Common Veterinary Medications Used for Dog Arthritis and Their Side Effects

Mar 3, 2021

Common Veterinary Medications Used for Dog Arthritis and Their Side Effects

Pain and discomfort are prominent symptoms of arthritis in dogs. The progressive degeneration that takes place in the bones and tissues of affected arthritic dog joints triggers a cascade of reactions that result in inflammation swelling, pain, discomfort, and reduced mobility issues.

Dog arthritis is very often an age-related issue. As dogs age the joints start to show the brunt of years of wear and tear. Arthritis is a degenerative process and when it starts to set in, the damage cannot be reversed, however it can be slowed. The good news is arthritis can be effectively managed to improve an arthritic dog’s quality of life.

Management of Arthritis in Dogs

The management of arthritis in dogs is multi-pronged. It involves medical and non-medical approaches which are geared toward alleviating the symptoms and slowing down the progress of the degenerative process.

Non-Medical Management

Weight control

If a dog is carrying excess weight, this can exert added stress on the weight-carrying joints of the body. The stress and pressure eventually lead to greater joint damage and more severe symptoms of arthritis. Helping your pet lose the excess pounds can go a long way in minimizing further damage to the joint.  Studies have shown that  regaining a healthy weight can dramatically improve mobility issues in dogs with osteoarthritis.

 Veterinary Medical Management of Dog Arthritis

Drugs and medications that are prescribed for dogs with arthritis are given to control the pain, increase mobility, slow down the degeneration of affected joints, and encourage repair of joint cartilage. These medical options include the following:

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

These medications are formulated to reduce pain, swelling, stiffness, and inflammation in the affected joints. The most common NSAIDs that are prescribed for dogs include carprofen(Novox or Rimadyl), deracoxib (Dramaxx), meloxicam (Metacam), and fibrocoxib (Previcox). While NSAIDs are generally speaking safe for dogs, they are not without side some serious effects which include changes in behavior, loss of appetite, skin redness, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. If your dog displays any of these symptoms when taking prescribed NSAIDs, stop giving the medication and call your veterinarian. Some dogs exhibit very serious adverse reaction to NSAIDS that may include kidney, liver, or digestive issues.

 Aspirin is one of the most common types of NSAID that is given to dogs. However, long-term use of aspirin in dogs is not recommended because it can increase the risk of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract and some other serious side effects.


Also known as ‘glucocorticoids’ or ‘cortisone’, these medications are usually administered as tablets or injections. Their inflammatory effect is  more potent than that of NSAIDs but serious side effects can also develop with long-term use.


These products are formulated to help protect the cartilage and encourage repair. The most common chondroprotectant for dogs  is  Adequan which is often prescribed for degenerative joint disease treatment.  The drug works by inhibiting the enzymes that play an important role in cartilage destruction. 


Surgery is usually indicated in dogs with severely damaged joints or when there is intense pain brought about by the inflammation and degeneration in the joints.  Arthroscopic surgery  makes it possible to remove the  cartilage debris from the joint cavity.   There are also surgical procedures that are  indicated to repair  bone deformity or rebuild a part of the affected joint. Replacing a severely damaged joint with an artificial joint can also be performed in dogs.


 Arthritis Medications For Dogs: Indications And Side Effects


Drug/Medication for Dog Arthritis


Potential Side Effects



Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)


To relieve pain and inflammation in dogs suffering from arthritis.


Has anti-fever properties.


Loss of appetite



Stomach and intestinal ulcers

Stomach and intestinal perforations

Kidney failure

Liver failure




Carprofen (Rimadyl®, Norocarp®)

Deracoxib (Dramaxx) Meloxicam ((Metacam®))

Fibrocoxib (Previcox)

Ketoprofen (Ketofen®)

Piroxicam (Feldene®)






Pain relief

 The side effects are more pronounced compared to NSAIDs

Long-term use can make the problem worse rather than better.

Increased appetite leading to obesity

Greatly increased thirst.

Immunosuppression (less effective immune system)

Muscle wasting

Skin thinning

Hair loss


Muscle weakness

Ulcers of the mouth, stomach and intestines









Inhibits enzymes that break down the joint cartilage

 Effects are relatively mild and self-limiting. These include:


Mild pain or swelling at the injection site


Delayed blood clotting




While arthritis is very common among senior dogs, it should not be taken lightly. You should use a natural proven joint health supplement and work closely with your veterinarian to manage  your pet’s arthritis to help ensure a healthier and happier life for both you and your furry friend.

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