Pet Care Blog

Carprofen for Dogs: Uses, Effectiveness & Side Effects

Ricky Walther, DVM
Dr. Ricky Walther
Golden Retriever pet on head

Carprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug often used to treat pain and inflammation in various animals, including dogs. Carprofen for dogs actually goes by multiple brand names, including Rimadyl, Canidryl, Carpox, Aventicarp, and Levafen.

Before giving your dog Carprofen, it's important to learn more about this medication, what it treats, and the side effects that can occur.

Table of Contents:

Pro tip: Make sure that your pet is covered for inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis in dogs by enrolling in pet insurance. Note that plans do not cover pre-existing conditions, so it's best to enroll your dog while they are young and before any illness occurs.

What is Carprofen for dogs?

Carprofen belongs to a group of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These types of medications are used to treat pain caused by inflammation in a variety of animals including dogs, cats, reptiles, and birds.

NOTE: Carprofen is not safe for use in cats and several other species, so do not share this medication with any pet other than the one it's prescribed for.

Carprofen is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for the relief of pain because it's safer for dogs than some human NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Many drugs intended for human use can be harmful to dogs, which is why you should never give your pet drugs from your own medicine cabinet.

What is Carprofen used for in dogs?

In dogs, Carprofen has three primary functions: treatment of pain, inflammation, and fever.

It can be used for a variety of ailments, but it's most commonly prescribed to help with postoperative pain, as well as for chronic pain resulting from osteoarthritis in dogs.

Since Carprofen is well-tolerated by the majority of dogs, it’s also a good choice for long-term pain management of arthritis.

What's the right dosage of Carprofen for dogs?

Carprofen is adminisitered orally in the form of tablets that come in several different doses: 25 mg, 75 mg, and 100 mg. Your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate strength of Carprofen for dogs based on their weight and medical history. It takes effect in about one or two hours, and improvement in symptoms should follow soon. Tablets should be given with food in order to help your dog digest the drug more easily and avoid stomach upset. If your dog starts vomiting after they have taken the drug on an empty stomach, contact your veterinarian.

If you miss one of your daily doses, give it to your dog as soon as you remember. However, if the time for the next dose is approaching, skip the missed dose and continue following the regular dosing schedule. Never give your dog two doses at once.

Carprofen is also available in the form of chewables, as well as in a liquid form for injections. Injecting Carprofen in dogs reduces the amount of time it takes for the medicine to enter your pet’s system, but it's only done at the veterinary hospital, not at home. Injections usually take place after surgery before the dog wakes up from a general anesthetic.

Bottle of pill tablets (Image source: Pexels)

What are the side effects of Carprofen in dogs?

Dogs tolerate Carprofen relatively well; if adverse reactions occur, they are usually mild. However, in some rare cases, these side effects can be more serious. Here are the most common issues associated with dog Carprofen that pet owners should be aware of.

Gastrointestinal issues

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues are one of the most common adverse effects of Carprofen. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Constipation
  • Pancreatitis

In most cases, these effects will cease when you stop giving the medication to your dog.

Liver damage

Side effects in the liver are rare (only 0.02% of dogs will experience such issues) but when they do occur, they are quite serious. Common symptoms of liver impairment include:

  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal test results
  • Hepatoxicity

Veterinarians recommend running blood work on a regular basis in order to monitor the liver, especially in senior pets, as well as pets that take the drug long-term.

Skin reactions

In some cases, Carprofen can cause skin-related issues that manifest in your dog's fur, skin, or nails. Pet parents should watch out for these clinical signs:

  • Skin lesions
  • Increased shedding
  • Loss of hair
  • Itchiness
  • Bruises in the abdominal area
  • Necrotizing vasculitis (skin and muscle damage, including necrosis)

Urinary symptoms

Sometimes, Carprofen in dogs can cause side effects in the kidney, leading to a number of urinary symptoms. The most common signs are:

  • Increased urination frequency
  • Increased thirst and drinking
  • Incontinence of urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Tubular disease or kidney failure
  • Glomerular disease.

