Vets often prescribe carprofen for dogs … but they often won’t warn you about its many side effects. Vets use it for any kind of pain or inflammation in your dog … if he has an injury or needs emergency pain relief, or if your dog’s had surgery. But you need to know why it’s not safe for your dog.
What Is Carprofen For Dogs?
Carprofen is marketed under many different brand names. The best known is Rimadyl.
It’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used for pain management in dogs. Carprofen inhibits COX-2, or cyclogenase enzymes that create prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins create pain and inflammation when your dog’s body detects trauma. But you really don’t want to suppress them even though it seems like the thing to do. Prostaglandins are needed to do other work in your dog’s body including …
- Constricting or dilating blood vessels when there’s trauma
- Blood clotting
- Blood pressure regulation
- Controlling body temperature
- Causing uterine contractions during menstruation or labor
- Regulating kidney function and fluids
- Contracting or relaxing muscles in the gastrointestinal tract and lungs
Without prostaglandins, there are a lot of functions in your dog’s body that will suffer. And so will your dog.
In fact, any human drugs that inhibit COX-2 are well known for their serious and sometimes fatal side effects. Vioxx was the subject of a worldwide recall in 2004 due to fatal heart attacks and strokes.
Carprofen might relieve inflammation and pain in your dog but the long-term damage can be tragic.
What Are Carprofen Side Effects?
There’s a long list of problems carprofen has caused in dogs, including …
- Abnormal liver function and liver toxicity
- Gastrointestinal tract issues including ulcers and internal bleeding
- Urinary tract and kidney damage
- Nervous system issues like seizures and paralysis
- Blood system diseases like immune-mediated hemolytic anemia
- Behavior problems like hyperactivity, aggression or lethargy
- Skin itching, hair loss, dermatitis
- Allergic responses like facial swelling or hives
Yes, carprofen has killed dogs. An article about adverse reactions and deaths from Rimadyl appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 2000. The headline read: Most Dogs Do Well On Rimadyl, Except The Ones That Die. Most owners reported that their vets didn’t mention the dangers of Rimadyl, which led to many dogs dying or being harmed.
Rimadyl prescribing information continues to say: “Serious adverse reactions associated with this drug class can occur without warning and in rare situations result in death.”
Now you’ll know that you should avoid carprofen drugs for your dog. But if your dog ever has to take them, you should have your vet do bloodwork before you give the drug. He should also have his liver enzymes tested every few months. Meanwhile, watch for symptoms like:
- Vomiting (especially bloody vomit)
- Stools that are black and tarry
- Lack of appetite
- Increase in drinking and urinating
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin or whites of eyes)
- Pale gums
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Changes in behavior
A MAJOR Problem With Carprofen
This last point is a really important one. And it’s highly ironic.
Dogs with arthritis are often given carprofen or other NSAIDs. Wouldn’t you think these drugs would support joint health and help your dog from getting worse? You might even think these drugs would help make him better. But that’s not what happens. Instead, they have the opposite effect.
Studies show that NSAIDs actually damage the joints. Yet your vet may not mention this … or even know it. NSAIDs create more damage instead of improving a dog’s joint issues.
- University of North Carolina found COX-2 inhibitors diminished healing of bone and ligaments.
- Ross Hauser MD published a study illustrating NSAIDs were the cause of articular cartilage degeneration.
- The Rotterdam Study showed NSAIDs sped up development of hip and knee osteoarthritis.
You’re wise to think twice and question your vet if she wants to prescribe carprofen or other NSAIDs for arthritis or joint pain. Instead, try these natural options
5 Natural Alternatives To Carprofen For Dogs
Your primary concern is to control your dog’s pain.
#1 CBD (Cannabidiol) Oil
CBD safely helps a lot of dogs with pain. CBD oil from hemp won’t make your dog high because it contains almost no THC … the psychoactive compound in marijuana.
CBD helps with many different types of pain including nerve pain and pain from inflammation. You can use it daily for chronic pain … or save it for times when your dog needs help with soreness or an injury.
Choosing CBD For Your Dog’s Pain
Full or broad spectrum means your product has a wide range of healthy cannabinoids … like CBC, CBN, CBD, CBG, CBA. These substances work together to create the “entourage effect” that’s most helpful. Always ask to see the Certificate of Analysis to make sure your product is full or broad spectrum and contaminant-free.
