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Do you know the side effects of NSAID's?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a type of medication commonly given by veterinarians to treat signs of pain and inflammation in cats and dogs. While these medications can be very effective, it's important to be aware of the side effects they may have.

What are NSAIDs?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are a group of medications commonly used to treat pain, inflammation, and discomfort in both humans and animals. They work by inhibiting certain enzymes responsible for producing inflammatory chemicals in the body. In pets, NSAIDs are often prescribed to manage chronic conditions like arthritis or post-operative pain.

Common NSAIDs types

There are various NSAIDs available but some of the commonly prescribed ones for cats and dogs are:

  • Carprofen

  • Meloxicam

  • Paracetamol (Dogs only- toxic in cats)

  • Firocoxib

  • Aspirin (usually for a specific condition in cats)

Potential Side Effects

While NSAIDs can improve your pet's quality of life, they are not without potential side effects. These side effects can range from mild to severe and can affect different organs and systems within your pet's body.

So what are the most common side effects?

Gastrointestinal Issues

One of the most common side effects of NSAIDs in cats and dogs is gastrointestinal upset. This may manifest as vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, or even gastrointestinal ulcers. Such effects can occur even with short-term use and are more likely with higher doses or prolonged treatment.

Kidney and Liver Problems

NSAIDs can put stress on the kidneys and liver, potentially leading to kidney and liver damage, especially when used for an extended period. This is more common in older pets or those with pre-existing kidney or liver conditions.

Bleeding Disorders

NSAIDs can interfere with blood clotting mechanisms, leading to an increased risk of bleeding. This can be particularly concerning if your pet undergoes surgery or experiences an injury while on NSAID treatment.

Allergic Reactions

In very rare cases, pets can develop allergic reactions to NSAIDs, which may be seen as skin rashes, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, or even anaphylaxis (a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic response).

How to keep your pet safe

As a pet owner, there are things you can do to help minimise the risk of side effects from NSAID medications. This includes:

Ask a Vet

Never give NSAIDs to your pet without consulting a veterinarian first. A thorough examination will help determine the appropriate medication, dosage, and duration of treatment tailored to your pet's specific needs. Some NSAIDs can be very toxic, such as paracetamol when given to cats so its not worth the risk.

Proper Dosage

Never attempt to adjust the dosage on your own or use medications intended for humans. Pets require precise dosing based on their weight and condition, and the wrong dosage can be dangerous.

Monitor for Side Effects

Keep a close eye on your pet while they are on NSAID treatment. If you notice any unusual symptoms, discontinue the medication immediately and contact a veterinarian. If its aferhours, emergency veterinarians are available to help.

Regular Check-ups

Regular follow-ups with your veterinarian are key to finding out if your pet's response to the medication is good and to pick up any potential side effects early.

Alternative Treatments

Depending on your pet's condition, your veterinarian might suggest alternative treatments like physical therapy, weight management, or joint supplements, which could be safer and have similar levels of effect in managing pain or inflammation.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can improve the quality and quantity of life for both cats and dogs. However, it is crucial to be aware of the potential side effects associated with these medications to avoid complications. If your veterinarian is concerned about side effects, they may choose to change medications to another product, or try an alternative therapy instead. If you would like further help understanding the risks of NSAIDs, talk to one of our friendly vets today.

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