What is Carprofen? Carprofen is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used to treat pain and inflammation in dogs. In the last 2 years, the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) has exploded in popularity for dog owners seeking to manage pain & anxiety. CBD is often touted by some as a miracle drug, capable of curing nearly any ailment. The truth, however, is much more nuanced and while the industry is …
Carprofen for Dogs – August 2022
Carprofen is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used to treat pain and inflammation in dogs. It is also classified under the propionic acid class, which includes other medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen (13 ).
The use of Carprofen in dogs has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the U.S. FDA, NSAIDs manage symptoms of arthritis such as inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and joint pain (14 ) .
NSAIDs are also used to treat osteoarthritis in dogs and even post-surgical pain, particularly pain from orthopedic surgeries and soft tissue procedures (15 ) .
Carprofen is an active ingredient that is marketed under various brand names, including Rimadyl , Zinecarp, Canidryl, Aventicarp, Rycarfa, Rimifin, Carpox, Tergive, Carprodyl, Carprieve, Norocarp, Novox, Quellin, Rovera, Vetprofen, and Levafen. (16 )
How Does Carprofen Work?
According to Dr. Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP, an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX) 2 produces prostaglandins that cause pain and inflammation (17 ) . Its counterpart cyclooxygenase (COX) 1 meanwhile makes prostaglandins that are essential to the gastrointestinal and renal functions of mammals (18 ) .
Most NSAIDs, such as aspirin , inhibit both COX enzymes; but in animals, it is ideal that the drug administered to them inhibits COX-2 but not COX-1 (19 ) . Carprofen has been dubbed as a COX-preferential NSAID because it can manage pain and inflammation without affecting the COX-1 enzyme and its benefits.
A study in 1998 was conducted on canines to evaluate which NSAID was more selective in inhibiting COX-2. The study found that Carprofen was the most potent inhibitor of the enzyme (20 ) , therefore more effective and beneficial to dogs.
Why was Carprofen Developed?
In 1983, Carprofen was initially launched in the market for human use; but due to commercial reasons, it was withdrawn 10 years later (21 ) .
Carprofen was relaunched in 1993 as an anti-arthritic medication for dogs.
It has been used since, because compared to other NSAIDs, Carprofen has proven to be one of the safer alternatives. A study in 1997 concluded that Carprofen was safer to use in dogs. The study also outlined its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic properties (22 ) .
Meloxicam is another medication that is as effective in treating pain in dogs post-surgery sans the more severe side effects (23 ) .
Dr. Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP wrote about NSAIDs and their side effects that could be detrimental to animal health. Possible side effects that can escalate and become adverse reactions include the following (24 ) :
- Stomach ulceration – this can sometimes lead to perforation and rupture of the stomach, which can be fatal.
- Platelet deactivation – if the pet experiences bleeding disorders, the bleeding may become uncontrollable as platelets are responsible for blood clotting.
- Decreased kidney blood supply – this could result in kidney problems or even kidney failure.
Veterinary medicine needed an NSAID that could relieve pain and inflammation sans the adverse effects; hence, Carprofen use was recommended. It was ideal for long-term use in dogs that require pain relief.
It is important to note that the U.S. FDA has approved Carprofen use in dogs, but not in other animals. Brooks advises against administering Carprofen to cats, as felines are more sensitive to the side effects of NSAIDs compared to canines.
Carprofen Dosage for Dogs
The recommended dosage of Carprofen for dogs is 4.4 mg per kilogram of the dog’s body weight daily (25 ) .
Carprofen has different dosage forms. In the United States (U.S.), Carprofen caplets and chewable tablet formulations are available. Injectable solutions are also an option in the U.S. and European markets.
The usual practice is oral administration of Carprofen in tablet form to dogs. It is recommended that pet owners should administer the drug to their pets with food to lessen the risks of a stomach upset (26 ) .
The medication usually takes effect in one to two hours.
Carprofen should be stored at room temperature, between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C).
