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Over The Counter Pain Medication and Your Pet

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Seeing your pet in pain is difficult. Sometimes you know that they have just over-played or that they have arthritis pain only when the weather gets colder. Taking them to the vet for minor aches and pains sometimes feels like both a waste of money and a lot of hassle. You have to make an appointment, transport them to the office, wait in a room where they are excited to be and so they no longer show any symptoms, and then have the doctor come in and do an exam just to tell you that it appears to be muscle pain or arthritis pain which you felt like you already knew. It is so much easier just to give them a Tylenol, Aleve or Advil which you already have in your cabinet. It works great for your minor aches and pains. It should work for them too right? I mean after all, we’re all mammals here. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
Over-the-counter, human pain medications can be very dangerous, even fatal, to your pet.
Some of the most common over-the-counter pain relievers fall into the category of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Common examples include ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). They work by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase that is responsible for the production of prostaglandins that promote inflammation, fever, and pain. But prostaglandins also play many other roles in the body, including maintaining adequate blood flow to the kidneys, the production of a layer of mucus that protects the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract from stomach acid, and normal blood clotting. When these functions are reduced, dogs can develop vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody), intestinal problems, loss of appetite, bleeding disorders, and kidney or liver dysfunction or failure. Many of these medical conditions can lead to the death of your pet.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) presents a slightly different story. Acetaminophen is not classified as an NSAID because it has no effect on inflammation. When it is ingested by cats, it destroys their liver cells, damages the kidneys, and converts hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in blood, to methemoglobin, resulting in poor oxygen delivery throughout the body and tissue damage. Just one regular strength tablet is usually fatal for a cat. It should only be used in dogs under strict supervision of your veterinarian as many underlying medical conditions could cause the medication to be detrimental to them as well.
For all of these reasons, pain relievers should only be given to pets under the supervision of a veterinarian. With knowledge of the pets’ health history, current medications, lifestyle and current health physical condition, the doctor can make a proper diagnosis to determine which pet-specific medication and dose is most appropriate, and design a plan for monitoring that will make treatment as safe as possible.
CHAI veterinarians do not condone the use of any of these drugs to treat animals. We feel they are all unsafe for pets and do not prescribe them to any patient. CHAI has many alternatives for pain management that are easily processed by a pet’s body if oral medications become necessary.
Prescribed medication is not the only way to provide pain relief, however. Chronic inflammatory conditions such as general arthritis often respond well to dietary modification. For example, foods that are supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids can reduce joint inflammation and the pain associated with it. Also, overweight dogs benefit greatly from a weight loss plan that includes both diet and exercise. Reducing body fat and promoting lean body mass decreases stress on joints and inflammation throughout the body.
The combination of a good diet and weight loss will often reduce, if not completely eliminate, the need for pain meds for pets suffering from chronic conditions like arthritis. Acupuncture, cold laser treatments, massage therapy, and other interventions can also improve the quality of life for your pet. Talk to your veterinarian to determine what combination of diet, exercise, pain meds, and other treatment is right for your pet.

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