Side Effects of Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Dogs and Cats
Anti-inflammatories are a varied group of drugs whose action reduces inflammation, pain and fever. They can be divided into two groups: nonsteroidal (NSAIDs), such as Aspirin, and steroidal (those commonly known as “cortisone”). Despite both having similar side effects, the steroidals are more problematic (particularly in dogs), yet their benefits are also more powerful.
The biggest problems we find us in these two cases are:
The use of human medicine nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories in dogs and cats: they should NEVER be administered in animals without a previous veterinary prescription. Animals have problems metabolizing them correctly, it is very easy for a potentially lethal intoxication to occur, even with a low dose.
Incorrect use of anti-inflammatories for veterinary use: Normally due to use without previous prescription. Elevated doses or going too long without checking with the vet may lead to serious problems.
We must also bear in mind that more care needs to be taken with older animals, very young animals, those who are weakened or taking other medications.
Unless indicated otherwise by our veterinarian, they should be avoided in cases of:
Cardiovascular, kidney or liver disease.
If they are taking other types of anti-inflammatory drugs
When certain proteins in the blood (especially albumin) are low
Symptoms of intoxication
Corresponding to kidney or liver damage or stomach ulcers or perforation.
Severe poisoning: dehydration, paleness, tachycardia, diarrhea or vomiting with blood, bruises (Aspirin), temperature increase (Aspirin), jaundice, uncoordinated movements, seizures, death.
There are rare cases of liver disease caused by NSAIDs, occurring in susceptible animals. The symptoms will appear days after ingestion.
In the case of steroidal anti-inflammatories (cortisone) with prolonged use, accumulation diseases can occur (iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism). In addition, it is VERY IMPORTANT to not stop taking these drugs abruptly. The vet will advise you on the best way to do so.
Treatment of intoxication
Induced vomiting (according to the time elapsed since the ingestion)
Using stomach protectors such as Omeprazole
In cases of gastric irritation and mild kidney or liver damage, recovery is usually excellent if treatment is started quickly. The prognosis will be reserved or bad if there is gastric perforation, due to the peritoninis it will produce.
Alternatives to traditional anti-inflammatories
First of all you should be aware that if the veterinarian prescribes an anti-inflammatory it is because the animal needs it. Most of the time their benefits far outweigh the side effects. Nevertheless, there are cases when we can substitute or “help” with other safer compounds in order to reduce the dosage.
Joint protectors (chondroprotectors): dietary supplements that help slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. They are used during lengthy treatments and normally allow us to lower the required dose of anti-inflammatories. They are also used as a preventative measure for osteoarthritis in animals that we anticipate could suffer problems later on.
Omega-3 fatty acids: they act as natural anti-inflammatories. They can also help us during lengthy treatments. Especially recommended for inflammatory processes and skin disorders.
Unconventional natural anti-inflammatories: there are anti-inflammatory products with fewer side effects than the traditional ones. They are of interest for chronic use and for animals in which the traditional ones are contraindicated.
Smart fabrics: there are protectors and orthotics on the market made from materials that take advantage of the animal’s own heat to relieve pain and aid recovery.
Physiotherapy and electrostimulation: with these two techniques we can reduce pain and help achieve a faster recovery. There are professionals dedicated to canine and feline physical therapy. Electrostimulation can be used even at home, applied by the owner with a very reasonable price.
In general, it is safe to say that the best way to reap the benefits of the anti-inflammatories is by always having a veterinary prescription, knowing the symptoms that indicate to us “something isn’t right” and learning about the alternatives and aids that allow us to make rational use of them.