Carprofen Drug Interactions
Carprofen should not be taken with other NSAIDs. These include aspirin, deracoxib, etodolac, firocoxib, meloxicam, and tepoxalin. It should also not be administered with steroids, such as cortisone, dexamethasone, prednisone, and triamcinolone (27 ) .
Carprofen should be used with caution if the dog is also taking the following (28 ) :
- ACE inhibitors (for heart and blood pressure conditions)
- Nephrotoxic medications (kidney-damaging drugs like cyclosporine)
- Highly protein-bound medications
- Oral antidiabetics
- Loop diuretics
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Side Effects of Carprofen in Dogs
Potential side effects of Carprofen are usually related to the gastrointestinal tract, such as (29 ) :
- Constipation (30 )
- Temporary lack of appetite
In the rare situation that liver and kidney side effects are observed on dogs, veterinarians highly recommend that these dogs should undergo blood work. Senior dogs and pets that are taking Carprofen long-term should also take blood tests so that experts can monitor their liver enzymes and kidney values.
More serious side effects include the following (31 ) :
- Changes in appetite
- Severe vomiting
- Black, bloody, or tarry stool (melena)
- Behavioral changes (increased or decreased activity, sudden aggression, or restlessness)
- Neurological symptoms (incoordination, paralysis, seizures, or disorientation) (32 )
- Increased or decreased drinking
- Urinary symptoms (increased urination and changes in color or smell of urine)
- Dermatologic symptoms (scabs, itchiness, or redness)
- Jaundice (yellowing of gums, skin, or whites of the eyes)
- Allergic reactions (facial swelling or hives)
- Hair loss
Other precautions before administering this pain medication to dogs (33 ) :
- Do not administer Carprofen to dogs with low platelet counts or with bleeding disorders like Von Willebrand disease.
- Carprofen should not be used on dogs allergic to the drug or NSAIDs from the same class. Dogs taking other NSAIDs or corticosteroids like prednisone should not use Carprofen, too.
- Carprofen should be used with caution in puppies younger than six weeks of age, more senior, pregnant, or lactating dogs, dehydrated pets, or dogs with preexisting conditions like liver, heart, gastrointestinal, and kidney diseases.
- The drug also affects bone healing, so it should be used with caution in pets that have undergone bone surgery or have bone injuries.
The Pfizer Lawsuit
Rimadyl (Carprofen’s brand name) has had many controversies since Pfizer launched it in 1997.
According to The Wall Street Journal (34 ) , Rimadyl’s launch campaign was accompanied by television commercials promoting the use of the drug in dogs. These T.V. spots were removed because of several complaints, including the death of Montana, a Siberian husky.
Upon the prescription of a veterinarian, Angela Giglio gave her dog Montana Rimadyl, to alleviate her pet’s stiff back legs. Initially, the drug worked, but Montana started going limp, wobbling, vomiting, and experiencing seizures. Eventually, Montana had to be put to sleep.
Giglio filed a complaint against Pfizer. As compensation, Pfizer offered Giglio $440 “as a gesture of goodwill.” Giglio flatly refused.
Pet parents Christopher Cooper and Shelley Smith had also filed a lawsuit against Pfizer when their golden retriever Sophie died because of Rimadyl use (35 ) .
According to the lawsuit, Sophie had undergone surgery for a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament and was prescribed several medications, including Rimadyl. After 11 days, the dog started “experiencing symptoms described by two Pfizer veterinarians as Rimadyl toxicity.”
Sophie was hospitalized for 13 days. Even when the dog was released, she continued to suffer. On July 26, 2009, Sophie died from severe liver degradation. These events propelled the couple to file a lawsuit against Pfizer.
The lawsuit accused the pharmaceutical giant of negligence because they had not informed pet owners of the risks that come with Rimadyl use.
In 2013, Pfizer settled the lawsuit.
Natural Alternatives to Carprofen for Dogs
Instead of taking their chances on NSAID therapy and its risks, some dog owners are resorting to natural alternatives to reduce their pet’s osteoarthritis and postoperative pain.
