Is Rimadyl safe for dogs?

  • Rimadyl is one of several brands of carprofen that veterinarians commonly prescribe to treat osteoarthritis pain and inflammation in canines(1).
  • Carprofen is a proven pain medication in slowing osteoarthritis progression and alleviating its symptoms in dogs. Carprofen products, such as Rimadyl, are also readily accepted by healthy pets for oral administration(2).
  • However, there are serious side effects linked to Rimadyl use in dogs with complications involving their gastrointestinal tracts, kidneys, and livers. Many of these symptoms are life-threatening, especially when a pet owner fails to respond appropriately(3).
  • A veterinarian may recommend alternatives to Rimadyl for dogs, including Previcox, Deramaxx, Metacam, Galliprant, and Onsior. These NSAIDs offer similar therapeutic benefits for pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
  • Cannabidiol, or CBD-based treats, offers a natural alternative that could also alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Several studies involving small animals have shown that CBD can effectively block the progression of arthritis(4) and provide pain relief(5) in dogs.

What is Rimadyl?

Rimadyl is one among several brand names of the drug carprofen, which veterinarians prescribe to treat pain and inflammation in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. It is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works similarly to aspirin and can be given for short-term or long-term use(6).

This commonly prescribed medication is considered to be safer for use in dogs compared to human NSAIDs like naproxen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. Pet owners can purchase Rimadyl in the form of tablets, caplets, or even as an injectable.

There is sufficient evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of carprofen in slowing the progression of osteoarthritis in canines while alleviating its symptoms.

A study in 2019 evaluating the acceptance of carprofen products in healthy dogs shows that the majority of test subjects voluntarily accepted oral intake of Rimadyl(7).

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the use of Rimadyl along with other generic carprofen medications for commercial purposes(8)

Rimadyl Dosage for Dogs Information

The following are the dosing guidelines for the three forms of Rimadyl:

Rimadyl Chewable Tablets

The recommended dosage of Rimadyl (carprofen) tablets for dogs is 2 mg for every pound of body weight daily. Pet owners can administer this daily dose once or twice each day, with the latter following a 1 mg per day regimen.

Pet owners can divide the tablets into halves by pressing them down on a hard surface. They are also easy to consume for most canines, but can also be mixed in pet food if necessary.

Rimadyl Caplets

For caplets, owners can administer a dose of 2 mg for each pound of body weight once or 1 mg for every pound twice daily. In managing post-operative pain, caplets should be given to dogs two hours prior to the procedure.

Each caplet is scored, and the owners should calculate them in half-caplet increments.

Rimadyl Injectables

As for subcutaneous administration, a recommended dosage of 2 mg per pound of body weight each day is followed. Applying the total daily dose needed can be done either as 2 mg once or 1 mg twice daily.

Dogs should receive this treatment at least two hours before surgery to deal with post-operative pain.

Side Effects of Rimadyl in Dogs

Rimadyl intake brings with it some potential side effects that pet owners need to know before continuing with this regimen. Complications relating to the gastrointestinal tract due to Rimadyl use include stomach ulcers, vomiting, and diarrhea.  

Problems with the kidney and liver may be rare, but they can turn out to be quite dangerous when they do. Veterinarians recommend regular blood work monitoring of the liver, especially for older canines and those that are taking Rimadyl long-term(9).

Adverse reactions to Rimadyl can bring about the following symptoms:

  • Hematologic effects like bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • Change in appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Change in behavior such as incoordination or inactivity
  • Jaundice by way of yellowing skin, gums, and whites of the eyes
  • Change in smell, color, or frequency of urine
  • Redness of the skin, itching, or scabbing
  • Decreased or increase drinking

Pet owners should call their veterinarian immediately if they notice any of the conditions above. Ignoring any of these side effects can be fatal for canines.

Rimadyl Overdose and Toxicity

Rimadyl toxicity can still happen in dogs even when following the dosage prescribed to them by a vet. These are the common signs of Rimadyl overdose:

  • Gastrointestinal signs such as the loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and black stools.
  • Increased urination, increased thirst, lethargy, and dilute urine can be a sign of kidney problems, and acute kidney failure.
  • Damage to the liver includes symptoms such as yellowing of the skin, ears, gums, and sclera (whites of the eyes). Lethargy, decreased appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting are also signs of liver problems.

It is also possible for a canine to become sensitive to the drug after Rimadyl intake, and may show signs of having the same symptoms as an overdose(10)

Alternatives to Rimadyl for Dogs

The possible side effects of Rimadyl is a significant factor why many owners are open to trying other ways to treat pain and inflammation in dogs. A veterinarian has an excellent reason to prescribe Rimadyl, but they may suggest alternatives that could be more compatible with canines.

