What anti inflammatory is safe for dogs?

As dog owners, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our furry friends happy and healthy. One common health issue for dogs is inflammation and joint pain. Just like in humans, anti-inflammatory medications can provide relief for dogs dealing with these problems. However, not all over-the-counter human medications are safe for canine consumption. It’s important to talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any new medication, even something as common as an anti-inflammatory. In this article, we’ll go over some of the most common anti-inflammatory medications, discussing which options are safe for dogs and in what circumstances they should be used. With the right information, dog owners can make the best choices when it comes to providing safe, effective pain relief for their pets.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation refers to the body’s immune response to irritation, injury, or infection. The inflammatory response is designed to remove harmful stimuli and initiate the healing process. As part of this response, the body releases certain chemicals that cause redness, swelling, heat, and pain around the affected area. This helps isolate the injurious agent and prompts a healing response.

In dogs, inflammation can occur from things like:

  • Joint issues like arthritis or hip dysplasia
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Allergic reactions
  • Dental disease
  • Skin infections or irritations
  • Internal organ disease

While inflammation is a normal part of the body’s healing mechanism, excessive or chronic inflammation can lead to further tissue damage and pain. That’s why it’s sometimes necessary to use medication to manage inflammation in dogs.

Risks of anti-inflammatory use in dogs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most commonly used medications for treating inflammation and pain in dogs. However, there are some risks associated with NSAID use that owners should be aware of:

  • Gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers or bleeding – Like in people, NSAIDs can irritate the stomach lining and intestines, allowing ulcers to form.
  • Kidney damage – NSAIDs restrict blood flow to the kidneys, which can impair their function over time.
  • Liver disease – NSAIDs are processed by the liver, which can lead to damage with excessive or long-term use.
  • Blood clotting issues – NSAIDs inhibit platelet function, which is necessary for proper blood clotting.

These risks are greatly increased by factors like:

  • Pre-existing kidney, liver, or GI disease
  • Dehydration
  • Concurrent use of certain other medications
  • Underlying bleeding disorders
  • Advanced age

To minimize risks, veterinarians typically recommend the lowest effective dosage for the shortest amount of time needed to control symptoms. Bloodwork may be recommended before starting NSAIDs to evaluate kidney and liver function. Dogs on NSAIDs should be monitored closely for side effects.

Anti-inflammatory options for dogs

Here is an overview of some common anti-inflammatory drugs used in veterinary medicine, along with general dosage, safety considerations, and side effect risks:

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Medication Dosage Safety Considerations Potential Side Effects
Carprofen 2-4 mg/kg daily or every 12-24 hours Avoid use with pre-existing kidney disease, GI ulceration, bleeding disorders, or when dehydrated. Do not use with other NSAIDs. GI ulceration, kidney damage, liver damage
Deracoxib 1-2 mg/kg daily Avoid use with bleeding disorders. Use with caution with other medications metabolized by the liver. Do not use with other NSAIDs. GI upset, liver damage, rare kidney effects
Firocoxib 5 mg/kg initially then 2.5-5 mg/kg daily Avoid use with kidney disease, GI ulceration, bleeding disorders, or when dehydrated. Do not use with other NSAIDs. GI irritation, kidney and liver damage
Meloxicam 0.1 mg/kg initially then 0.0125-0.025 mg/kg daily Avoid use with kidney disease, GI ulceration, bleeding disorders, or when dehydrated. Do not use with other NSAIDs. GI ulcers, kidney damage, elevated liver enzymes


Corticosteroids like prednisone have powerful anti-inflammatory effects but also carry significant side effects with long-term use. They are sometimes prescribed on a short-term basis for certain conditions that do not respond to NSAIDs or as add-on therapy. Corticosteroids have immunosuppressive effects and can raise blood sugar levels, so close monitoring is required.

Other pain medications

Some other medications that may be used for pain relief and inflammation in dogs include:

  • Gabapentin – For chronic neuropathic pain
  • Amantadine – For osteoarthritis pain
  • Tramadol – For moderate to moderately severe pain

These medications can be used either alone or together with NSAIDs to allow lower NSAID dosages. Your veterinarian can advise you on combination therapy options to provide optimal pain relief with minimal side effects.

When to use anti-inflammatory medications for dogs

Anti-inflammatory drugs can provide beneficial effects for dogs suffering from painful conditions associated with inflammation. Here are some examples of appropriate uses:

  • Osteoarthritis – NSAIDs like carprofen or meloxicam are commonly prescribed long-term at low dosages to reduce joint pain and increase mobility in arthritic dogs. They work by reducing inflammation in the joints.
  • Post-surgical pain – NSAIDs help control swelling, pain and inflammation after surgeries such as orthopedic procedures or spays/neuters.
  • Dental infections/procedures – NSAIDs relieve pain and swelling associated with periodontal disease and may be prescribed after extensive dental work.
  • Cancer – Cancer can induce significant inflammation and pain. NSAIDs may provide relief in dogs undergoing cancer treatment or palliative care.
  • Back pain – Intervertebral disc disease often causes back pain due to inflammation. NSAIDs can offer relief in these cases.
  • Acute injuries – Sprains, fractures or other traumatic injuries often benefit from short-term NSAID use to control pain and inflammation during initial healing.

Anti-inflammatory use should be restricted to cases where inflammation is contributing significantly to pain or dysfunction. Your vet can help assess whether your dog’s condition is likely to respond to this type of medication.

What to avoid

It’s important to never administer human over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin to dogs unless explicitly directed by your vet, and then only for very short term use. These drugs are not well-tolerated in canines. The FDA has not approved OTC NSAIDs for use in dogs.

You should also avoid giving your dog any medication containing the ingredients acetaminophen or phenacetin. Even small doses can be toxic for dogs.

Consult your vet before giving your dog any new medications, even herbal or nutritional supplements. They may interact with other medications your dog is taking. It’s also wise to avoid combining multiple NSAIDs, which increases side effect risks.

Monitoring for side effects

When starting anti-inflammatory drugs, your vet will likely recommend periodic lab tests to monitor organ function and watch for electrolyte imbalances or elevated enzyme levels indicating potential adverse effects.

It’s also important to vigilantly observe your dog for potential side effects including:

  • Decreased appetite or nausea
  • Changes in drinking or urination habits
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy or behavioral changes
  • Pale gums or other signs of blood loss
  • Jaundice or yellowing of gums/eyes
  • Bruising or slow clotting after injury
  • Changes in stool or urine color

Notify your vet promptly if you have any concerns. Your vet may adjust the dosage or try a different medication if side effects become problematic.


Anti-inflammatory medications can offer significant benefits for dog comfort and wellbeing when used judiciously under veterinary supervision. By understanding the options available and carefully monitoring our pets, we can help provide safe, effective relief from inflammatory pain and improve their quality of life. As always, open communication with your trusted veterinarian is key to making the best medication choices for your dog’s individual needs. With an informed, thoughtful approach, anti-inflammatory drugs can be a valuable tool in maintaining our dogs’ health.

Leave a Comment