“My Pet Is In Pain. Can I Just Use….” ( Dr. Danowitz)

As veterinarians, we are frequently asked by clients about using over-the-counter human medications to manage their pet’s pain and discomfort.  Unfortunately, the answer is almost always, “No, it is just not safe.”  Many common human anti-inflammatory medications can cause serious gastrointestinal ulceration, bleeding, and even kidney failure. Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Naproxen are currently the most frequent medications requiring hospitalization of pets as result of well-intentioned pet owners not realizing how dangerous these drugs can be.

 

 

ASPIRIN (acetylsalicylic acid)

Aspirin is probably the most common human medication that we are asked about, and that owners go ahead and administer to their pets without consulting us first.  Aspirin inhibits an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which is involved in the production of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins. Unfortunately there are lots of different cyclooxygenase enzymes that perform different functions in the body, and aspirin affects them all.  Although administering aspirin to your dog (attempting to treat arthritis, for example) may result in mild pain relief, it is frequently associated with the following side effects:

  1. Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  2. Stomach or intestinal ulceration and bleeding, which can lead to decreased appetite, vomiting, and  black, tarry stool referred to as “melena”
  3. Reduced blood supply the kidney, possibly leading to kidney failure
  4. Reduced ability to clot blood.

Whether an aspirin is buffered or not makes no difference to the dog or cat. A study performed at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine published in 1999 compared the effects on the stomach and intestine between buffered aspirin and 2 veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, Rimadyl and Etogesic.  Different dogs were given these three medications and then their stomachs and intestines were examined with an endoscope at certain intervals after administration. Of the dogs that received buffered aspirin, 100% experienced significant stomach and intestinal bleeding. Very few of the dogs that received the either of the two veterinary drugs sustained any bleeding, and when present it was mild compared to the aspirin group.

Aspirin was once believed to be an adequate OTC pain reliever for our canine companions, and so-called “dog aspirin” can still be found on the shelves at some pet stores. Unfortunately, it is not as effective in controlling pain as the veterinary approved drugs and certainly not as safe.

Cats are particularly sensitive to the toxic effects of aspirin. Even small doses can cause fatal reactions.

IBUPROFEN (Advil, Motrin), NAPROXEN (Aleve, Naprosyn)

Available as a human pain-reliever in the US since 1974, Ibuprofen is one of the most common items found in the medicine cabinets across the country.  Like aspirin, Ibuprofen and Naproxen are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are non-selective inhibitor of cyclooxygenase. Both of these medications are even MORE toxic than aspirin to dogs, and incredibly toxic to cats.  The side effects of ibuprofen and naproxen include:

  1. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or inappetence
  2. Stomach or intestinal ulceration and bleeding, which can lead to decreased appetite, vomiting, and  black, tarry stool referred to as “melena”
  3. Kidney Failure
  4. Neurological Signs: tremors, seizures, coma

Treatment for Ibuprofen / Naproxen ingestion depends on the dosage received, species, timing of the event, and other factors, but can include: inducing vomiting, administering a compound called activated charcoal to prevent continued absorption in the gastrointestinal tract, hospitalization and IV fluid diuresis, as well as supportive care for vomiting, stomach and intestinal ulceration, and decreased appetite.  Without prompt veterinary care, administration of Ibuprofen to your dog or cat could result in death.

It is so difficult to see our beloved pets in pain, and it is human nature to want to relieve them of any discomfort. The veterinary industry has seen tremendous advancements in different treatment modalities to combat pain control over the past 5-10 years and not all involve medications. (Ask us about K-Laser therapy). We have been able to greatly improve the quality of life of our patients.  If you feel that your pet is in pain, please call one of our veterinarians to discuss the many treatment options or schedule an examination. Please always consult us before administering any human medications, or animal medications not previously prescribed specifically for your pet!

 

Billy Danowitz  DVM

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