Many pain medications for pets are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These drugs relieve pain by reducing inflammation, especially in sore joints and muscles. Both acute injuries and chronic pain can respond well to NSAIDs.
While these drugs are a great help for some pets, there are some drawbacks. Any pet that is going to go on an NSAID regimen should first have a complete physical examination and a blood panel done. Most NSAIDs can cause irritation to the lining of the stomach. Giving the medication with meals can help. NSAIDs should not be given to animals that are also taking steroids, as this combination can exacerbate gastrointestinal problems.
NSAIDs may also wreak havoc on the liver and kidneys in certain patients. Any pet taking this type of medication long term should have regular blood screenings to check for damage. Pets with already existing liver and kidney problems may require lowered dosages or less frequent dosing schedules.
Signs of potential drug induced problems include vomiting, diarrhea, a loss of appetite, and a drop in activity. Pets might also show signs of blood in the stool and/or jaundice in their eyes and gums. If you notice any such problems, stop all medications and contact your veterinarian.
Do not give any OTC (over the counter) pain medications to your pet without first consulting with a veterinarian. Some OTC medications, such as Tylenol, can be toxic.
When used carefully, responsibly, and under the advisement of a veterinarian, pain medication can be beneficial to the quality of life of an older pet.