Follow the dosing instructions on the label, which should also tell you how much CBD is in a dropperful. As a general guide, give 1mg to 6mg of CBD per 10 lbs of body weight. But you can adjust the dose up or down to suit your dog. Dosing twice daily is often more effective.
#2 Green Lipped Mussels (GLM)
Green lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) come from the New Zealand coast.
Research shows these sea creatures are as good as NSAIDs can manage inflammation as well as NSAIDs … without damaging your dog’s joint. One study compared GLM to carprofen and found it was a good side-effect free alternative to manage arthritis.
GLM are full of fatty acids like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) that both lower inflammation. EPA can also help rebuild cartilage.
GLM is a safer source of essential fatty acids than fish oil. But be careful with sourcing because not every GLM product has these fatty acids. Some manufacturers strip them out and sell the oil separately.. Look for a nutritional analysis to ensure your product has at least 6% fatty acids.
Give your dog 200 mg per day for every 10 lbs of body weight.
#3 Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM)
NEM® is the membrane that lines an eggshell. It’s a lot of work to peel it off but you can buy it as a supplement. NEM® helps reduce pain and improves mobility in dogs with arthritis.
Human research shows excellent results in managing joint pain and stiffness. And there’s research in dogs too. In a 6-week trial on 51 dogs, there was a 23.6% improvement in pain compared to those taking a placebo. Quality of life improved by 26.8%. The study also measured changes in serum levels of cartilage degradation biomarker CTX-II. This showed an increase of 47.9%.
Buy eggshell membrane with the NEM® registered trademark. Your dog should get 60mg per 10 lbs of body weight a day.
#4 Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Green lipped mussels (GLM) contain EPA and DHA, which are omega-3 fats that strongly support joint health. Omega-3s are also needed to balance your dog’s dietary fats because most dog diets have a lot of omega-6 fats. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory … while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. So adding omega-3s provides balance.
If you’re giving fish oil for its omega-3s you should know that it’s not the best choice. Here’s why:
- It’s processed and oxidizes quickly. Avoid giving your dog rancid oil.
- It’s often contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins like radiation.
- Harvesting fish for their oils depletes the oceans of food for other fish and marine life.
If you do want to use fish oil, buy a high quality oil in a dark glass (not plastic) container. Keep it refrigerated.
Curcumin is known for its potent healing properties. Plus it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal … and can even help fight cancer. As an anti-inflammatory, it’s an excellent choice for dogs with joint pain. One study found it worked just as well as ibuprofen in people with knee osteoarthritis.
An easy way to give turmeric to your dog is to make this golden paste recipe. Start slowly and work up to about 1/8 to ¼ tsp a day per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight. You can feed it with food or mix with water or kefir.
There are also joint supplements that include curcumin.
Why You Should Avoid Boswellia For Dogs
And lastly, let’s address Boswellia … specifically, Boswellia serrata or Indian Frankincense.
Boswellia supplements come from the Indian Boswellia serrata tree. Many use Boswellia to help with their dog’s joint pain and inflammation … and it can be very effective. Research shows it can work just as well as NSAIDs. But there are two concerns.
First, it’s difficult to find a source of Boswellia that’s pure. It’s a resin so Boswellia powders contain silicon dioxide … which is sand. It should be natural … but in supplements it’s usually man-made. Food and supplement manufacturers use the man-made version as an anti-caking agent in powdered foods and supplements. And it’s always in Boswellia powders and capsules.
If you want to use Boswellia, a tincture is best. Tinctures aren’t likely to contain silicon dioxide. But you should verify this. Silicon dioxide is added to Boswellia at the source, so manufacturers don’t have to list it on the label. You’ll need check with the supplier to be sure.
The second issue with Boswellia is it’s becoming threatened. It’s a slow-growing tree and demand is growing faster than they can grow trees. There might be other species of Boswellia elsewhere … but they don’t all have the same healing properties.
Keep these things in mind if you want to obtain the best source of Boswellia for your dog.
Choose Natural Joint Care For Your Dog
Now when your vet wants to prescribe carprofen for your dog, you’ve got some great natural choices to use instead.