Natural Herbs and Dogs
According to an extensive report on veterinary herbal medicine (36 ) , some plants have anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial in treating osteoarthritis. These include Boswellia and Arnica.
When applied topically, Capsicum (known as pepper) helps treat osteoarthritis and other illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral neuropathies, and fibromyalgia.
Another herb called Guggul helps in reducing pain and stiffness and improves function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Acupuncture and Dogs
Veterinarians are also prescribing acupuncture as a possible alternative for control of postoperative pain and alleviation of the clinical signs of osteoarthritis.
Acupuncture originates from ancient Chinese practices. It helps the body heal by correcting its energy imbalances. The practice involves inserting fine needles into “acupuncture points” in a dog’s body where nerves and blood vessels converge (37 ) .
Dr. Lynn Buzhardt, DVM says acupuncture improves blood flow and relaxes the muscles where the needles have been inserted as well as other muscles in the dog’s body. She adds that acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory substances that are innate in the body.
Buzhardt believes that acupuncture’s most significant advantage is that it does not have systemic side effects, unlike most anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
CBD Oil and Dogs
CBD’s Therapeutic Effects
Another alternative worth exploring for the relief of pain from dog osteoarthritis and surgery is cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD, the nonpsychoactive component of cannabis plants, has anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit dogs that have osteoarthritis and other painful conditions.
A study in 2018 conducted on dogs with osteoarthritis found that CBD oil helps increase comfort and activity level in the test subjects. Long-term studies have yet to be conducted, but the researchers reported that “short-term effects appear to be positive” (38 ) .
Colorado State University’s Dr. Stephanie McGrath, DVM, Ph.D., together with her team, has also conducted clinical trials on CBD’s effectiveness in treating dog osteoarthritis; the report has not been published yet.
Several studies conducted on rats have likewise proven CBD’s anti-arthritic properties. A study in 2000 outlines CBD’s immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory actions that have helped treat arthritis in the mice test subjects (39 ) .
A 2016 study, also on rats, reported that topically administered CBD helped relieve arthritis, pain-related behaviors, and inflammation sans observable side effects (40 ) .
Researchers have also found that CBD may help prevent further development of osteoarthritis pain and joint neuropathy (41 ) .
A 2017 study has also shown that CBD has promising therapeutic effects on postoperative pain, another condition that Carprofen relieves. CBD helps in pain suppression by reducing the distress that comes with pain (42 ) .
Even if the studies cited were conducted on rats, all animals except insects have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that works the same way (43 ) . Therefore, if CBD is found to be beneficial on rats, it is suggested that it can be as effective on dogs and humans, too.
The ECS is the system that regulates the functions of cannabinoids in the body, particularly those that affect mood, pain reception, and the immune system.
Choosing the Right CBD Products for Dogs
CBD comes in many forms. It may be administered to dogs as a pet tincture (drops) through massages or by combining the oil with pet food or treats . Topical CBD is also available (CBD hemp oil, creams, salve, or balms).
The American Kennel Club (AKC) says that the best CBD format to administer to dogs is CBD in liquid form (44 ) , so pet owners can adjust the dose by drops.
A study in 2018 (45 ) compared the effects of CBD given in different formats to healthy dogs. The researchers administered the CBD products as oral microencapsulated oil beads, oral CBD-infused oil, and CBD-infused transdermal cream.
Among the three CBD formulations, the researchers recommended oral CBD-infused oil because they found that it had the most favorable pharmacokinetic profile.
Pharmacokinetics is the movement of a drug into, through, and out of the body. It is influenced by patient-related factors and the drug’s chemical composition (46 ) .
CBD for veterinary use has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but in the 2018 study on dogs with osteoarthritis, a full-spectrum CBD product was used (47 ) .
Full-spectrum CBD products make use of the whole cannabis plant to achieve an “entourage effect.” This phenomenon happens when all the active ingredients synergize to get the maximum therapeutic benefits from the plant.
