Rimadyl, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, used frequently both for post operative pain control and arthritis treatment in dogs, is in the news. If you haven’t seen or heard about it recently, it is likely you will. We have had a number of phone calls from clients whose dogs are either on Rimadyl currently or have received it in the past. Unfortunately there was a dog here locally in Boulder, Colorado that received Rimadyl and died of complications associated with its use.
Let me start by saying that I have no stock in Rimadyl and no reason to support it other than I have used it for over 12 years to control pain in a variety of situations we deal with on a daily basis in veterinary medicine. In some cases it has actually allowed us to improve the quality of life in a patient so much that it has given years of life back to those animals that would otherwise have been euthanized. We do not take the usage of Rimadyl or any other medication lightly though.
Just like any other medication we use in either veterinary medicine or in human medicine, there are always potential side effects. Serious side effects resulting in death are fortunately VERY rare (1 in every 10,000 dogs). This is information compiled over 12 years of usage and studies and over 16 million dogs treated. We know that there are things we can do to prevent a large portion of the problems. We require a good client/patient relationship as well as routine blood testing in order to try and prevent as many issues as possible. This said, there are situations where no amount of testing or preparation can prevent a problem. This is similar to what we see with Penicillin, which has a higher death rate despite its extensive usage and research over many more years! (World Health Organ. 1968; 38(2): 159-88.)
The question we as practitioners always have to assess is the benefits versus risks. This is what you come to us for! One of the benefits we see is less pain after surgery and quicker recovery and healing. We also see a large number of otherwise healthy active dogs that start to lose their quality of life, gain that quality back. We weigh this against patient factors such as the health of your pet, blood work results and history as well as the potential side effects, no matter how rare. I believe that Rimadyl’s few side effects are far outweighed by the benefits in most cases.
We recognize that every patient and client is different and there are always alternatives (Laser etc….) and where appropriate we can and do recommend them. We also recognize the tragic nature of what happened recently in Boulder, and certainly sympathize with the owners’ situation. With all this, we still feel Rimadyl has a place in veterinary practice. We welcome your questions now and in the future about any medical care we recommend and look forward to your participation in discussions on the well being of your pet.