- Carprofen is safe for dogs — Carprofen is a commonly prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) approved by the FDA for use in dogs.
- Carprofen is an effective anti-inflammatory treatment — When taken at the right dose, carprofen can be a good way to reduce inflammation and restore your dog’s quality of life.
- Use caution when giving your dog NSAIDs — Like all NSAIDs, carprofen has been known to cause dangerous reactions in some dogs. Always consult a veterinarian before starting your dog on any anti-inflammatory medication.
What is carprofen?
Carprofen is an NSAID medication prescribed to dogs to relieve pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and other joint problems. It can also reduce pain associated with surgeries and other painful conditions. If your dog suffers from one or more of these ailments, carprofen could help boost their activity levels through decreased pain and inflammation.
- Medication type: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
- Form: Caplet and chewable tablet (oral), though it’s also available in an injectable form at vet hospitals.
- Availability: Prescription
- FDA approved? Yes, but only for dogs
- Active ingredient names: Carprofen
- Common medications: Marketed under multiple trade names, including Rimadyl, Zinecarp, Canidryl, Aventicarp, Rycarfa, Rimifin, Carpox, Tergive, Carprody, Carprieve, Norocarp, Novox, quellin, Rovera, Vetprofen, and Levafen.
- Life stage: Carprofen should only be used in dogs six weeks of age or older.
Many medications prescribed by veterinarians are covered by pet insurance — find out what is (and isn’t) included by reading our insurance coverage guide.
When is carprofen used for dogs?
Carprofen works by limiting the production of inflammation-triggering chemicals called prostaglandins. A dog’s body produces prostaglandins when cell damage occurs and the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme is activated. By keeping prostaglandin levels to a minimum, carprofen helps relieve the pain and inflammation dogs experience as a result of things like:
- Postoperative pain. Carprofen is a commonly prescribed analgesic for dogs who experience postoperative pain following procedures like spay and neuter surgeries.
- Arthritis. Up to 80% of dogs over the age of eight show signs of osteoarthritis, which occurs when the protective cartilage in their joints starts to break down. While there is no known cure for arthritis, which is a chronic condition, carprofen can relieve some of the symptoms dogs experience from it, including stiffness, trouble walking, and difficulty standing after lying down.
- Injury and illness. Carprofen is also used to treat several other acute injuries and illnesses in dogs including lameness, mild cases of intervertebral disk disease, bite wounds, and anal sac impaction.
🚨 You may notice your dog’s symptoms returning if you stop giving them carprofen.
How it’s administered
Carprofen usually comes in 25-, 75-, and 100-mg caplets taken orally. You can give it to your dog once a day or split it up into two doses, and it takes effect in about one to two hours. If your dog experiences gastrointestinal problems like vomiting or diarrhea when taking carprofen, try giving them the next dose with food. Always consult your veterinarian to determine the best dose and frequency for your dog.
Potential side effects
Like all NSAIDs, carprofen use can cause adverse reactions in dogs, some of which are potentially life-threatening. Common side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decrease in appetite
- Change in bowel movements (diarrhea, bloody stool)
- Changes in behavior (activity level, aggression, incoordination, seizures)
- Changes in drinking habits (more or less water consumed)
- Change in urine (color, frequency, smell)
- Skin conditions (redness, scabs, scratching, yellowing)
- Liver damage
Daily use of NSAIDs can occasionally cause liver damage, so annual blood work will be needed to monitor your dog’s liver function. The Merck Veterinary Manual outlines the risks .
Many reactions to NSAIDs are dose-related and are typically reversible once treatment is discontinued. Always use the lowest effective dose possible to keep side effects to a minimum.
👉 Alert your vet if you suspect an overdose or spot an adverse reaction listed above.
Other ways to ease your dog’s inflammation
Though your vet will ultimately help you choose the best kind of medication for your dog, you may be wondering if there are any good alternatives to NSAIDs when it comes to treating inflammation. These medications ease inflammation symptoms and are good options to consider if your dog shows sensitivity to NSAIDs:
Steroids, also known as corticosteroids, are naturally produced in dogs’ adrenal glands. They’re used for a wide range of conditions ranging from mild inflammation and allergic reactions to arthritis and autoimmune (AI) disease. Though they can be highly effective in suppressing or preventing inflammation, their effects also suppress the immune system, which can increase your dog’s risk of infection.
Joint supplements are great non-medicinal ways to support your dog’s joint health. They work by inhibiting enzymes that wear down and destroy cartilage. Even better, they provide building blocks for cartilage regeneration and help get dogs back on their feet without all the side effects associated with other anti-inflammatory medications.
Antihistamines are most commonly used to treat seasonal allergies in humans. They work by blocking histamine receptors in the body, which cause itching and swelling associated with inflammation. While they aren’t FDA-approved for pet use, some veterinarians treat skin conditions, itching, motion sickness , and anxiety in dogs with low-dosage OTC antihistamines like Benadryl. Antihistamines tend to be a little easier on dog bodies than other anti-inflammatory medications like steroids.
🚨 Never combine any of these drugs without specific instructions from a veterinarian.
Frequently asked questions
What foods decrease inflammation in dogs?
Natural foods tend to help alleviate inflammation in dogs. Try:
- Cooked meat. Fresh is best, though frozen, freeze-dried, and dehydrated also work.
- Fruits and veggies. Steer toward those with anti-inflammatory properties like berries, cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach), and dark leafy greens.
Do you need a prescription for dog NSAIDs?
Yes. You have to have a vet’s prescription to get all FDA-approved NSAIDs for dogs.
Are OTC human pain relievers safe for dogs?
Pet-specific medications are always safer than human over-the-counter pain relievers, which can be very dangerous, even life-threatening, to dogs. Never give your dog ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, or any other pain reliever made for human consumption except under the direction of a veterinarian.
Can cats take NSAIDs?
Cats have a harder time breaking down NSAIDs than dogs and are more sensitive to the side effects. No NSAIDs are currency approved for long-term use in cats. While Robenacoxib (Onsior) has historically been effective as a one-time-only
cat treatment, NSAIDs should be avoided for cats in most situations.