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Carprofen: Worth The Risk?

Being a pet parent can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a person's life. Nonstop love and affection. A cuddle buddy. The best partner in crime anyone could ask for. Dogs are so special and we are so lucky to have them. With that being said, no one said that being responsible for your four-legged companion's complete and total wellbeing was going to be easy. Most pet parents can attest to the fact that it certainly isn't always rainbows and butterflies.

One of the most difficult parts of owning a dog is witnessing your once bumbling little pup get older and experience the associated pain that comes along with aging. On top of that, most pet parents are aware that dogs are notorious for hiding any signs that they are in distress. Therefore, if your dog is showing signs of pain, chances are, they are really suffering. It's heart-wrenching to think about.

If you recognize that your beloved dog isn't feeling their best, the next step is often considering what you can do to fix it. The question of, "what can I give my dog for pain" is one of the highest searched queries on Google in terms of pet care. We hope to answer that question... spoiler alert, it may not be what you think.

In this article, we will cover all there is to know about a commonly prescribed pain medication known as Carprofen. While we understand that you'll do just about anything to alleviate your dog's pain, it is imperative that pet parents understand that it may very well come with risks that you shouldn't take lightly. Let's get to it.


What is Carprofen

Carprofen is a non-narcotic, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). As a veterinary prescribed medication, Carprofen aims to alleviate pain and inflammation caused by arthritis or post-surgical distress.

Other Names for Carprofen

Carprofen for dogs also goes by several different brand names. It is important for dog owners to be aware that they are all essentially the same medication and therefore will have the same potential adverse effects.

The following are the other names that Carprofen goes by:

  • Acticarp
  • Austiofen
  • Bomazeal
  • Canidryl
  • Carporal
  • Carprieve
  • Carprocow
  • Carprodolor
  • Carprodyl
  • Carprofelican
  • Carprofen
  • Carprofène
  • Carprofeno
  • Carprofenum
  • Carprogesic
  • Carprosol
  • Carprotab
  • Carprox
  • Comforion
  • Dolagis
  • Dolocarp
  • Dolox
  • Eurofen
  • Kelaprofen
  • Librevia
  • Norocarp
  • Norodyl
  • Novocox
  • Prolet
  • Reproval
  • Rimadyl
  • Rimifin
  • Rofeniflex
  • Rycarfa
  • Scanodyl
  • Tergive
  • Vetprofen
  • Xelcor

pills pills pills

The brand of Carprofen that your veterinarian prescribes will mostly depend on the country that you live in, although many countries have nearly all of the drugs available.

What Are NSAIDs for Dogs

NSAIDs is the abbreviated term for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Common NSAIDs for human consumption are medications like aspirin or Advil. They are generally used to treat pain in the short term. You don't often hear about someone taking Advil multiple times a day, every day of their life. This is, in large part, due to the fact that we are aware of the potential adverse effects of NSAIDs for people if taken long-term. Yet, many NSAIDs for dogs are being prescribed to alleviate arthritic pain for the remaining years of Fido's life. Doesn't make much sense... does it?

Some of the most commonly prescribed NSAID drugs for dogs are the following:

  • Rimadyl (Carprofen)
  • Deramaxx
  • Previcox
  • Metacam
  • Zubrin

Trust us when we say that all of these medications have a slew of potential adverse reactions that will likely make your head spin. However, we are going to mainly focus on Carprofen.

How Does Carprofen Work

The precise chemical mechanism of Carprofen is not completely known. Many experts believe that it works by inhibiting the COX enzyme which therefore inhibits the development and spreading of inflammation. For this reason, Carprofen is known as an anti-inflammatory drug.

What is Carprofen Used For

Veterinarians typically prescribe Carprofen for one of two main reasons:

  1. To treat pain and the associated side effects of osteoarthritis
  2. To treat post-surgical pain and inflammation

Treating Osteoarthritis with Carprofen

Arthritis (osteoarthritis) is a common condition in which your vet may prescribe Carprofen. As the dog ages, the associated wearing of the cartilage and joints occurs and results in the development of arthritis. Unfortunately, arthritis can cause your dog to experience a substantial amount of pain. 

It is important for pet owners to understand that Carprofen is not a cure for arthritis, it merely reduces the symptoms of the condition. In some cases, orthopedic surgeries may be necessary in order for the pain to be manageable long-term.

caprofen is used to treat osteoarthritis in dogs

Carprofen for Hip Dysplasia

Another reason why Carprofen may be prescribed is to treat the associated symptoms of hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a more specific type of arthritis, arthritis of the hip. It's a term that pet parents may not be completely aware of, yet it is a very common condition amongst large dog breeds. 

Post-Surgical Pain

Finally, Carprofen may be prescribed to help manage pain and inflammation after a surgery or dental procedure. Carprofen may also help reduce fevers that may occur after a surgery.

carpofen is used for post-operative pain

Is My Dog in Pain 

We previously mentioned that dogs are notorious for hiding pain. This is a fact that all dog owners must be implicitly aware of. Therefore, if your dog is showing any signs of distress, it is imperative that you act right away as the pain is likely progressed.

Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include limping, lameness, and/or stiffness. Furthermore, if you notice that your once active dog is now struggling to walk up and down the stairs or jump into the car, they are likely not feeling their best.

Additionally, dogs who are in pain typically retreat under the bed or into a hiding place. Even the most social dogs will run and hide when company comes over for fear that any physical attention will cause them to experience more pain.

How is Carprofen Administered

Your veterinarian will be the one to decide the best way for Carprofen to be administered based on your dog's individual needs. For example, if the drug is prescribed to treat post-operative pain, it will likely be administered approximately two hours before the surgery begins.

Carprofen comes in three forms:

  • Chewable tablets (Available in 25 mg, 75 mg, and 100 mg)
  • Carprofen caplets/capsules (Available in 25 mg, 75 mg, and 100 mg)
  • An injection (only able to be administered by a licensed veterinarian)

Carprofen Precautions

Even before you consider whether or not the potential adverse reactions are worth the possible benefits, there are many dogs who shouldn't take Carprofen due to preexisting conditions and other medication interactions.

It is imperative that your veterinarian knows all there is to know about your dog's health and any allergies or prescribed medications that they are currently taking. Carprofen has known to have negative interactions with the following:

Dogs with:

  • Bleeding disorders
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Dehydration
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Hypoproteinemia
  • Renal disease or reduced renal function
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • A preexisting ulcer or bleeding in the stomach
  • High blood pressure

Additionally, the following medications may have a negative interaction with Carprofen:

  • An allergy to aspirin
  • An allergy to any other NSAID
  • Steroids (such as corticosteroids and cortisone-like drugs)
  • Nephrotoxic medications
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Anticoagulant medications

Additionally, pregnant or lactating female dogs should not take Carprofen as it has been known to cause irreversible adverse reactions.

Carprofen Without Vet Prescription

Momentarily, we will cover all of the potential adverse reactions associated with Carprofen for dogs. However, before we do so we want to discuss an important fact about today's world wide web.

The internet can be both a wonderful and very scary thing. With the creation of a number of dog medication websites, pet owners can purchase medication with the click of a button without seeing their veterinarian first. We cannot stress enough that this is extremely dangerous. Your vet must be involved with diagnosing your dog and prescribing an accurate dose of medication. Pet owners should never, ever estimate or guess what and how much of a drug their dog needs.

Even though purchasing Carprofen (or any medication for that matter) online will likely be cheaper and "easier," it can also cause horrific, irreversible effects. Please, don't do it.

you can only get carprofen through a prescription

Carprofen Side Effects

If your veterinarian has recently prescribed Carprofen to ease your dog's pain and inflammation, there are a number of things that pet owners must understand.

Here's the scary truth... Carprofen works, unless it doesn't. In some cases, Carprofen will effectively reduce pain and inflammation and help your dog get back on their feet. However, in other cases, Carprofen can cause horrific side effects... including death.

Gastrointestinal Effects

Some dogs will experience adverse reactions that affect their gastrointestinal system, specifically the stomach and small intestine. These side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Blood in vomit
  • Diarrhea
  • Black, tarry stools (resulting from gastrointestinal bleeding)
  • Constipation
  • Gastrointestinal ulceration
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

Neurological Effects

Neurological effects are ones that involve the nervous system (including the spine and brain).

Clinical signs to be aware of include:

  • Ataxia (lack of or total loss of coordination)
  • Partial paralysis
  • Total paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Disorientation

Urinary Effects

Additionally, urinary effects have been reported in dogs taking Carprofen. Most of the adverse effects primarily affect the kidneys and include:

  • Presence of blood in urine
  • Changes in frequency of urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Urinary incontinence (frequent accidents)
  • Urinary tract infection
  • High levels of blood nitrogen
  • Acute tubular necrosis
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Glycosuria
  • Glomerular disease

Hematologic Effects

The associated hematologic effects of Carprofen are those that affect the blood. These effects include:

  • Severely low red blood cell count (including blood loss anemia from losing an extreme amount of blood in diarrhea, vomit, urine)
  • Poorly functioning red blood cells
  • Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (clinically seen in the forms of bruising, bleeding, and anemia)
  • Frequent nose bleeds

Hepatic Effects

Reactions that are considered hepatic result from issues related to the liver. An estimated 0.2% of dogs taking Carprofen will experience these effects. Before your dog is prescribed Carprofen, your vet should first make sure that their liver function has not been compromised by any other medication or preexisting health condition. Furthermore, it is important to schedule routine check-ups to monitor elevated liver enzymes.

