Carprofen for dogs, aka Rimadyl … conventional vets love it.
They hand it out for any kind of pain and inflammation in dogs. Vets use it to treat chronic pain. They’ll also use it for injuries or emergency pain relief. And they use it for post surgical care.
But they often don’t warn you about the side effects that could harm your dog. The list of risky side effects is long and you need to know what they are.
So I’ll share some good options with you for natural, much safer alternatives you can use.
But first, let’s get into some background on carprofen.
What Is Carprofen?
You can get carprofen under many different brand names. Rimadyl is the best known. It’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for dogs.
Carprofen works by inhibiting COX-2, or cyclogenase enzymes that create prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are fatty acid derivatives that generate pain and inflammation. So suppressing them might seem like a good idea. But they also have several other important jobs throughout the body.
These are some things prostaglandins do:
- Constrict or dilate blood vessels
- Regulate kidney function and fluid balance
- Contract or relax muscles in the gastrointestinal tract and lungs
- Control platelet formation in blood clotting
- Cause uterine contractions during menstruation or labor
- Control blood pressure
- Regulate body temperature
So your dog needs prostaglandins for his body to work well.
In fact, COX-2 inhibiting drugs in humans have become notorious for their side effects. One of them was Vioxx, recalled worldwide in 2004 for causing fatal heart attacks and strokes.
So, carprofen might relieve inflammation and pain in your dog. But it can do some damage in the process.
Carprofen Side Effects
There’s a long list of problems that carprofen has caused in dogs. Here are some of them:
- Liver toxicity and abnormal liver function
- Gastrointestinal damage, including ulcers and internal bleeding
- Kidney and urinary tract damage
- Neurological issues, including seizures and paralysis
- Blood diseases like immune-mediated hemolytic anemia
- Behavioral issues like hyperactivity, aggression or lethargy
- Skin issues like itching, hair loss, dermatitis
- Allergic responses like facial swelling or hives
Yes, you read right. Carprofen drugs have killed dogs. In 2000, the Wall Street Journal published an article about adverse reactions and deaths from Rimadyl. The title of the article was Most Dogs Do Well On Rimadyl, Except The Ones That Die.
Many owners said their vets never warned them about the dangers of Rimadyl. And countless dogs died or were harmed. Today, Rimadyl prescribing information still says: “In rare situations, death has been associated with some of the adverse reactions listed above.”
Now that you know this, I hope you’ll avoid carprofen drugs for your dog. But if your dog ever has to take them, ask your vet to do bloodwork first. And then get his liver enzymes tested every few months. And be on the lookout for symptoms like:
- Vomiting (especially bloody vomit)
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin or whites of eyes)
- Pale gums
- Black tarry stool
- Lack of appetite
- Increased drinking and urinating
- Abdominal pain
- Behavior changes
One More BIG Problem
There’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet. I left it for last because it’s important. It’s also ironic.
Dogs with arthritis often take carprofen or other NSAIDs. So you would think these drugs might support joint health so that your dog doesn’t get worse! You might even hope the drugs would make him better.
But that doesn’t happen. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Several studies show that NSAIDs actually damage the joints. Yes, that’s right. They do the very thing you most want to avoid in a dog with chronic joint issues.
- University of North Carolina found COX-2 inhibitors slow bone and ligament healing.
- Ross Hauser MD published a study showing NSAIDs cause articular cartilage degeneration.
- The Rotterdam Study showed NSAIDs accelerated the progression of hip and knee osteoarthritis.
So think twice if your vet wants to prescribe carprofen or other NSAIDs for arthritis or joint pain. Instead, consider some natural alternatives.
5 Natural Alternatives To Carprofen For Dogs
The most important thing you want to do is control your dog’s pain. Top of my list for that is:
#1 CBD (Cannabidiol) Oil
CBD helps a lot of dogs with pain – including my Omar, who’s getting a bit creaky. It’s very safe. The only thing I notice if I’m a bit sloppy and give him too much is that he gets sleepy.
CBD oil from hemp won’t make your dog high because it doesn’t have THC. That’s the compound in marijuana that makes it psychoactive.
CBD is effective for many different types of pain. There’s research showing it helps with nerve pain and pain from inflammation.
You can use it daily for chronic pain … or give it as needed when your dog is sore from an injury or overactivity.
Finding The Right CBD For Your Dog’s Pain
Full or broad spectrum means your product has a wide range of healthy cannabinoids … like CBC, CBN, CBD, CBG, CBA. These cannabinoids work together to create the entourage effect that will work best for your dog.
Always ask to see the Certificate of Analysis. This will show that your product is full or broad spectrum and free of contaminants.
Follow the dosing instructions on the label. The seller should tell you how much CBD is in a dropperful. As a general guide, give 1mg to 6mg of CBD per 10 lbs of body weight.
But don’t be afraid to adjust the dose up or down to find out what works best for your dog. Some dogs do better with doses twice daily. Every individual is different!
CBD can also help manage inflammation. But you can use other products for extra support.
Next on my top 5 list is a creature from the sea.
#2 Green Lipped Mussels (GLM)
Green lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) come from waters off the New Zealand coast. Research shows these magical mollusks are as good as NSAIDs at managing inflammation. But they don’t harm your dog’s joints like NSAIDs do.
This study specifically compared GLM to carprofen. The researchers found it was a good alternative to manage arthritis, without the side effects of the drug!
