How to Safely Switch your Dog’s Pain Medication

November 16, 2011

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are a cornerstone in the treatment of canine pain. They can be used in cases of acute injury (i.e. trauma or post-operatively) and also for chronic conditions like osteoarthritis.  Many different prescription NSAIDs have been developed specifically for dogs.  These pet medications are much more effective and safer for canine use than are over-the-counter human medications like aspirin.

With so many choices, owners often wonder which NSAID is best for their dog. There is no one right answer to this question.  Some dogs respond better to one product versus another, but there is no way to determine which is best without trying several.  If your veterinarian prescribes a particular type of NSAID and your dog does well on it, there is no reason to make a change.  However, if you are not pleased with your dog’s response to one brand, you should try one or two more before coming to the conclusion that NSAIDs won’t work for your dog.

However, switching between types of canine NSAIDs can be dangerous when done incorrectly. To lower the risk of unwanted side-effects like gastrointestinal ulcers, the first drug needs to be eliminated from the body before the second drug is introduced.  This process can take around five days to be complete, so you should wait at least this long after stopping one type of NSAID before starting another and watch your dog closely for signs of gastrointestinal distress like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite when starting the new drug.

If your dog requires pain-relief during the five day wash-out period, your veterinarian can prescribe an analgesic that is not an NSAID, like Tramadol.

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