Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
The drug Rimadyl (a brand name for the medication carprofen) was introduced by Pfizer in 1997. The drug was not a commercial success when sold for people, so it was tested on a small number of dogs and then marketed as a new and effective treatment for canine joint pain and arthritis.
It does work for some dogs. Thousands of dogs have been euthanized or died as a direct result of this drug, though, and many more thousands have had severe reactions. The drug company said the reactions occur in less than 1% of the dogs that take the drug. That doesn´t help much if your dog is one of the “less than 1%,” does it?
What Are The Side Effects of Rimadyl?
- Your dog may stop eating. Since the drug is often prescribed for seniors, and there are many other causes of a loss of appetite, this symptom is often missed.
- Your dog may act very tired or weak and stumble around. When he does get up, he may even be partially paralyzed.
- Your dog may start vomiting or have diarrhea. The vomit may have flecks of blood in it and the diarrhea might be black (a sign of blood loss).
- He might have behavioral changes (like aggression) and might even have seizures.
- Some dogs also develop itchy skin with scabs.
- If you miss some of the other symptoms, you may notice your dog's gums becoming yellow (jaundice).
When Is It More Common to See Side Effects?
- Side effects are most commonly seen when the dog is a senior. Since the drug is most commonly prescribed for older dogs, this is not a lot of help.
- When used for a long time, the side effects are usually seen early in treatment, but dogs who have been on this therapy for a long time have increased chances of problems. Since this drug is recommended for dogs with arthritis, a chronic condition, this is a common reason for side effects.
- When the drug is mixed with other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like aspirin: If your dog is given this drug, do not give him something else at home to ease his pain, even if he is normally able to handle it.
- When the drug is given at a high dose: According to the manufacturer of another pain medication, 59% of adverse reactions happened in dogs that were given a dose higher than recommended.
How Can I Avoid the Side Effects?
- Do not put your dog on this drug. There are alternative therapies and alternative drugs.
- If you and your vet have decided that your dog must take this drug, you can reduce the risk by making sure he is not on any other drugs. Steroids and other NSAIDs should be avoided at all costs.
- You can also agree to have your dog´s blood liver and kidney levels checked before Rimadyl therapy begins. If there are any symptoms you can have the blood checked again immediately.
- If your dog has Von Willebrands disease (a type of hemophilia), or is pregnant or nursing puppies, you must decline this treatment and find an alternative for your dog´s arthritis.
There are many alternative therapies available for dogs with arthritis and chronic pain. Some of them are simple, like providing a good bed. Some of them are more difficult, like finding a veterinary acupuncturist. If you are worried about the potential adverse effects of putting your dog on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, I would recommend that you investigate an alternative therapy.
Does a New Name Change Anything?
Some companies have now started selling the drug carprofen under a new name. Nothing else has changed. It is still Rimadyl, and still will produce the same side effects that I have detailed in this article.
If your vet has presribed an anti-inflammatory for your dog, read the label. If it is Canidryl, Dolox, Vetprofen, or any other name that you are not familiar with it may be Rimadyl. Take a minute to find out.
What Should I Do If My Dog Has Symptoms of Rimadyl Poisoning?
- Stop giving your dog his drug immediately.
- Take your dog to your veterinarian immediately so that he may have his blood checked and can start on conventional or alternative therapy for liver failure.
- Do not give any other drugs until your dog has been seen by a veterinarian.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My vet said that Rimadyl is safe for use in humans and that I could ask my doctor for a prescription. Since it killed my dog, though, do you think this is a good idea?
Answer: Rimadyl was first developed for use in humans, but even if you could take it, please do not. It is not worth the potential risks. There are many safe alternative anti-inflammatory products available, and you can also get many safer NSAIDs from your doctor, or even from your local drugstore.
Question: Can you stop giving your dog rimadyl instantly or should he be taken off rimadyl gradually?
Answer: Rimadyl, unlike steroids, can be stopped without weaning off the dog. Just stop giving him his dose.
Rotties4me on August 18, 2019:
My precious boy fractured his front left leg and our Vet prescribed Rimadyl. He began having problems with his back legs so we thought it was due to climbing up our stairs. My husband and I decided to put carpeting in our downstairs room and yes, we’ve been sleeping on a blowup mattress on the floor with him. No improvements whatsoever after a week and a half. I call our Vet and they tell me no it’s not the Rimadyl, my dog has been taking it and he’s doing great, so they add Gabapentin and still no improvements. As of tonight at 9PM Eastern time, it has been 24 hours my baby has not been given ANY medication. He was only on Rimadyl for 3 weeks, I pray that these horrible side effects go away. We go to the Vets tomorrow and X-rays will be done and if that shows nothing then bloodwork will be done, I WILL get some answers. Shame on me for not looking up this medication before giving it to him but shame on my Vet for prescribing it and just saying it will help with his pain, NO FOREWARNINGS
Colin Bidwell on July 26, 2018:
Since my dog has been on this drug he is eating and drinking but wont go for a poo
Worried dog Mom on April 23, 2018:
Do not give your dog This drug! My dog was throwing up, paralysis on all 4 legs, screaming in pain from the twitching. Raising the legs up in pain. All because of this drug! It should be banned! If it has killed animals then it should be taken off the market!!!
If I had a lawyer I would sue my vet when they gave my dog injection after I told them NO- DO NOT GIVE MY DOG THIS DRUG!!!
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 18, 2018:
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Teresa. As I mentoned in the article, it is only a small percentage of dogs who die from this drug, but as your story points out that small percentage are very important. I wish more vets who prescribe this drug could hear about your loss.
Teresa Manley on March 18, 2018:
Dear Dr Mark
Thank you for an honest article - my dog had just had an eye operation by an eye specialist vet on 21st February and my dog took time to recover after the op and the scan was recommended by them saying she thought something may be wrong with his liver. I went back to my vet who referred me to the eye specialist and she also said a scan would be good because of the blood results. She ran her hands all over him while talking to me. She said she would give him some tablets to help with the pain. He was much better on the Sunday and Monday and when I rang the surgery to find out the date of the appointment for the scan as no one had got in touch with me I was told they had to wait for a visiting vet scan specialist to come and would let me know. I'm still waiting. My dog died on the Tuesday night 13th and I had him taken next day for cremation. I know he was 15 and a half but I think if either vet had suggested the scan in the first place as well as the eye op he still may not have lived but he may have lived a bit longer. To me it
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 20, 2017:
Lori, thank you for that excellent testimony.
Lori Simpson on December 20, 2017:
My 8 year old Italian Greyhound had a very bad experience with Rimadyl. It was given to him pre-op prior to a dental procedure (cleaning + teeth extraction) and post procedure 12 hours later. My dog bled uncontrollably from his nose, mouth, and then also started having bloody diarrhea. His PVC dropped to 36 then to 24. He required intensive care and 2 blood transfusions. His clotting factor tests were checked and they all came back normal, so we know it had to be the Rimadyl. If it weren't for a major veterinary hospital being nearby, my dog may have died. Please, there are much safer medications than Rimadyl available that can be used for pain management. It's not worth the risk.
NurseKathy on December 20, 2016:
I just tried Rimadyl on my older dog for the third time. He can take it for a week and it helps his arthritis a lot, but after a length of time, (this time 2 months) he starts acting goofy. He pants a lot. Stumbles and falls at times. Becomes very needy. And in the evening he seems to have what we nurses call "Sundowner Syndrome". He becomes confused, scratches at the carpeting, walks around and around the house, etc. I stopped it 4 days ago and he's back to being a normal Border Collie. I'm going to try glucosamine chondroitin with MSM and if that doesn't work it's back to the Vet. The Vet acted like I was nuts when I told him the Rimadyl caused him to behave really odd.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 28, 2014:
I cannot give you an exact answer on that, hbrat3213748, since the duration of side effects really depends on how long your Boston was on the drug in the first place. If it was a longer time, the side effects can last longer.
You said that the vet says he doubts that it is related to rimadyl. Have you done blood work? What organs are being affected? Unfortunately, unless blood work was done before the drug was started, it is hard to say what changes have happened. Anorexia can have a lot of causes, so your vet needs to investigate all of the possibilities and keep your dog going while looking into this.
Good luck with your little girl.
hbrat3213748 on August 28, 2014:
I took our 12 year old boston terrier off rimadyl about three weeks ago - she is still very letharic and doesn't want to eat. the vet says he doubts that it is related to rimadyl. How long can the effects last?
jodilcox on February 13, 2014:
Rimadyl Side Effects...
Do NOT use this I beg of you! My dog has been in agony since my Vet put him on it, he CLAIMED that he had arthritis just by looking at him.
right leg weakness
He just one day sat down and could not get up, rushed him to the ER and they took x-ray's, nothing showed, no arthritis, nothing.
Went to a Neurologist and had a DM test, 6 weeks later it came back negative, they said it could be something neurological.
I just took him off of it 1 day ago and his feet and ankles are no longer twice the size, his infection on his legs, inner thighs and stomach are healing on their own with NO medication that I was prescribed.
He is still wobbly but not near what he was. I pray for the best and ENCOURAGE AND PLEAD with anyone to NOT give this to our dog!
Pfizer the company and the Vet's that prescribe this are greedy and only care about the money the prescriptions they hand out are bringing them in.
I a disgusted!
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 15, 2012:
Yes, it usually works just fine. Even a small dose is not going to make a difference if your dog is sensitive to the drug, though. There are a lot of innocuous alternatives, but people need to be willing to try them.
Thanks for your visit!
Michelle Liew from Singapore on September 14, 2012:
This is great if your dog has a joint injury which leads to arthritis. As with all medication, we've to be careful about administering.. do it in little doses. Thanks for the tips!