Anti-inflammatories for dogs: What are their advantages and their limitations?

Anti-inflammatories for dogs are medications used in veterinary medicine to combat inflammation and to relieve the associated pain. Like in humans, inflammation in our four-legged-companions can be caused by many things including: infection, trauma, allergic reactions, burns, or even diseases such as cancer or an auto-immune disorder.

Positive effects of anti-inflammatories in dogs

Anti-inflammatory medications are veterinary-prescribed drugs that reduce symptoms related to inflammation, whether it is caused by an internal or an external source. These medications reduce swelling, redness, the heat sensation cause by inflammation, and in some cases diminish coughing. Anti-inflammatories can also help relieve fever and pain.

These types of medications can be prescribed to relieve acute pain and inflammation, but also as a course of treatment for long-term conditions such as joint pain caused by arthritis, for dogs with incurable diseases and even as palliative care in geriatric dogs that are in pain.

Drawbacks for dogs taking anti-inflammatories

Though anti-inflammatories are very effective medications in terms of relieving pain or discomfort, as well as for treating various canine illnesses, taking these medications can have its’ disadvantages, usually related to the adverse effects they can provoke. Adverse effects commonly seen with the usage of anti-inflammatory medications include the following:

  • Anti-inflammatories can cause the internal lining of the stomach to become fragile by diminishing the secretion of the mucous that normally protects the stomach, making the dog more prone to stomach ulcers. This can be diminished with an anti-acid prescription to accompany the anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Digestive troubles. Sometimes by ingesting anti-inflammatories the intestinal flora that contains non-pathogenic (good) bacteria can become imbalanced and in turn result in diarrhea. Your veterinarian can suggest a probiotic supplement to correct this imbalance.
  • Disruption of normal blood clotting function, which can lead to haemorrhage and bleeding problems.
  • Kidney and liver dysfunction.

Since the administration of an anti-inflammatory medication can cause several possible adverse effects, they should only be given if prescribed by a veterinarian for a specific reason and never as a “self-medication”.  More importantly, anti-inflammatories should not be combined with certain other medications, as some combinations can worsen the adverse effects or even cause a dangerous over-dose.

Situations in which anti-inflammatories are strictly contraindicated:

  • Dogs who already have digestive troubles or ulcers 
  • Dogs who already suffer from kidney, liver, or cardiac conditions
  • Female dogs who are pregnant and/or nursing
  • Newborn puppies
  • Dogs who are already being treated with certain medications, such as cortisone

In conclusion, anti-inflammatories medications can relieve pain and treat certain conditions, but they can also make dogs very sick if used improperly. In order for them to be beneficial, these medications should only be given under veterinary supervision, and never “self-medicated.”