Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)


NSAIDs are prescribed very frequently in veterinary medicine.  Some of the most commonly used NSAIDs include aspirin (Ascriptin®), deracoxib (Deramaxx®), carprofen (Rimadyl®), meloxicam (Metacam®), firocoxib (Previcox®), tepoxalin (Zubrin®), and etodolac (EtoGesic®). These medications are used almost exclusively in dogs; cats are at markedly increased risk of side effects from these medications relative to dogs.

Robenacoxib (Onsior®) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that currently is labeled for short term use in cats. Cats, unlike dogs, rarely are prescribed long term NSAIDS.

NSAIDS are used primarily to treat pain.  They are commonly prescribed to treat arthritis, especially in dogs.  NSAIDs are often used to treat post-operative pain in surgical patients and pain that results from soft tissue trauma.  Aspirin is sometimes used as a blood thinner in cats that have been diagnosed with heart disease.

Although there are differences between the NSAIDs listed above, they are used for similar purposes.  Their side effects are similar.


NSAIDS are readily available in a variety of liquid and solid formulations for oral administration.  Many manufacturers produce palatable tablets or syrups to ease administration.  Veterinarians often administer NSAIDs by injection.

Side Effects

The most common side effect of all NSAIDs is gastrointestinal upset (loss of appetite, diarrhea, or vomiting).  NSAIDs may contribute to the development of gastrointestinal ulcers.  NSAIDs must be used cautiously in animals with liver or kidney disease, and in pets less than 12 months old.   Cats are especially susceptible to side effects from NSAIDs.

Pets that take NSAIDs in combination with prednisone and related medications are at very high risk for gastrointestinal ulcers.  The two types of medicine should not be given simultaneously.

In addition to the side effects listed above, Rimadyl® has been linked to liver damage in a small number of dogs.  Some sources cite evidence that EtoGesic® may rarely be linked to eye problems.

Severe side effects including liver and kidney damage are possible with all NSAIDs. Severe adverse reactions occur most frequently when NSAIDs are administered to pets that have stopped eating and drinking.  Do not administer any NSAID medication to any pet that displays decreased appetite or thirst.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your pet is suffering side effects from any NSAID.


Pets that take NSAIDs should show signs of decreased pain after the medicine is administered.  When used to treat arthritis in dogs, up to two weeks of continuous therapy may be needed before the full effect is realized.

Pets that take NSAIDs regularly should undergo periodic blood and urine tests to assess the function of their liver and kidneys.

Copyright © Eric Barchas, DVM. All rights reserved.
The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.



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