Is chronic pain medication bad for a dog?

Our question this week was:

My German Shorthaired Pointer had x-rays due to limping & stiffness on her right front leg. Arthritis was discovered in her shoulder at 4 1/2 yrs. of age .. The Vet gave me a prescription for ‘Rimadyl’.. What is your opinion about prolonged prescription drugs for pain and their effect on my dog? Rimadyl is an ongoing medication, what seems like the rest of her Life. Are there alternative medications that can be given besides one that can affect her liver?

Dee R.


Dear Dee, Thanks for your email and question. You wrote asking about my thoughts on giving prolonged pain medication to dogs. I think that is a very good and difficult question.

It is a balance of doing the best thing for your dog, keeping him comfortable and free of pain with the minimum amount of medications to minimize long-term side effects.

First, if it was my dog, I’d make sure there are no surgical options that would help these problems and therefore minimize the need for pain meds. That is something you can discuss with your vet or he/she may want to refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to discuss if there are any options.

I think Carprofen (Rimadyl®)is a reasonable pain medication. I think periodic blood work is recommended to monitor for complications. I would recommend using the lowest possible dose that is effective. Some dogs with arthritis pain may benefit from other medications such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin (Cosequin®).

An article that might be helpful is Arthritis in Dogs. Also – please read the links above to the medications for more information.

Dr. Debra

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