Rimadyl is a chewable tablet that works as an anti-inflammatory drug for canine arthritis, mainly used with osteoarthritis (the kind of arthritis that involves problems with the cartilage of your dog's bones and joints - cartilage is a cushion for the joints, and as dogs get older it can weaken and make it more painful to move).
How does Rimadyl work?
It prevents inflammation in the joints. Inflammation is the cause of much of the pain that canine arthritis creates - it also can cause further destruction to the cartilage, which means even less cushion to the joints.
Are there side effects?
Yes, and some of these have actually proven quite serious. Side effects include problems with the digestive system (diarrhea, vomiting, lack of a desire to eat, either a refusal to drink or drinking way too much), problems with urinating and defecating (blood in the urine or stool, having accidents frequently), drastic mood problems such as lethargy or aggressiveness, and dizziness/loss of balance.
If you notice symptoms like this when your dog is on Rimadyl you must immediately stop using it and take the dog to the vet. Some dogs have died from these problems if they keep taking the drug.
Make sure that your vet knows about these side effects and problems. There have been a lot of angry pet owners who have problems with Rimadyl. A lot of them boil down to Pfizer, the company who makes it, failing to warn vets and pet owners about the potential problems. However, it has also dramatically improved the lifestyle of many dogs who were in severe pain from arthritis and joint issues. Only a small number of dogs are affected (Pfizer says .2%, or two dogs out of every thousand). Because millions of dogs have taken it, though, the numbers add up. If your vet doesn't know about the side effects, then chances are they aren't going to be able to help you watch for them. Monitoring is the key, because if you stop giving them the drug early the bad reactions usually stop as well.
Also make sure that your vet pre-screens the dog. Pfizer recommends this happen with all dogs - it's basically a toxicity test that can help find out beforehand if your dog is likely to have side effects.
Is it true that Labradors are more susceptible to the side effects?
YES. A disproportionately large percentage of the dogs who have had problems have been labs. Labs tend to have more arthritis problems than other breeds - but they also react more negatively to Rimadyl, so you need to be extra-careful.
Do all these side effects mean I shouldn't use it? They sound scary!
No - but they do mean you need to be careful about it. The things to keep in mind are:
1) Only a very small number of dogs have problems.
2) For most dogs, it provides a dramatic improvement in their arthritic conditions.
3) Arthritis is a very bad and painful condition, and many dogs are in so much pain that they might otherwise have to be put to sleep.
The main point of talking about the side effects is that you have to watch your dog when you're using this or any other drug. Many drugs have side effects - you hear about it all the time. But they also make the lives of millions of dogs better off. There is a reason it hasn't been banned. It is just very important to make sure your dog isn't one of that small number that could die from it.
You should also know that there are nutritional supplements such as Cosequin that do not carry these risks. If your dog's arthritis isn't that severe, you might try that first - if it doesn't work, you can always try Rimadyl instead.
Can it be used on cats?
Vets are a little more divided on this. Some vets think it is OK and have had good results with it, others do not like using it on cats (they can have side effects, just like with dogs). You will have to talk to your vet about this - a vet's personal experience with different doses is important here and whether it is a good idea may depend on how bad your cat's arthritis is.
Where can I find more information?
There are a number of sites discussing these issues, but the best resource I have found for information on these issues is here. The site is called the Senior Dogs Project, and it has a lot of useful information, especially if your dog has already suffered from the side effects.
Where can I buy Rimadyl?
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