Previcox for Dogs

Previcox is an NSAID that works the same way as Rimadyl in that it reduces inflammation and provides pain relief caused by osteoarthritis. The medication works by hampering enzymes in a dog’s body that are responsible for fever, pain, and inflammation.

Studies have shown that Previcox is an effective solution in easing symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs. Furthermore, the drug appears to be well tolerated by many types of dogs, as the subjects turned out “happier” and more active(11-12).

Previcox works fast, can be given with or without food, and is available as flavored chewable tablets. However, owners should contact their veterinarian if their pet has hives or develops symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloody stools, lethargy, nausea, and itching.

Deramaxx for Dogs

Another frequent choice for an alternative to Rimadyl is Deramaxx, which offers the same relief for inflammation and pain that is associated with canine osteoarthritis. Veterinarians also prescribe the medicine for post-operative pain and inflammation from dental or orthopedic surgery in dogs(13).

Owners should administer Deramaxx according to the instructions of their veterinarian. They should also follow the required dosage since inaccuracy here can lead to adverse reactions.

Just like other NSAIDs, Deramaxx also has some common side effects that involve digestive issues such as decreased appetite and vomiting.

Metacam for Dogs

Metacam, also known as meloxicam, is another popular NSAID alternative to Rimadyl that offers the same benefits in treating inflammation, pain, fever, and stiffness in dogs. The medication is available as suspensions or in plastic squeeze dropper bottles that come with a measuring dose syringe.

This drug works by inhibiting hormones in a dog that causes pain and inflammation in their body. The FDA approves the use of both injection and oral suspension of Metacam in controlling pain and inflammation in dogs with osteoarthritis(14).

Before Metacam intake, pet owners should inform their veterinarian if their dog has an allergic reaction to NSAIDs, stomach ulcers, liver or kidney disease, bleeding disorders, or high blood pressure. It is likewise essential to let the vet know if a pet is lactating or pregnant to avoid complications.

Galliprant for Dogs

Galliprant (grapiprant) is an NSAID that some experts consider to be a better treatment for canine osteoarthritis even from the earliest stages of its diagnosis. In fact, a study in 2015 on 9-month-old Beagles showed that the drug is safe for long-term use(15).

The Galliprant tablets have a pork liver flavoring and are scored for quick and easy administration when needed. However, this makes the medicine very enticing for dogs, which can lead to accidental ingestion or overdose, especially when kept in unsecured locations.

Onsior for Dogs

Onsior is another NSAID and Rimadyl alternative for dogs that works as a pain reliever for inflammation and soft tissue surgery. It contains robenacoxib, an active ingredient that targets only the Cox-2 enzyme that causes pain in a dog while sparing the one used to regulate gastrointestinal and blood platelet functions (Cox-1)(16).

Therapy using this medication should not take longer than three days since exceeding this duration can cause life-threatening reactions to the pet. If signs of adverse reaction or intolerance are observed, cease application immediately, and contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

CBD Oil for Dogs

Cannabidiol (CBD), the primary non-psychoactive compound of cannabis primarily obtained from hemp, offers a more natural remedy in alleviating pain and inflammation in dogs. CBD is said to have significant therapeutic potential in various medical applications.

In 2000, scientists began exploring this potential on mice that had collagen-induced arthritis. CBD was applied after the onset of clinical signs, and in two models, the study revealed that CBDs effectively blocked the progression of osteoarthritis in these rodents(17).

Additionally, the researchers conclude that CBD possesses immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory capabilities that can make it a potent anti-arthritic solution(18)

A 2018 study on osteoarthritic canines was carried out to assess the safety and analgesic efficacy of CBD oil use. The veterinary care assessment shows that CBD treatment is capable of reducing pain and increasing activity in dogs that had osteoarthritis(19).

The same study also notes that there were no harmful side effects that were reported during the 4-week period of treatment. Researchers suggest that 2 mg of CBD for every kilogram of body weight taken twice each day can provide comfort to joint and bone degeneration in canines(20).

There are many companies that are offering CBD pet treats today, hinting that these products can help alleviate pain, anxiety, and arthritis in canines. However, none of these items have been approved by the FDA, and there are still knowledge gaps in their short-term and long-term use(21).

A study in 2016 investigated the public perception of more than 600 animal owners on the administration and effects of CBD products on their pets. Surprisingly, 93% of these consumers believed that the CBD treats performed equally or even better than other treatments(22).

