It’s hard to see your dog in pain. When their tail droops, so does yours - metaphorically speaking of course!
But you also recognize that every prescription drug carries its own side effects. It may alleviate one symptom, but cause one or two more. This may be the case for the pain medication Rimadyl. Some dogs are able to take it without complications, but others aren’t as lucky and would need alternative hip and joint supplements for dogs.
The best thing you can do is gather as much research as possible, consult with your vet, and make the best educated decision for your dog’s health. Below we’ll answer the commonly asked question “is Rimadyl bad for dogs” by discussing how Rimadyl is often used, its controversial history, common side effects and alternative and safer forms of treatment that have been found to be just as effective!
What is Rimadyl?
Just as Tylenol is a popular name for the pharmaceutical “acetaminophen,” Rimadyl is a popular brand name for the pharmaceutical known as carprofen. Rimadyl (and by extension, carprofen) is an analgesic, meaning it’s a drug specifically designed to treat pain. Carprofen and Rimadyl belong to a class of medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Rimadyl is considered safer for dogs than other human NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen. Carprofen was originally created for people and was used in human medicine for about 10 years, from 1985-1995 . Shortly after that, it was gradually taken out of human treatment and was tested on dogs with mostly positive results.
The Controversial Past of Rimadyl
When it was first marketed for dogs in the 1990s, Rimadyl for dogs seemed to be a wonder drug . Commercials depicted dogs suddenly able to move as freely as pups after taking the prescription medicine. Naturally, pet owners across the country sought out Rimadyl, hoping it would give the same relief to their aging dogs.
Suddenly, the commercials and magazine ads stopped circulating, as more and more testimonies popped up from owners whose dogs were experiencing severe side effects and even dying. Heartbroken, these owners demanded action be taken, and even asked for the drug to be removed from veterinary practice altogether. That didn’t happen, but the advertisements for the drug stopped almost completely.
The biggest concern for most of these dog owners was not so much the side effects, but the fact that they were not warned about the symptoms ahead of time. Their fur babies started vomiting, suffering from stomach ruptures, experiencing seizures, and more without warning.
While these are known side effects of the drug, other dogs are able to tolerate it without any noticeable problem. Since Rimadyl for dogs seems to provide significant relief to the canines who can tolerate it, the drug is still widely prescribed by vets across the country. In fact, Rimadyl has been prescribed to over four million dogs in the U.S. alone, and even more across seas .
Common Uses for Rimadyl
As an anti-inflammatory agent, Rimadyl is used as a pain reliever. The three most common reasons Rimadyl would be prescribed are osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, and recovery post-surgery .
Osteoarthritis: This painful condition can happen to dogs of any size or age, but is most common in larger dogs later in life. Osteoarthritis is the process of the cushy cartilage of a joint breaking down over time, leading to bones rubbing up against one another. This is largely caused by natural “wear and tear” combined with chronic inflammation and a lack of certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids.
Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic disorder that can create hip problems in dogs, causing joints to grow or move in an irregular fashion. It’s not something your dog can “get,” it’s something they are born with . Although the signs and symptoms may not become evident until later in their life. Even though it’s genetic, hip dysplasia can be worsened or triggered by environmental factors like poor nutrition or an injury.
Post-Surgery Recovery: Dogs, just like humans, may need some extra support as they heal from a recent surgery. Rimadyl and other NSAIDs are often prescribed to help reduce the short-term pain and inflammation that usually accompanies a surgery. Once your dog is fully recovered from surgery, your vet will most likely take them off of Rimadyl.
Typical Doses of Rimadyl for Dogs
The average dose will depend largely on the size and weight of your dog and the severity of their condition. Rimadyl usually comes in 25mg, 75mg, or 100mg capsules or chewable tablets . Often, the dose can either be given all at once or split up and given twice a day. Make sure to consult with your vet to find out what they recommend for your dog specifically. As with any drug, it’s important not to exceed the prescribed dose—even if you think it will help ease your dog’s pain even more. It’s always best to be safe when your dog’s life is on the line.
Common Side Effects of Rimadyl for Dogs
As mentioned above, some dogs do react severely to carprofen or Rimadyl. Rimadyl has several negative side effects that can harm your dog. It's best to take a different approach to treatment to avoid your dog reacting poorly to the pain medication .
Vomiting: All dogs throw up from time to time, but if it happens more than once since they’ve started taking the drug, it’s something to be concerned about. Because Rimadyl is taken orally, most of the side effects appear in the gastrointestinal system. If something is upsetting your dog’s digestive tract, one of their first lines of defense it to throw up whatever may be causing the irritation.
Diarrhea or constipation: Keep an eye on your dog’s droppings—especially when they first start taking Rimadyl. If you notice wet, runny stool or you notice your dog is having trouble pooping at all, this is often a sign that something is off beneath the surface.
Black, tarry, or bloody stool: This is a fairly big warning sign, especially when you notice blood in their droppings. As long as you’re not changing anything else in their routine (such as their diet), it’s likely that the Rimadyl is having an adverse effect and causing a change or coloration in their stool. If it happens more than once, it’s wise to consult your vet and let them know what’s going on.
Fatigue or weakness: We all slow down a bit with age, but if you notice a dramatic drop in your dog’s energy and physical movement, they might be experiencing a side effect of the drug. If they seem apathetic toward playing or they move much slower than before, it’s possible that Rimadyl is not agreeing with their digestive system and affecting their energy levels.
