One of the most common questions we are asked is regarding the safety of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s) for dogs or cats. Inflammatory conditions like arthritis can cause a lot of pain for pets and desperate pet parents are often tempted to reach into their own medicine cabinet for relief, but are they safe to give to a dog or cat? Are there natural alternatives?

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that all of these over the counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers are different, even though they treat the same condition in a similar fashion. Confusion also stems from Veterinary recommendations for temporary use, leading pet guardians to mistakenly assume NSAID’s can be used as casually as they are in humans. Anti-inflammatory medication should never be given to any animal without consultation with a veterinarian to determine dosage, drug interaction, and complications with existing medical conditions or pregnancy.

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s)

Following are several common Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs that may be prescribed for your dog or cat, along with their associated dangers and side effects. Since we do not believe they should be administered without the guidance of a veterinarian, we will not provide a recommended dosage. Cats are highly sensitive to all NSAID’s described here due to their limited glucuronyl-conjugating capacity. Ferrets are also far more sensitive to Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs than dogs. Both may suffer the symptoms of toxicosis even at half the recommended dosage for dogs.

It’s important to note that not all veterinarians agree that animals should be given these medications at all.  In an article on WPRI.com, Dr. Tina Wismer says, ““It only takes one extra strength naproxen to kill a shithzu type dog. Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure in dogs and cats and acetaminophen can actually cause the blood to change so it can’t carry oxygen and cause liver failure.”

Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) may be sold under the brand of Aspirin or generics, and can be taken internally or applied topically. Most dogs tolerate Aspirin well in low doses from a toxicosis point of view. However, they are more sensitive to gastric irritation and may begin to suffer damage in as little as two days of use. Cats are much more sensitive to Aspirin than dogs, primarily due to glucuronyl transferase deficiency and the length of time it takes them to excrete the medication.

Ibuprofen (iso-butyl-propanoic-phenolic acid) may be sold under the brands Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, Medipren, etc. It is sometimes used for dogs but it has a narrow margin of safety. Gastric irritation may occur, including perforation and ulceration. Cats are susceptible to ibuprofen toxicosis due to a limited glucuronyl-conjugating capacity.

Naproxen (derivative of propionic acid) may be sold as Aleve, Naprosyn, Anaprox, Naprelan, etc. It is similar to Ibuprofen and may be prescribed to dogs with acute arthritis pain. Cats are highly sensitive to Naproxen due to glucuronyl transferase deficiency.

Acetaminophen (nonopiate p-aminophenol derivative) may be sold as Tylenol or as generic acetaminophen. It’s often added to other drugs for the treatment of pain and inflammation. Acetaminophen causes less gastric irritation and damage than other NSAID’s. Liver damage may occur with excess or long term use, especially in dogs (Liver Necrosis). Cats are more susceptible to acetaminophen toxicosis than dogs due to glucuronyl transferase deficiency.

Natural Anti-inflammatories for Pets

There are many anti-inflammatory foods and herbs that can be easily incorporated into your pet’s diet to reduce or prevent inflammation. Make your own homemade pet treats and pet food, or some fresh foods may be accepted alone. Freshly dehydrated foods & herbs can easily be mixed into wet food (we rely on Starwest Botanicals for top quality fresh herbs).

Not all of the foods listed below are appropriate for all species (such as cats), but dogs will tolerate and digest them well if they aren’t allergic. Remove any pits before feeding.  Please consult with your veterinarian before adding herbs or extracts to your pet’s diet.

Sardines (Omega 3)
Anchovies (Omega 3)
Salmon (Omega 3)
Striped Bass (Omega 3)
Freeze-dried Krill (Omega 3, Astaxanthin carotenoid)
Organic pasteurized eggs (Fatty acids, Choline)
Extra-virgin olive oil (Omega 3 & compounds that inhibit the production of the inflammatory chemicals, much like NSAID’s)
Peppers (Antioxidants, carotenoids, Vitamin C, capsaicin)
Dark leafy greens (Antioxidants, carotenoids, Vitamin C)
Seaweed (Eicosapentanoic acid, folate, Vitamin C & K)
Turmeric (bioflavonoids and polyphenols)
Rosemary (bioflavonoids and polyphenols)
Ginger Extract (bioflavonoids and polyphenols)
Blueberries (flavonoids, carotenoids, Vitamin C)
Blackberries (flavonoids, carotenoids, Vitamin C)
Mango (Antioxidants, beta-carotene, Vitamin C & E)
Apples (Boron)
Whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, and barley (Lowers levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation marker)
Alkaline Water (soft acidic water can be countered with the addition of a dash of Calcium Montmorillonite Clay in the water dish)

??? Does your pet suffer from an inflammatory condition? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Sources:
Manufacturer’s PIL, Naprosyn 250mg and 500mg Tablets, Roche Products Limited, electronic Medicines Compendium. 2009.
Kahn, Cynthia. The Merck Veterinary ManualThe Merck Veterinary Manual. 2010.
Davis, Lisa M. Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Health: Hundreds of Ways to Incorporate Omega-3 Rich Foods into Your Diet to Fight Arthritis, Cancer, Heart Disease, and More. 2008.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Foods in Homemade Pet Diets That Cause Inflammation
Dog Treat Recipe – Homemade Joint & Arthritis Supplements

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16 thoughts on “Q&A – Safe Alternatives to Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen or Acetaminophen for Dogs and Cats? ©

  1. Cats can die from this stuff. People need to do some simple research before they get an animal so they don’t make stupid assumptions.

  2. i still don’t think the occasional pain reliever would do any harm. it’s an interesting post regardless.

  3. Wonderful idea for a post. I hope you’ll answer more common questions because you do it so well. I’m going to think up some more questions to keep you busy lol.

  4. I swear by extra virgin olive oil but I didn’t know it worked like NSAID. Good tip.
    @Martha the first thing that struck me when I saw the list was STEW!

  5. Awesome guide as usual. I bet a lot of pet owners give these drugs to their dogs without even thinking about it and then wonder why they’re dead!

  6. Another excellent post!

    I don’t know how you come up with so many unique topics and angles in the natural pet niche but you do it well and keep it interesting.

    All the best,
    Kimmy

  7. Thank you for the fantastic list of antiinflammatory food to try. Arthritis can be really painful for myself and my old pal so we can share some nice meals with this stuff in it.

  8. Back in the 70s we had a vet tell us to give our dog an aspirin whenever we thought he needed one. How times have changed!

  9. I always wondered about that but I’ve never tried to give pills to my dogs that weren’t prescribed.

  10. I’ve given my dog baby aspirin before but I had no clue that it could hurt his stomach. I only did it occasionally but I’d rather not now. Thanks once again for posting such useful info.

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