The study goes on to say that the most common reason why these owners chose CBD–based goods are because of their optimism in the fact that the product is made from natural sources. Furthermore, many of them stated that they felt “very safe” in using pet treats made from hemp(23).

Since the FDA has not yet approved any CBD product for pets, the administration highly recommends that animal owners talk with their veterinarians regarding its use(24).

Conclusion

The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Rimadyl is a standard veterinary medicine prescription for short-term and long-term treatment of pain and inflammation in dogs. It is said to be much safer for canines to consume in comparison to the human NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin.

However, Rimadyl intake for dogs only can come with dangerous side effects with complications to their gastrointestinal tract such as vomiting, ulcers, and diarrhea. Rimadyl toxicity is also another problem since its overdose can lead to life-threatening situations.

There are several treatment options that a veterinarian may suggest as an alternative to Rimadyl for canines. Previcox, Deramaxx, Metacam, Galliprant, and Onsior are well-known NSAIDs that can be used to treat osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs.

As with all pharmaceutical drugs, particularly with NSAIDs, there is always a risk of a pet experiencing symptoms such as bloody stools, abdominal pain, vomiting, behavioral changes, jaundice, and diarrhea.

Cannabidiol (CBD), the primary non-psychoactive chemical from the hemp plant, is seen by many as a natural remedy in helping alleviate inflammation and pain in pets. Several studies show that CBD has excellent therapeutic potential, which doctors can use to treat various health conditions.

Despite having knowledge gaps about CBD consumption, many dog owners are seeking its supposed benefits in treating canines suffering from bone and joint degeneration. The majority of them also feel safe knowing that the products are made from natural sources.

As these CBD products have not yet been approved by the FDA, there is no official dosage guide on its therapeutic applications. It is vital that animal owners seek advice from their veterinarian first to know which CBD formulations are safe for their pets.


  1. VRCC. Rimadyl Overdose or Toxicity. Retrieved from: https://www.vrcc.com/internal-medicine/rimadyl-overdose-or-toxicity/.
  2. Sanderson RO, Beata C, Flipo RM, Genevois JP, Macias C, Tacke S, Vezzoni A, Innes JF. Systematic review of the management of canine osteoarthritis. Vet Rec. 2009 Apr 4;164(14):418-24.
  3. VRCC. op. cit.
  4. Malfait AM, Gallily R, Sumariwalla PF, Malik AS, Andreakos E, Mechoulam R, Feldmann M. The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Aug 15;97(17):9561-6.
  5. Gamble LJ, Boesch JM, Frye CW, et al. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Front Vet Sci. 2018;5:165. Published 2018 Jul 23. doi:10.3389/fvets.2018.00165
  6. VRCC. op. cit.
  7. Sanderson RO. et al. op. cit.
  8. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2019, September 26). Get the Facts about Pain Relievers for Pets. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/get-facts-about-pain-relievers-pets#Approved.
  9. Burke, A. (2016, November 10). Rimadyl for Dogs: Uses, Side Effects, and Alternatives. Retrieved from: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/rimadyl-for-dogs/.
  10. VRCC. op. cit.
  11. Joubert KE. The effects of firocoxib (Previcox) in geriatric dogs over a period of 90 days. J S Afr Vet Assoc. 2009 Sep;80(3):179-84.
  12. Ryan WG, Moldave K, Carithers D. Clinical effectiveness and safety of a new NSAID, firocoxib: a 1,000 dog study. Vet Ther. 2006 Summer;7(2):119-26.
  13. Negron, V. (2012, December 21). Deracoxib. Retrieved from: https://www.petmd.com/pet-medication/deracoxib-deramaxx.
  14. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2020, April 30). Information about the Boxed Warning on METACAM® (meloxicam) Labels. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/product-safety-information/information-about-boxed-warning-metacamr-meloxicam-labels.
  15. Rausch-Derra LC, Huebner M, Rhodes L. Evaluation of the safety of long-term, daily oral administration of grapiprant, a novel drug for treatment of osteoarthritic pain and inflammation, in healthy dogs. Am J Vet Res. 2015 Oct;76(10):853-9. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.76.10.853.
  16. Brooks, W. (2019, January 30). Robenacoxib (Onsior). Retrieved from: https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=5456839.
  17. Malfait AM. et al. op. cit.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Gamble LJ. et al. op. cit.
  20. Ibid.
  21. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2020, March 5). What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis.
  22. Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (2016). Consumers’ Perceptions of Hemp Products for Animals. Retrieved from: https://www.ahvma.org/wp-content/uploads/AHVMA-2016-V42-Hemp-Article.pdf.
  23. Ibid.
  24. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2020, March 5). op. cit.
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