Sores in the mouth: Like many of these symptoms, there are many potential causes of mouth sores. But you get to play detective to notice if anything else has changed in your dog’s routine. If the only recent change is the addition of Rimadyl, it’s likely that your dog isn’t processing the drug safely. Keep an eye out for any persistent open wounds or sores in your dog’s mouth that don’t seem to go away.
Fluid retention and weight gain: Some owners notice their dog gaining rapid weight after taking Rimadyl. While the cause may be too many snacks, if you haven’t changed their eating regimen, then the newly added drug may be to blame.
Muscle cramps: If you find your dog limping around the house or barely moving, they may be experiencing cramps. Unfortunately, since movement is crucial to a mammal’s well-being (in humans and pets), your dog may begin to feel depressed because of their inability to move around like they used to.9 Keep an eye out for any changes in the moving habits.
Seizures: This can be a scary one. Many owners have been frightened by the sight of their dog convulsing unexpectedly. A seizure may look like a sudden collapsing, jerking of their legs, stiffening, excessive drooling, or foaming at the mouth .
If your dog begins having a seizure, do your best to stay calm, talk to them gently, move them away from anything that could hurt them (such as furniture), and time the seizure. If it lasts for more than a few minutes, they might begin to overheat, so it’s best to turn on a fan and place cold water on their paws to help cool them down. If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes or they have multiple seizures while unconscious, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. It’s possible they may have trouble breathing if the seizure persists. Remember that your dog can sense your mood, so breathe deeply and talk to them slowly to help comfort them.
Abdominal pain: Since most of the side effects of Rimadyl affect your dog’s digestive tract, it’s possible for some dogs to experience pain or discomfort in their abdomen. This might look like your dog curled up in a “fetal” position with their paws covering their stomach, heavy breathing, apathy, crying or whimpering, or a bloated stomach.
Increased or decreased thirst: Pay attention to their water bowl. If they’re slurping down the H2O at an alarming rate every time you fill it up, or if they hardly touch their water at all, both of these can be a sign that something is wrong.
Urinary abnormalities: If you notice anything unusual about their pee, such as a change in color, smell, or even the frequency of their potty trips, it’s possible that the Rimadyl could be interfering with their urinary tract.
Jaundice: This is a condition where your dog’s skin, gums, or eyes may turn somewhat yellow . Jaundice occurs when your dog’s red blood cells aren’t able to create or eliminate enough bilirubin (an orange-yellow pigment formed in the liver). Jaundice has many potential causes, but one of them is an adverse reaction to a new medication.
Liver or kidney problems: These are rare, but when they happen, they deserve your full attention. It can be difficult to spot liver or kidney malfunctions, but there are a few warnings signs. Jaundice (mentioned above) is actually one of them. In fact, since your dog has a limited number of ways to signal that something is wrong, many of the symptoms listed above can also be attributed to a problem with either their liver or kidneys.
Alternatives to Rimadyl for Dogs
With this long list of potential side effects, you can see why many dog owners are open to other ways of treating arthritis in dogs, hip dysplasia, and post-surgery recovery. While we recommend consulting with your vet before adding or removing anything drastic from your dog’s daily routine, we’ve created a helpful list of steps you can take to make life easier for your dog that may reduce or eliminate their need for NSAIDs.
Clean Up Your Dog’s Diet: Think about the dosage of pharmaceutical drugs—they’re usually measured in milligrams. But we often forget about the impact that food has, which is measured in kilograms (a much larger quantity than the medicine). Most dogs thrive on a diet that is high in animal proteins, like meat and raw bones, followed by fresh fruits and vegetables.
Some dogs can tolerate grains (like wheat, soy, and corn), but other canines have trouble digesting these processed foods. Feeding your dog something that doesn’t agree with them can lead to increased inflammation and joint pain. If you suspect your dog is having a negative reaction to their grain-based food, try removing it for a month and see if they improve. You can always add it back later and watch for a reaction.
Use Joint-Health Supplements: For some dogs, a quality diet isn’t enough. Depending on their age, size, and severity of pain, they may require additional help from natural supplements and vitamins for dogs. The top supplements we recommend for your dog’s hip and joint health are ones that have a combination of glucosamine HCL, omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of fish oil or green lipped mussel), chondroitin sulfate, turmeric, and MSM. To make your life easier (and your dog’s life better), we’ve got a variety of different delicious treats filled with these nourishing ingredients.
Consider Physical Therapy: With your vet’s approval, you might do a quick search for canine physical therapists in your area. These professionals use specific canine-friendly stretches, underwater treadmills, and more to help reduce your dog’s pain and improve their mobility.
Make the Home More Comfy: Sometimes we forget how much larger we are than our pets. Couches, beds, stairs, and cars may be easier for us to navigate, but as your pup gets older, it becomes difficult to move their bodies to great heights (or jump down safely). Adding ramps and easy steps to your home can make life a lot easier on your dog’s joints.
When answering the question, “Is Rimadyl bad for dogs?” the answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no. All in all, the most important thing to remember is that every dog is different and if your dog does have a negative reaction to Rimadyl, there are many alternatives you can try. Checking with your vet may be step 1, followed by trying a few different methods to keep your pup feeling happy and comfortable.