When Rimadyl® was introduced in 1997 it was called a "miracle drug" for treating arthritis in family pets. And, other drug companies followed with their own offerings of similar drugs.* A total of four major brands compete in this business.
* Rimadyl® is a registered trade name of Pfizer, Inc.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that this class of drugs is safe for use but with this important caveat. They are "safe" if used as directed.
As I have reported in this column, there have been many instances of adverse consequences from using these NSAID's, including death. Although the numbers are not overwhelming, they are still an issue. When pets either die or have to be "put down" because these drugs have been used, it makes every pet owner wonder if the risk is worth it.
Since the FDA put their stamp of approval on these drugs, it was a long time before the special warnings were placed on the labels. Of course, with the recent warnings about the use of both prescription and non-prescription pain remedies for humans, there is a clear parallel between the two. In fact, veterinarians and pet owners have expressed concern that not enough is said about potential dangers before they are prescribed.
In one review, it was found that nearly 60% of those who reported an adverse event from using these drugs for their pet's arthritis, the owner had been giving their pet both a prescription NSAID and aspirin at the same time. That is just an instance of a "deadly mixture."
This issue really comes down to drug company representatives providing information to veterinarians that tend to minimize risks. I think it is that simple. They are more concerned with selling product than they are "educating vets."
If the Vet Recommends an NSAID
Veterinarians are becoming acutely aware of the possible complications of using these drugs. It is inevitable with all of the press coverage on these issues.
If you are not getting the total picture from veterinarians, be vigilant yourself. If your pet is on these drugs, there are usually symptoms that spell out trouble. Vomiting, diarrhea, dark stools, and changes in their intake of liquids or urination patterns. Since liver problems have also been associated with the use of these drugs, watch for any "yellowing" of gums, skin or the eyes.
The Safe Alternative
I continue to maintain that in most cases, a high-quality liquid Glucosamine provides your arthritic pet with a safer and equally effective approach. There are no adverse effects so the issue is one of taking the safe road. Frankly, I would not even consider an NSAID for any pet I owned who suffered with arthritis or joint-related pain.