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Golden Retriever getting comforted while lying on a table at the vet.
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If your veterinarian prescribed Rimadyl for your dog, it’s important to learn more about this medicine. Learn what conditions in dogs Rimadyl treats, potential side effects, and possible alternatives if your dog has a negative reaction. Rimadyl is generally safe for dogs, but it should only be given to a dog with a veterinarian’s prescription.

What Is Rimadyl?

Rimadyl is a brand name for the generic veterinary equivalent drug carprofen. Carprofen belongs to a group of drugs called NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs act to reduce inflammation in dogs with fewer negative side effects than steroids, making them more suitable than steroids for long-term use.

Carprofen for dogs is safer for use than human NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, which is why it is one of the more commonly prescribed veterinary canine painkillers. This is also why it is never a good idea to treat your dog with medications from your own medicine cabinet, as many human medications can be poisonous for dogs.

Rimadyl for dogs comes in three forms — caplets, chewable tablets, and an injection. Talk to your vet about which method is best for your dog.

What Is Carprofen Used For?

If you’re not sure why your vet prescribed Rimadyl for your dog, the first thing you should do is call your vet’s office for clarification. There are two main reasons why vets prescribe Rimadyl for dogs:

  • As part of a chronic pain management strategy for dogs with osteoarthritis
  • As a post-operative medication to treat pain and inflammation in dogs after surgery

Carprofen for dogs works in three ways:

  • Treats inflammation
  • Reduces fever
  • Reduces pain

These qualities make it highly effective at treating osteoarthritis in dogs. The anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the joint inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, which reduces pain, and the analgesic properties of the drug also reduce pain. Since the drug is tolerated relatively well by the majority of canine patients, Rimadyl is a good choice for long-term pain management of arthritis in dogs.


Vets prescribe short-term use for dogs after surgery for the same reasons. The drug reduces post-operative inflammation and also helps manage acute pain, keeping the patient more comfortable.

Talk to your vet about your dog’s condition if you have any questions about why they prescribed this medication.

Side Effects of Rimadyl for Dogs

Rimadyl can have serious side effects that owners need to be aware of, especially for long-term use. The most common problems associated are related to the GI tract.

GI complications include:

Liver and kidney side effects are rare, but when they do occur, they are very serious. Most vets recommend running regular blood work to monitor the liver, especially in older dogs and in dogs that take Rimadyl long-term.

How do you tell if your dog is having an adverse reaction to Rimadyl? Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Change in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Black, tarry, or bloody stool
  • Changes in behavior (increased or decreased activity, changes in coordination, aggression)
  • Seizure
  • Increased or decreased drinking
  • Urinary symptoms (change in frequency, color, or smell of urine)
  • Skin symptoms (scabbing, itching, or redness)
  • Yellowing of gums, skin, or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
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If you notice any of these symptoms or any other change in your dog, call your vet immediately. Adverse side effects can have serious repercussions. The sooner you catch them, the sooner your vet can help get your dog back on the right track.

Pros and Cons of Carprofen for Dogs

The side effects associated with this medication are serious, but so is the negative impact on the quality of life from canine osteoarthritis. As an owner, you need to weigh the pain associated with osteoarthritis with the relatively low risk of side effects. Talk to your vet about your concerns and let them know about any other medications your dog is on, as well as any other conditions that your vet might not be aware of.

Alternatives to Rimadyl for Dogs

Rimadyl is one of the safest NSAIDs available for dogs, but there are alternatives if your dog has an adverse reaction. Talk to your vet about prescribing an alternative painkiller for dogs or about alternative pain management strategies for your dog’s osteoarthritis. Discuss with them whether Rimadyl could be part of a holistic approach to managing arthritis that includes canine joint supplements to support your dog’s overall joint health, as well as other therapies like canine massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and even water therapy.

Your veterinarian is your best source of information about Rimadyl for dogs. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you might have and be sure you give your dog the prescribed dosage and follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

Related article: Maintaining Dog Joint Health in Winter
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