects of Rimadyl while others are fine.

What Does The FDA Say About Rimadyl for Canines?

Rimadyl was one of the first NSAIDs approved by the FDA, but this does not mean that there are no cases of adverse drug reactions. Therefore, the FDA recommends that veterinarians discuss the benefits and risks of drugs with clients when prescribing NSAIDs like Rimadyl. 

FDA approval works because any drug intended for medicinal use is subjected to extensive evaluation by a drug company and stringent standards set by the CVM before being placed on the market. The key to FDA approval is the safety and effectiveness of a drug, but any medication can potentially have adverse effects. 

Pre-testing by the manufacturer and a retrospective analysis of the acquired data by the government helps to determine the aforementioned safety and effectiveness of a drug before it is marketed. 

Unfortunately, certain side effects have a low frequency; therefore, only when a larger population or sample size of individuals begins to use a product do specific adverse effects become more apparent. As long as they are reported to the drug manufacturer, they can be thoroughly investigated. Manufacturers have to by law report any adverse reactions to the FDA.

NSAID therapy can also unmask hidden diseases previously undiagnosed due to the absence of apparent clinical signs. Dogs with underlying kidney disease, for example, may experience worsening of that disease while on NSAIDs. Dogs at greatest risk for kidney problems are those that are dehydrated, on concomitant diuretic therapy, or have kidney, heart, and/or liver dysfunction.

A few recommendations by the FDA include:

  • When treating a dog with an NSAID, owners should never increase the dose or frequency of administration without consulting their veterinarian.
  • Owners should follow a veterinarian’s instructions closely.
  • A pet owner should never give an NSAID to a dog (or cat) unless under the veterinarian’s direction, as some medications are not indicated in certain species. 
  • Always discuss other medications that are being administered concurrently to avoid any adverse drug interactions.
  • Stop administering medication if your pet begins to show any side effects and consult with your veterinarian.

You can get more information about NSAIDs by going to Animal Drugs at FDA to look up drugs by their brand names or active ingredient. In addition, package inserts and Client Information Sheets for many NSAIDs used in dogs, cats, and horses may be found at the NSAID Labels page of Animal Drugs @FDA. 

The Three Ways That Rimadyl Works For Canines

The three most common ways that Rimadyl works for canines are:

  • Decreases inflammation in joints due to its activity on chronic (synovial cell system) inflammatory reactions – making it very applicable for conditions like osteoarthritis.
  • It inhibits the production of osteoclast-activating factors, which are a significant factor in the pain associated with hip dysplasia. 
  • It has modulatory effects on both humoral and cellular immune responses, which helps to ease post-operative pain

What You Should Know About Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis in dogs is a progressive condition that occurs when the cartilage that usually protects the bones gradually starts to deteriorate and becomes mechanically ineffective at protecting the joint over time.

The compromised cartilage leads to bone-on-bone contact and friction that causes severe inflammation and pain. It also leads to the activation of bone-producing cells that begin to replace the cartilage with bone because cartilage has no regenerative capacity in adult dogs.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Stiffness, lameness, limping, or difficulty getting up
  • Decreased activity levels, reluctance to play, run, jump, go for walks, or generalized lethargy 
  • Overweight dogs that struggle to get up after lying down
  • Increased irritability or inter-dog aggression
  • Depression
  • Crying out suddenly when lifted, petted, or moved
  • Prolonged urination or defecation times due to pain when in specific positions 
  • Decrease muscle mass over the limbs and spine

Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition as it develops over time and does not have a cure. The process can only be slowed down.  

Ideally, when aiming to treat osteoarthritis, the goal is to decrease pain and inflammation. This, in turn, will improve your pet’s quality of life through:

  • Increased activity
  • Preserved muscle mass and strength
  • Improved joint health and better functionality
  • Relief from pain and enhanced habitus

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed after a full clinical history is acquired, and the signs and symptoms indicate a possible underlying condition. Be prepared also to discuss your pet’s activity levels, behavior, and nutrition, so take some time before your visit to familiarise yourself with your pet’s daily routine before heading off to your consultation.  

Veterinarians will also perform an in-depth physical exam of your pet’s locomotory system to try and pinpoint areas that show the following signs:

  • Decreased or underdeveloped muscle mass
  • Crepitus- a term used to describe clicking or crunching in joints due to OA
  • Weakness or pain in joints 
  • Decreased mobility 
  • Worn paw pads and nails
  • Difficulty in moving, sitting, standing, or uneven weight distribution 

When treating arthritis with NSAIDs, owners should also focus on healthy weight control, low impact exercise, and physiotherapy to help keep joints mobile and functional.

Osteoarthritis can affect dogs of any age, depending on their joint health. Dogs that suffer from conditions such as hip or elbow dysplasia can develop OA from a very early age–possibly even as young as nine months. 

Geriatric dogs can be affected by arthritis due to chronic inflammation endured over many years without apparent symptoms. Therefore, when addressing OA in older dogs, it is vital that a complete medical exam and possibly additional urine and blood tests be done to determine the best treatment protocol for their OA and any other possible underlying conditions.

Osteoarthritis is a debilitating condition that can have severe effects on an animal’s quality of life. If your pet can be spared the pain, it’s best to address the signs early rather than waiting.

Pros and Cons of Rimadyl For Dogs

The benefits of Rimadyl for dogs stem from pain relief and branch out into improved quality of life. Rimadyl offers your pet a reprieve from restricted movement and depression due to chronic lameness and discomfort.