Issues involving the liver will often have the following clinical signs:

  • Lack of appetite (often the first symptom that arises)
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Hepatotoxicity
  • Abnormal liver function, showing up in routine blood tests

Behavioral Effects

There are a number of behavioral changes that dog owners should be aware of. Some of these changes may be due to the condition which Carprofen is being prescribed to treat. Others may be due to the drug itself. It is important for dog owners to know their dog's "normal" behavior in order to quickly recognize when something is off.

Examples of behavioral effects of Carprofen include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggressive actions
  • Restlessness
  • Disinterest in activities once enjoyed

Immunologic Effects

Immunological effects occur in cases where the dog may have an allergy to Carprofen. It is imperative that if you notice any of the following signs you contact your vet straight away. In rare cases, death has resulted from Carprofen allergies.

Additional signs to look for include:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face
  • Redness and irritation of the skin

Dermatological Effects

Dermatological effects associated with Carprofen are those which affect the skin, nails, and hair. These side effects include:

  • Inflammation of the skin causing constant itching, irritation, scratching, biting, etc.
  • Excessive shedding and therefore associated hair loss
  • Skin lesions (often raw and extremely painful)
  • Bruising in the abdominal area of the body
  • Cell death (of both the inflamed fatty tissues and inflamed blood vessels within the skin)

Carprofen Overdose

Pet owners must ensure that Carprofen is kept out of reach of both animals and children. The chewable form of the drug is liver-flavored, making it easier for pet parents to administer since dogs love the taste. However, this also means that overdoses are more likely to occur if the dog is able to access the medication as they likely think of it more as a treat than medicine.

Clinical signs of overdose include:

  • Excessive vomiting
  • Excessive diarrhea
  • Blood in vomit or stools
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Severe abdominal pain

carprofen may cause dog vomiting

If you recognize any of the aforementioned symptoms, do not delay in getting your dog emergency medical treatment. A Carprofen overdose can result in irreversible damage and even death.

Carprofen Controversy... More Bad News

Unfortunately, as if the aforementioned effects weren't awful enough... there's more.

There has been a substantial amount of controversy surrounding Carprofen (and it's many other names.. Google "Rimadyl Controversy" if you want to check for yourself). Here's what happened.

Carprofen was once a medication that many thought of as almost magical. There were tons of commercials airing that showed dogs who were once bound to the floor out of pain now leaping through grass and having the time of their lives. However, these commercials abruptly stopped airing as more and more stories emerged about how Carprofen (more specifically, Rimadyl) was causing sudden, unexplained deaths.

From liver cancer to stomach ruptures leading to internal bleeding to seizures, pet owners were finding that their dogs' health decline all had one thing in common: Carprofen.

Even so, vets continue to prescribe the drug and we are not negating that for some dogs it truly is a gamechanger. We are, however, encouraging our readers to always do their research before agreeing to a new medication. It may very well be the difference between life and death.

Additional NSAIDs for Dogs

Carprofen is only one of many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that pet owners should be aware of. NSAIDs are commonly prescribed to treat pain and, at one point or another, a simple trip to the vet may leave you with an NSAID prescription.

Rimadyl for Dogs

Throughout the article, you've heard us mention Rimadyl and Carprofen interchangeably. This is because Rimadyl is one of the many brand names of Carprofen. They are essentially one in the same.

Novox for Dogs

Yet another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, Norvox for dogs is one which also treats pain and inflammation stemming from arthritis and other joint diseases.

Meloxicam for Dogs

Meloxicam for dogs is another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is primarily used ease inflammation, stiffness, and associated pain stemming from disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

All of these nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may very well alleviate pain and inflammation, however, they all come with a cost: potential adverse reactions. Again, it is so important to understand any and all associated risks prior to administering new medication.

meloxicam for dogs

All Natural Alternatives

With that being said, it's no wonder why so many pet owners are desperately trying to find alternative, all-natural ways to treat their pet's ailments. Luckily, we are living in a time where information about holistic medicine is on the rise, thus allowing us to have options in the ways we treat our beloved fur babies.

However, before we get to alternatives we want to briefly reiterate one important fact. Carprofen is not a cure. Carprofen merely alleviates the associated symptoms of a number of different conditions. Therefore, pet owners must ask themselves how they are going to find long-term relief for their dog.

When we trace the vast majority of ailments back to the root, we find that they all have one major thing in common: inflammation. An effective way to find long-term relief is to focus on treating the underlying cause. Carprofen may help your dog find temporary alleviation. However, it is up to you to get to the root of the issue and treat it accordingly.  

Carprofen: The Bottom Line

When all is said and done, we know that you only want the very best for your four-legged companion. Recognizing that your dog is in pain is heart-breaking and leaves pet parents wondering how to proceed. The main thing that we want to stress is the importance of knowing the associated risks of the conventional medication you are prescribed prior to administering it. It can ultimately be the difference between life and death for your pet.

A life full of pain is no way to live. We sincerely hope that your pup feels better soon.


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