Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective pain relievers that are frequently prescribed to dogs and sometimes also to cats. These medications are generally very safe, but if an animal receives an overdose, serious side effects can develop. Also, some individuals are especially sensitive to NSAIDs and can develop problems even if the correct dosage is given.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause ulcers in the digestive tract and kidney and liver damage. Common symptoms of NSAID toxicity include vomiting and diarrhea, both of which may contain blood. Sometimes the blood will be partially digested and cause a pet's stools to be dark and tarry or look like coffee grounds when vomited. Affected animals may also stop eating, have a painful abdomen, become less active, drink and urinate more than normal, and have yellow-tinged mucous membranes and skin. A veterinarian will diagnose NSAID toxicity based on an animal's history, clinical signs, physical exam, and the results of blood work, a urinalysis, and sometimes x-rays or other diagnostic tests.
If an animal has recently eaten a large amount of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, a veterinarian will often induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to limit its absorption. Pets diagnosed with NSAID toxicity will usually receive medications to help ulcers heal and to protect the liver, as well as fluid therapy and supportive care within the veterinary hospital in severe cases. Many instances of NSAID toxicity can be prevented by following the drug's dosing instructions and keeping bottles containing flavored medication away from pets. Dogs that are recovering from an overdose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories should not be given these medications.
Written by: Jennifer Coates, DVM
Last reviewed: October 2, 2008