Blood complications

The health complications that may occur due to Carprofen in the blood are very rare, but they include:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Anemia caused by vomiting or bloody stools and urine
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Thrombocytopenia

Behavioral changes

In general, most changes in behavior result from your pet feeling some kind of discomfort associated with the drug. The most common changes include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Reduced coordination

Nervous system

In very rare cases, the following neurologic issues can occur:

  • Loss of balance
  • Disorientation
  • Wandering in circles
  • Stumbling or falling
  • Head tilting
  • Seizures
  • Full or partial paralysis

Woman lying with Shiba Inu dog on couch (Image source: Pexels)

What if my dog has an allergic reaction to Carprofen?

Some dogs might be allergic to Carprofen. In rare cases, such reactions can be dangerous to your dog and even result in death. Be sure you talk to your veterinarian if you notice symptoms like hives, skin redness, and facial swelling after you’ve given the drug to your pet.

Carprofen might also affect lab tests, such as liver enzymes, thyroid levels, kidney values, blood cell counts, bleeding times, and potassium levels.

If you notice any of the clinical signs listed above, or anything else out of the ordinary, contact your veterinarian right away. Side effects can have serious consequences, which is why it is important to catch them sooner rather than later.

Can dogs overdose on Carprofen?

Yes, dogs can overdose on Carprofen if the drug is given in too large of quanity. The symptoms of Carprofen overdose include vomiting (especially if the vomitus is bloody), black or tarry stools, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, malaise, abdominal pain, excessive drinking or urinating at inappropriate times, and seizures.

The treatments for a Carprofen overdose can vary, but the most common ones include gastric lavage, induction of vomiting, charcoal slurry, and supportive care.

The safe dose range for carprofen is very small so even if you accidentally double your pet’s dose you should contact your vet.

If you suspect a Carprofen overdose, call your veterinarian right away. Contact an emergency facility if they are unavailable.

Pro tip: Treatment for accidental poisoning can cost hundreds of dollars and the best way to ensure peace of mind for emergency expenses is to safeguard your dog with a pet insurance policy.

Are there risk factors for Carprofen?

Carprofen should not be given to dogs with:

  • Low platelet counts
  • Bleeding disorders, like the Von Willebrand disease (VWD)
  • Allergies to other NSAIDs

It should be given with caution to:

  • Puppies younger than six weeks of age
  • Dehydrated dogs
  • Pregnant or nursing dogs
  • Geriatric pets
  • Dogs with pre-existing medical conditions, especially kidney, liver, gastrointestinal, and heart disease

Your veterinarian may recommend running blood work prior to starting this medication to make sure your pet is healthy.

Does Carprofen interact with other medications?

Carprofen should be used cautiously when administered with the following medications:

  • Aspirin and other NSAIDs
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Anticoagulants
  • Nephrotoxic medications like cyclosporine,
  • Dactinomycin
  • Dacarbazine
  • Desmopressin
  • Dinoprost
  • Digoxin
  • Insulin
  • Highly protein-bound medications
  • Methotrexate
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Loop diuretics
  • Oral antidiabetics

It should not be given with steroid medications unless specifically recommended by a veterinarian. Let your vet know about any medications, supplements, or vitamins your dog is taking.

Are there alternatives to Carprofen for dogs?

Carprofen is considered to be one of the safest NSAIDs for dogs, but if your pet has an adverse reaction, there are other pain relievers you can give them instead. These include meloxidyl and grapiprant. Consult your veterinarian about alternative pain medication for your pet’s condition.

If you have any questions or concerns related to Carprofen, your vet is the best source of information.

Key Takeaways

  • Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, Carprofen is often prescribed by veterinarians for dogs with osteoarthritis as well as pain control after surgery.
  • The drug is generally considered to be safe with rare and mild side effects in dogs, but owners should be watchful for adverse effects.
  • You will need to get a diagnosis and a prescription from your veterinarian before giving your dog Carprofen.

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Ricky Walther, DVM

Dr. Ricky Walther

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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