Increased activity levels, healthier interactions with other animals and family members, and more enthusiasm for play and other activities, are often seen in animals treated for underlying OA or other joint and muscle pain. 

Faster, more comfortable post-operative recoveries after soft tissue procedures are also a tremendous upside to Rimadyl. As one of the most frequently prescribed NSAIDs, the quality of inflammatory relief results and reliability make Rimadyl a great first choice medication for many veterinarians.

It is also highly palatable, so most dogs easily take their daily medication, making owner compliance a lot easier.

Unfortunately, the cons of Rimadyl lie within the unpredictable nature of individual variation when determining the severity of adverse drug reactions. The potentially severe effects on the gastrointestinal, renal, and liver systems are chronic. They can have consequences that potentially irreversibly alter an animal’s quality as well as the quantity of their lifetime.

The key in weighing up the pros and cons of a drug is to determine what its overall effect on your animal’s quality of life will mean in the long run and to act as quickly as possible when adverse symptoms arise.

Rimadyl Dosage Chart

Rimadyl for dogs comes in three convenient sizes :

  • Rimadyl 25mg chewable for dogs 
  • Rimadyl 75mg chewable for dogs 
  • Rimadyl 100mg chewable for dogs 
Recommended dosage of 2.0 mg/lb or 4,4 mg/kg once a day.
RIMADYL® Capsules and Tablets

How to Administer Rimadyl to Your Pupper

Rimadyl comes in a highly palatable tablet that most dogs enjoy eating. However, Rimadyl is usually given after a meal, and most dogs think of it as a treat.  

If your dog is very fussy, a few tips on how to administer tablets are as follows:

  • You can crush the tablet and mix it into their food or some peanut butter or butternut, depending on your fussy furry friend’s preferences. 
woman giving Golden Retriever peanut butter
  • If your dog tolerates you opening their mouth, pick up a tablet and then simply grasp the upper and lower jaw in two separate hands and once open, place the pill as far back in the mouth as possible so that your dog cannot rocket it out with their tongue. 

If you need to gently hold the mouth closed for a short period of time – a good indicator of whether or not your dog has swallowed is if they lick their nose.

Do not combine any other NSAIDs or steroids with Rimadyl, as it could exacerbate the possible adverse effects of COX pathway inhibition.

Rimadyl is highly palatable, making it especially dangerous to leave unattended or in easily accessible places. Veterinarians often have frantic calls from owners who find empty medication packets and a whole month’s prescription gone. This is an emergency situation as an overdose can have severe liver and kidney repercussions.

Side Effects of Rimadyl For Dogs

Side effects of Rimadyl for dogs may include the following adverse reactions:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark or tarry stools
  • Increased water consumption
  • Increased urination
  • Pale gums due to anemia
  • Yellowing of gums, skin or white of the eye due to jaundice
  • Lethargy
  • Incoordination, seizure, or behavioral changes. 

Where Can I Buy Over-The-Counter Rimadyl For Dogs?

Rimadyl is a prescription medication, and therefore you will not be able to purchase over-the-counter Rimadyl for dogs unless you have a valid veterinary prescription.

Veterinarians need to issue a script after consulting with a patient first to determine if they are clinically fit to receive an NSAID and ascertain whether there are potential underlying conditions that may result in adverse drug reactions.

If you are wondering, “Where can I buy Rimadyl for dogs,” the best place is at your local veterinarian or through a pet medication website with a valid script. Prescriptions are necessary for medications that can have significant adverse drug effects.

Even if your pet has received Rimadyl before without consequences, as pets age, their overall health can be effected without apparent signs or symptoms. Your vet can pick up early indicators of systemic disease through routine clinical exams, urinalysis, or blood tests. 

Preventing adverse reactions is mainly about being informed and avoiding administration to compromised patients. 

The Controversial Past of Rimadyl For Dogs

In the early 1990s, Rimadyl for dogs was eagerly advertised as a wonder drug to relieve pain for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. However, after a short period of time, advertisements abruptly ceased due to an outcry because of cases with adverse drug effects.  

These adverse drug effects were not the cause of the controversy but rather the misconception that Rimadyl would be a one-stop solution for owners to help ease their pet’s discomfort. 

The potential for the side effects of carprofen was not fully emphasized. As a result, many pet owners do not wholly understand the possible risks of complications like stomach ulceration and rupture or seizures that have severe or life-threatening implications.  

Due to the emphasis being placed on the animals that do not show side effects, the public often overlooks the potential of their pets developing complications due to medication that would usually be considered safe.

Available Alternatives to Rimadyl For Canines

All NSAIDs have similar adverse effects and benefits to carprofen because they all work on the same COX pathway. However, no NSAID is safer than another, according to the FDA.

Several alternative NSAIDs exist for carprofen. To name a few :

  • Meloxicam (Petcam/ Inflacam/ Metacam)
  • Previcox
  • Firocoxib
  • Robenacoxib (ONSIOR)
  • Generics like Rimifen are also an option 

Every animal is different due to genetic and physiological variation, so some medications may work better than others. The most important thing is to monitor your pet closely when on any medication and to follow all instructions closely. 

Ensure any pet on chronic medication goes to regular checkups to promote early detection of any possible compromising conditions.

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Dr. Kaylee Ferreira, a South African vet from Johannesburg, excels in diverse veterinary roles. Founder of Kubuntu Veterinary Services, she's a dedicated animal lover and adventurer.