Pain Medicines in Dogs and Cats

As we mentioned last month, many pain medicines designed for people are not appropriate for dogs and cats. Do not ever give Tylenol (acetaminophen) to a cat. It is very toxic to them. Other OTC drugs can be harmful to both dogs and cats.


Do Not Use in Cats

In the past 10-15 years there have become many new options for pain control in animals. Our understanding of multi-modal therapies is also helping keep pets more comfortable. The first steps in helping your own personal pet are to observe for problems and to get a diagnosis established by working with your veterinarian.

If your pet is diagnosed with chronic osteoarthritis there are a number of treatment options available. We often initiate therapy with a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. I recommend one of the brand name veterinary products as the bioavailability can vary with these supplements. Some dogs and cats do remarkably better with this treatment, but others do not seem to show much response. It is definitely worth a trial as the side effects of glucosamine/chondroitin are minimal.

A second option is NSAIDS. The newer generation of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is much safer for dogs than the older drugs. The new generation includes such drugs as: Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx, and Previcox. These drugs can be used long term as long as the patient is monitored. Your veterinarian probably uses one or two of these medications. We all seem to find what works best in our hands. Some of the results with these medications can be dramatic. People have told me their old dog seems more like a puppy.

NSAID medicines in cats are problematic. There are none approved for long term use by the FDA. Metacam and Onsior have been used off label for longer periods of time, but all of us in the profession hope for a FDA approved drug soon. There is some hope that Onsior will be that drug.There are other prescription medications we can use for cats.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do have side effects. The classic problem can be gastro-intestinal upsets such as vomiting and/or diarrhea. Occasional liver and kidney problems are encountered, and this is why we like to periodically check blood tests on these dogs. Fortunately most patients tolerate these drugs well.

There are other medications that can be utilized for these patients. One of the common drugs used is tramadol which is a human medicine that we use off label. It is often used as adjunctive therapy to the other modalities. My 14 year old Labrador was on Deramaxx. Glucosamine/chondroitin, and tramadol . Some patients respond well to an injectible drug Adequan.

Besides drugs, we need to remember other approaches that can help. Patients with arthritis need to exercise. The best therapy is swimming although some dogs (and all cats) are not “willing” participants. Walking can be very beneficial. I stress to my dog owners that several short walks help keep the muscles toned. Very active exercise e.g. ball chasing, can cause more harm than good.

Other options available include surgery (e.g. joint replacement), acupuncture, physical therapy, and laser treatments. Consult with your personal veterinarian on what approach may be appropriate for your pet.


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