Other CBD types are broad-spectrum and CBD isolate. Unlike full-spectrum CBD, these two other types do not make use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.
Broad-spectrum CBD is made of cannabidiol and terpenes, the compounds that provide the plant its distinctive aromas and flavors.
CBD isolate is derived from pure cannabidiol.
Before purchasing a CBD product, dog owners should check if the product’s batch reports are accessible. These are lab analyses (certificate of analysis) from third-party sources verifying the contents of a product.
A study conducted in 2018 revealed that in the 84 CBD products that the researchers reviewed, 26% contained less CBD than labeled, 43% contained more CBD than what the label declared, and 21% had THC concentrations high enough to intoxicate children (48 ) .
Pet owners should be cautious when purchasing CBD products.
Dog owners should also ensure that the product they are looking to buy is certified organic and has undergone Current Good Manufacturing Process (CGMP) regulations.
Pet parents should also ascertain that the CBD product has no contaminants like heavy metals or pesticides.
CBD Dosage for Dogs
There is no standard CBD dosing chart for dogs, but the recommendation is to begin dosing pets with small amounts of CBD; if there are no adverse effects, the dosage may be gradually increased.
The researchers of the 2018 study gave a CBD dosage of 2 mg per kilogram of the dog’s body weight to help increase comfort and activity levels in dogs with osteoarthritis. CBD oil was administered to the test subjects twice daily for one month (49 ) .
CBD also has side effects on canines; these include dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, and drowsiness (50 ) .
Before using CBD for pain management in dogs, pet owners should inform their veterinarian first.
U.S. veterinarians cannot prescribe CBD to their patients. They are also not allowed to instruct or encourage the usage of CBD products; however, they can be consulted by pet owners if the pet parents have devised their treatment for their dog (51 ) .
It is best to consult with veterinarians who have experience with CBD.
Carprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Its use in dogs has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), particularly in treating canine osteoarthritis and post-surgical pain.
Initially, it was developed for humans but was discontinued because of commercial reasons. It was relaunched and marketed to treat arthritis in canines.
The U.S. FDA has not approved its use in other animals. Its use in cats is not advised because they are more sensitive to the side effects of NSAIDs compared to dogs.
Among the other NSAIDs, Carprofen is one of the safer ones. Typical side effects are usually related to gastrointestinal conditions, including vomiting, diarrhea, ulcers, constipation, temporary lack of appetite, and tiredness.
Carprofen is in the market under several brand names, one of which is Pfizer’s Rimadyl. Launched in 1997, the Rimadyl brand became controversial as several dog owners have complained of its effects that have led to the death of some dogs who have taken the drug.
Some of Carprofen’s potential side effects can be detrimental to a dog’s health. The most adverse reactions include black, bloody, or tarry stool, behavioral changes such as sudden aggression, neurological conditions like seizures, changes in a dog’s urinary pattern, dermatologic symptoms, and allergic reactions like itchiness and hives.
In treating pain-related dog conditions like osteoarthritis, pet owners are turning to natural alternatives. Herbs such as Boswellia, Arnica, Capsicum (more known as pepper), and Guggul have anti-inflammatory properties and other benefits that aid in the treatment of pain conditions in canines.
Veterinarians also recommend acupuncture as a natural remedy to osteoarthritis.
CBD oil is a natural alternative to Carprofen that is safer than the drug and other NSAIDs, and useful in treating the clinical signs of osteoarthritis.
Several studies conducted mostly on rats have proven that CBD has potential therapeutic and anti-arthritic benefits. However, the U.S. FDA has not approved its use in pets.
CBD’s anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties make it a natural alternative worth exploring. It is available in different formats, but a liquid formulation in the oil or tincture form is more recommended for dogs.
Liquid CBD makes it easier for pet owners to adjust their dog’s dosage.
Before adding CBD to their canine’s osteoarthritis or postoperative pain medication regimen, pet owners should always consult with their veterinarian first.
