Talking to Your Vet: How Safe Are NSAIDs?

 by Christopher Durin

As dog owners, we only want what is best for our dogs, so it is always advisable to consult your vet about any concerns about your dog’s health.

However always remember that vets are just people and that whilst their knowledge is great it is not perfect nor complete. 

This is especially true of chronic diseases such as dog arthritis where you as the owner will have a better instinctive feel for what treatments work, what medications are well tolerated and effective and of course what treatments you as the owner are comfortable giving.

I recognize that there is the danger of misconstruing my message here.

As a vet for almost two decades, I hold a great deal of respect for my fellow veterinarians. I want every dog owner to listen very, very well to what their vet has to say.

However, I would also like every dog owner to be informed and to participate in every discussion about their dog's health.

Gather as much information as you can about your dog’s arthritis or joint problems, in particular, information about any treatments that your dog will receive, as these treatments may well be lifelong.

Ask lots of questions and think carefully about the answers.

Within this, it is perfectly okay to ask your vet if a certain treatment is safe or not.

A 'standard' treatment may not always be the safest treatment option and it is up to you (yes, you) to decide what is an acceptable treatment risk for your dog.

A case in point is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs in the treatment of dog arthritis.

NSAIDs are the standard medication used to treat the symptoms of moderate to advanced dog arthritis. 

These drugs work by inhibiting the pro-inflammatory action of COX-enzymes. There is no doubt that NSAIDs are very effective in suppressing inflammation in the joints.

However, in some dogs, they also cause side effects which can severely compromise your dog's health. 

These side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, liver failure, anemia and even death.

Now, I am not telling every dog owner that NSAIDs should never be considered, just that these drugs are not safe for every dog. 

You should ask your vet whether NSAIDs are safe for your dog and if there are ways to increase the safety of these drugs. Your vet may suggest blood tests of the liver and kidneys before and after use, which will find out if the organs are healthy enough to deal with the drug’s effects.

Another question dog owners should ask is whether there are other treatment options. 

Of course, there are countless treatments available but not all will be safe or effective. Your veterinarian or nearby rehabilitation center may be able to provide other services such as acupuncture, trigger point or other physical therapy.

Again, research widely and come to your vet with a whole bunch of questions :)

Articles by Christopher Durin:
Tell-tale Signs Your Dog May Have Arthritis
Nutrition and Dog Arthritis
Keeping Your Dog’s Muscles Healthy and Strong

Related articles:
Talk To Me About Arthritis
Acupuncture Is Not Voodoo
Don't Forget The Physical Therapy
Underwater Treadmill


  1. I wish my doctor was as willing to discuss medications and treatments as my veterinarian is.

  2. Hi, Sam here from the blog hop. Great article. I have arthritis. My vet has me on a great regimine and I feel pretty good!
    I shall be back to read some of your previous posts.
    Tail Wags

  3. Very interesting article. I think way too many people just blindly go with whatever their vet suggests, without asking questions or doing any research on their own. It is always better to be well informed, and to remember that when you take your dog to the vet, the vet is working for you. It is their job to answer any questions you might have about problems or treatments concerning your pets.

  4. Great posting Jana!
    I always emphasize to my veterinary clients that we need to reduce our pet's reliance on NSAIDs and other drugs to control pain.
    Besides acupuncture and trigger point therapy, I also recommend and use dietary supplements (Omega 3 Fatty Acids), chondroprotectants (glucosamine/chondroitin, Adequan, etc), dietary and environmental modifications, and weight loss (if needed) to promote my patients' comfort.
    Other veterinarians need to follow suit and use multi-modal pain management too!

  5. Jan, yeah, I wish I was a dog so I could be treated by Jasmine's vet! :-) I'm quite certain I would be better of!

  6. Hi Sam, welcome, good to see you here! Glad you're feeling pretty good! Jasmine had arthritis found in her knees, shoulders, neck and jaws. She is doing more than just great, and without any drugs whatsoever.

  7. Hi K. Not that long ago I didn't question anything either, just did as I was told. Experience taught me that is a bad idea.

    NSAIDs are prescribed so often because they are an easy fix. They usually work too. People today are looking for easy fixes. Pill for this, pill for that. That probably plays a substantial role in the direction medicine is going.

  8. Dear Dr. Patrick, thank you for reading!

    After what happened when we tried NSAIDs I am definitely not a fan and I think ten times before agreeing to use of any drug.

    Jasmine is a living, breathing and active proof that drugs are not the only thing that works!

  9. We've noticed that NSAIDs are the go-to recommendation with lots of vets. We try to be very careful with meds (for us and Gus). Great post! I agree, it may not be harmful to all, but it's always good to be cautious and aware!

    Happy Saturday to you!

  10. Hi Lori, yes, often they are used left and right. It is important to weigh the pros and cons carefully every time.

  11. Hi, Jana! I love Dr. Durin's straightforward, sensible approach! One more here who tries to avoid meds whenever possible, there are so many other ways usually to treat the illness or condition without the nasty side-effects. We need our vets and doctors alike to consider more alternatives. Kudos to Dr. Durin, and Dr. Patrick, for doing so!

  12. Really informative post... thank you Jana!

  13. Hi Cindy. I defense of the vets who are quick to push NSAIDs, the trend is that people want easy and quick solutions for everything, whether it's their health problems or their dogs'. In that sense, we, as a general public, carry our share of the blame.

    The other problem is that the general public needs to get educated about these things. Many will give their dog a pill and won't think twice about it, until something bad happens. Let's get educated in order to make the right decisions for our dogs (and ourselves as well in the process).

  14. Hello everyone and thank you for your kind words and Jana for the opportunity to post on your blog. Jana you have a great bunch of readers. Please contact me or download the ebook above if you have some questions, I would be happy to answer them :)


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