GLM are naturally rich in fatty acids … especially EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid). These are two important fatty acids that reduce inflammation.
You can get these fatty acids from fish oil. But fish oil is unstable and can turn rancid very quickly. So GLM is a much safer source.
Not every GLM product has these fatty acids though. Some manufacturers remove them to make fish oil. So ask to see a nutritional analysis and make sure your product has at least 6% fatty acids.
Give your dog 200 mg per day for every 10 lbs of body weight.
The next natural joint support product comes from our good friend, the egg.
#3 Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM)
NEM® is the natural thin membrane that’s on the inside of an eggshell.
You can peel it off yourself if you want to go through all that work … or you can buy it as a supplement instead!
NEM® is an amazing supplement for dogs with arthritis. It can help reduce pain. It also improves joint function.
Research in humans has shown excellent results in managing joint pain and stiffness. And now there’s research showing proven benefits in dogs too.
A 6-week trial on 51 dogs found a 23.6% improvement in pain compared to placebo, and a 26.8% quality of life improvement. The study also measured changes in serum levels of cartilage degradation biomarker CTX-II. This showed a 47.9% improvement.
Make sure the eggshell membrane you buy carries the NEM® registered trademark.
Give your dog 60mg per 10 lbs of body weight a day.
#4 Omega-3 Fatty Acids
I mentioned earlier how green lipped mussels (GLM) contain EPA and DHA. These are both Omega-3 fats that support joint health.
Omega-3s are important for your dog to balance the fats in his diet. Most dogs already get a lot of Omega-6 in meat-based diets. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory … and Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. So you want to add Omega-3 for balance.
You may be thinking, “I’ll just give my dog fish oil.”
But fish oil isn’t ideal:
- It’s processed and it oxidizes easily. Rancid oil is worse for your dog than no oil at all.
- It can be contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins – even radiation.
- It’s environmentally unfriendly. It depletes our oceans of the fish they need to survive.
If you do give fish oil, buy a high quality oil in a dark glass container, and keep it refrigerated.
Better Omega-3 Options For Your Dog
GLM oil is one of the best alternatives to fish oil. It’s a great source of omega-3 oils, especially EPA, DHA and ETA that help reduce inflammation. GLM oil is also more bioavailable than fish oil. That means a smaller amount of GLM oil will get the same results as fish oil, without the risks I just covered.
Green lipped mussels also eat phytoplankton, which is a microalgae that can be grown sustainably on land. While phytoplankton itself is rich in omega-3s like EPA … it’s more expensive and only supplies a small amount of these important fats.
If you don’t feed GLM, you should find another way to get extra Omega-3 fats into your dog.
The next best alternative is to feed fatty coldwater fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies or sardines. But fresh fish can also come with risks and are not as convenient.
If you do decide to use fish, look for wild-caught Atlantic fish. You can also feed canned fish (packed in water). Give 1 oz of fish for every pound of ruminant meat (beef, lamb, goat, venison bison) you feed. Or add 4 oz fish for every pound of poultry. Or you can feed an all-fish meal once a week.
Another powerful anti-inflammatory supplement might be your favorite food spice!
Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Its active ingredient is a compound called curcumin.
Curcumin has many powerful healing properties. It’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal … and may even help fight cancer.
Its anti-inflammatory property makes it a good choice for dogs with joint pain. One study found it worked just as well as ibuprofen in people with knee osteoarthritis.
Your dog will absorb curcumin better if you give it with some fat, and some black pepper. So the best way to give it is by using this golden paste recipe.
Start slowly and work up to about 1/8 to ¼ tsp a day per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight. You can add it to food or mix with some water or kefir.
Or, you can buy a golden paste product if you would prefer it ready-made.
Tip: if your dog is a very hot dog who pants a lot and is always looking for cool spots to lie, you might want to skip turmeric. It can create more heat in some dogs.
Bonus Mention: Boswellia
Before closing, I want to talk about Boswellia for a moment. Specifically, Boswellia serrata or Indian Frankincense.
Boswellia supplements come from the resin of the Indian Boswellia serrata tree. Many people swear by Boswellia to help with dogs’ joint pain and inflammation. Research shows it can be as effective as NSAIDs.
But there are two problems with it.
First, it’s hard to find a pure source of Boswellia. Because it’s a resin, Boswellia powders contain silicon dioxide. That’s essentially sand. It can be natural … but in supplements it’s usually man-made.
Food and supplement manufacturers use the man-made kind as an anti-caking agent. It stops powdered foods and supplements from clumping together. And it’s always in Boswellia powders and capsules.
If you want to use Boswellia, buy a tincture. Tinctures are less likely to contain silicon dioxide. But it’s wise to verify this. Silicon dioxide is added to Boswellia at the source, so manufacturers don’t have to list it on the label. That means you have to trace it back to the supplier to find out.
The second problem with Boswellia is it’s becoming endangered. It’s a slow-growing tree and demand is outstripping supply. Different species of Boswellia grow in other countries … but they don’t all have the same healing properties.
So keep these things in mind if you want to use Boswellia for your dog.
Make The Natural Choice
So now you have some great natural choices to use instead of carprofen for dogs.
Please feed your dog a raw diet with plenty of fresh, whole foods. It’s the foundation for every aspect of your dog’s overall health. You’ll find it helps enormously with arthritis and joint issues too!
And now … you can say a polite “no thank you” if your vet wants to prescribe Rimadyl or other NSAIDs for your dog!