I am asked almost daily about alternatives to using NonSteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl, Previcox, Metacam, Deramaxx. People are afraid to use these drugs because of their possible side effects. The most common side effects include digestive upset (vomiting/diarrhea), stomach ulcers, and liver disease. One of the worst possible side effects is death caused by these drugs. Never thought death could be a side effect of a medicine that was supposed to help your dog feel better but it can happen…luckily VERY RARELY!
This article is not to bash NSAIDs because, to be honest, it still is one of my most prescribed drugs. Why? Because they work! Dogs with acute injuries may require a controlling of inflammation and so for a short duration will need to be on an anti-inflammatory. These products work well and on most occasions are safe for short term use. A dog at the end of its life may have aches and pains that prevent it from having a good quality of life, a daily NSAID may be just the answer to provide that quality of life.
Even if your dog has to take one of these products there are some other products that can be of assistance in reducing the side effects. A couple of products S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) and Milk Thistle have been known to help prevent the liver toxicity of NSAIDs. Aloe Vera can help reduce the chance of ulcers with NSAIDs.
However there are alternatives to NSAIDs that do not have the side effects –
Herbals and Nutraceuticals – Many of my older patients are already taking some form of nutraceutical for joint health in the form of glucosamine and /or chondroitin sulfate. There are other products which can help with inflammation similar to that of NSAIDs such Boswelia, Curcumin (Tumeric), Bromelain, and Devil’s Claw are the most common. Using plant enzymes an hour before or after a meal so that they are absorbed and not used to digest that meal have an anti-inflammatory effect. Even Omega 3s and 6s found in fish oil and krill oil have a good anti-inflammatory effect. I usually have a dog start on products such as these before going to an NSAID they may not be as potent as an NSAID but they also do not have the side effects either.
Acupuncture – This is a favorite of mine and helps many dogs with pain. It is a little time consuming and can be more expensive but it does help. Using acupuncture and Chinese Herbals together can really help out a dog so that it does not need NSAIDs or even my severely painful dogs that acupuncture and herbals can get them off steroids and Tramadol!
Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy (PEMF) – This is a machine that uses an electric current to make a magnetic field which increases the blood circulation and reduces the inflammation of the area of the body that has inflammation. It works great for animals that have a specific area of inflammation that needs to be treated. It also has little to no side effects. I am starting to use a small portable take home PEMF device from Assisi for a variety of patients, especially for the pets that can not tolerate acupuncture.
Laser Therapy – Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is the use of light emitted by a laser machine to effect tissue. It increases circulation, reduces inflammation and produces an anti-inflammatory effect. It is painless so it really works well for the dogs that are painful and can not tolerate acupuncture. It does take several treatments and would require a couple trips to the veterinarian each week for a few weeks, depending on what is being treated. It works well for muscle pain and inflammation from arthritis and works exceptionally well on wounds.
From herbals and nutraceuticals to historically used acupuncture to the latest and greatest Laser therapy or PEMF or to even just using NSAIDs with some supportive help of other products, the answer to your dogs pain can be found. There are many alternatives to NSAIDs you just need to know they are available and use the one that works best for you and your pet.