CBD for Pain in Dogs: A Complete Guide
In the last 2 years, the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) has exploded in popularity for dog owners seeking to manage pain & anxiety. CBD is often touted by some as a miracle drug, capable of curing nearly any ailment. The truth, however, is much more nuanced and while the industry is plagued by unrealistic promises for using CBD, actual research backed science is emerging that shows great promise for this hemp based compound.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll introduce you to canine pain management using CBD. We’ll cover topics on the safety and legality of CBD, what scientific studies have shown, the success rates of using CBD on dogs, and choosing a quality product. We’ll conclude with a list of resources where you can learn more about CBD.
How CBD Works In Your Dog’s Body to Modulate Pain
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an interconnected chain of receptors found in your dog’s brain, their nervous system, glands, and organs. Scientists don’t fully understand the ECS yet (it was only first discovered in 1992) but its believed to help maintain balance within the body.
All mammals—humans, dogs, and cats included—rely the ECS system to regulate immune response. CBD oil interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your dog’s body and acts as a natural neuroprotective agent with multiple health benefits. The cannabinoids in the oil open up two-way communication between endocannabinoid receptors to allow the body to either increase or decrease the immune response as needed. CBD oil is the natural way of regulating the system to maintain the perfect balance.
The reason CBD seems to help modulate pain is that many dog’s bodies are deficient in cannabinoids. Supplementing with CBD increasing cannabinoids in the body and restores balance to the ECS system.
RELATED: 10 Myths Regarding CBD Oil and Dogs
Is It Safe To Use CBD to Manage Pain for Dogs?
In 2016, Colorado State University completed a pharmacokinetic and safety study of CBD on healthy dogs. This was the first clinical trial to demonstrate that the cannabidiol compound was absorbed by the dogs and measurable in the blood. The study suggests that CBD usage in dogs is safe enough to warrant more studies. Source
For the study, 30 healthy dogs were given 2 different dosages CBD in 3 different methods of delivery: capsules, an oil tincture, and a cream applied on the skin. The results showed that CBD given orally as a tincture was best absorbed and bioavailable to the body. (This is why we recommend buying CBD in a tincture as your first choice).
What Scientific Studies or Clinical Trials Have Been Done on CBD for Pain Management for Dogs?
In addition to the safety and absorption study mentioned above, 3 clinical trials have recently concluded with promising results. It’s important to note that the we’re still in the early stages of understanding how CBD interacts with the body, and much more research needs to be done:
1. Cornell University: Osteoarthritis Pain Reduction in Dogs: Cornell University researchers found CBD increased comfort and the activity of dogs suffering from arthritis, according to a study published in July of 2018. This clinical study suggests that 2 mg/kg of CBD given twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis. Source
2. Liberty Leaf: CBD Research Study on Canine Pain Management: In August of 2018, results from a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial demonstrated that dogs with diagnosed osteoarthritis receiving a daily dose of only 0.3 mg per kg of a CBD-infused oil formulation for 4 weeks showed reduced pain and improved functional performance.
3. Colorado State University: Reduction in Seizures for Dogs with Epilepsy: For 24 weeks, dogs that experience at least two seizures a month received either CBD oil treatment or a placebo. Preliminary results released in July of 2018 showed that a 89% of the dogs studied showed a drop in regular seizures.
How Successful is CBD At Managing Canine Pain?
iHeartDogs commissioned a survey that was completed by 455 people who gave CBD to to their dogs. The following data represents the responses of dog owners who gave CBD for pain management:
Survey Question: How effective do you feel the product was for your dog’s condition?
You can view the full survey results here.
How to Choose a Quality CBD from Hemp Product for Your Dog
Choosing a high quality CBD product can be confusing since the market is currently exploding and your options appear endless. Unfortunately, many brands do not perform 3rd party batch testing on their products to ensure the efficacy and purity.
