Rimadyl Side Effects in Dog Arthritis

Updated on February 14, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Rimadyl is sometimes prescribed for dogs in pain.
Rimadyl is sometimes prescribed for dogs in pain. | Source

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?

Many large dogs develop arthritis.
Many large dogs develop arthritis. | Source

What Are The Side Effects?

  1. Your dog may stop eating. Since the drug is often presribed for seniors, and there are many other causes of a loss of appetite, this symptom is often missed.
  2. Your dog may act very tired or weak and stumble around. When he does get up, he may even be partially paralyzed.
  3. 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).
  4. He might have behavioral changes (like aggression) and might even have seizures.
  5. Some dogs also develop itchy skin, with scabs.
  6. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. When the drug is mixed with other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like aspirin: If you 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.
  4. 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?

  1. Do not put your dog on this drug. There are alternative therapies and alternative drugs.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Rimadyl is not a cure for arthritis in dogs.
Rimadyl is not a cure for arthritis in dogs. | Source

Would you put your dog on Rimadyl for arthritis?

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Acupuncture may help dogs with arthritis and back pain.
Acupuncture may help dogs with arthritis and back pain. | Source

Alternative Therapies

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.


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    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 days ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      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.

    • profile image

      Teresa Manley 5 days ago

      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

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Lori, thank you for that excellent testimony.

    • profile image

      Lori Simpson 3 months ago

      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 profile image

      NurseKathy 15 months ago

      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.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      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.

    • profile image

      hbrat3213748 3 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      jodilcox 4 years ago

      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.

      Swollen legs


      skin infection


      throwing up


      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!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      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!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      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!