We’ve put together a buying guide for CBD, containing 8 things to watch out for before making a purchase. You can receive the CBD Oil Buying Guide by by requesting it below:
What Real Dog Owners Say After Using CBD for Their Dog’s Pain
We asked members the iHeartSeniorDogs Facebook community for their experience with using CBD to alleviate their dog’s pain:
Cannanine CBD is currently the only CBD oil approved and recommended by iHeartDogs.com
CBD has done wonders for our 11 year old Roti. You have to be very careful not to give them too much THC so choose your CBD carefully – Ken Tress
A lifesaver! I truly believe I would’ve already had to put her to sleep if not for it. – Suzanne Stanfield
The best thing I have ever done for my 200 pound Old English Mastiff was CBD oil she is 7 and we rescued her at 3 yrs old she was kept in a crate for 22 hours a day so she has terrible arthritis… so I medicate her 2 times a week and she runs and plays with my 2 puppers!! – Janell Michelle Cody
It’s been two weeks for our 13 year old pug and his hips are shot. His energy is back now, not jumping from pain when I pet him and is happy again. If I hadn’t tried this CBD oil I wouldn’t have believed it. Been a God send for my ole guy. I highly recommend it. Beats giving him pain meds which takes his spirit away. – Susan Johnson-Smith
I purchased Cannanine CBD oil for my two Bull Terriers for two different reasons. One is 8.5 yrs old and has arthritis. After a couple doses 1 per day there was an amazing improvement. She is up and playing and running around with my 2.5 yr. old. My 2.5 yr old is very excitable and we bring them both to our Sean soak campground. I tried it on her for calming effects. It seems to hit her the next day. Still experimenting with this. But for my 8.5 yr old it has brought back her quality of life. – Ann Fyfe
Some dog owners use CBD, but in addition to other supplements or prescription medications:
My dog is on Gabapentin along with CBD. No problems. – Mary Mueller
My dog is on Gabapentin and uses a 300mg cbd. It’s Really made a difference. He is 11. – Gene Sorensen
Good option but definitely not 1st line. Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM combo with Turmeric is a better 1st line options. Add CBD if this combo is not fully working by itself. –
My dog was on carprofen (generic rimadyl) and gabapentin for his arthritis pain. When I started him on cbd oil, I started with a much lower dose than what was recommended. Too much cbd too fast may cause issues like drowsiness or loose stool. While the cbd oil gradually increased, the other meds gradually decreased. As someone mentioned, it’s best to wean your dog off gabapentin slowly, don’t stop abruptly. My boy is only taking the cbd oil now and he is doing quite well. He even runs a little and he hasn’t run in years! Good luck with your pup! – Barbara Kalman LaVista
I am using Cannanine cbd oil along with turmeric paste. I couldn’t be happier with the results. – Pam Smith
Other dog owners saw results, but also had a few mild side-effects:
Fang (our 120lb..13 year old lab): has been on CBD oil for about 5- 6 weeks now and we’ve seen a noticeable improvement in his joint pain and overall movements. He’s able to walk up our 5 stairs with NO help and at times even takes off rather briskly up them. As of today, I would highly recommend CBD oil for older dog joint pain. We have noticed an increased appetite which has been a bit of a problem since he’s always had a rather enormous Lab appetite. We just focus on keeping his food intake the same to avoid weight gain…he can be a tiny bit hungry to be pain free. – Sinéad Daly Heath
One User’s Story: CBD for a 12 Year Old Immobile Dog
Which Oil Does iHeartDogs Recommend?
Currently the only CBD oil reviewed and approved by iHeartDogs is the Cannanine brand. The formula is 3rd party tested per batch and 100% THC free, which is relatively rare but very important for animal use.
Additional Resources: Where Can I Learn More About About CBD & Pain Management?
(Cannanine) (AHVMA) (Cannanine) (NIH)
IMPORTANT: The information on this site is not intended to replace a one on one relationship with your veterinarian. Please do not make any changes to your dog’s medication without first consulting your vet.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional.