PetMD’s medications content was written and reviewed by veterinary professionals to answer your most common questions about how medications function, their side effects, and what species they are prescribed for. This content shouldn’t take the place of advice by your vet.
What is Carprofen (Rimadyl®)?
Veterinarians commonly prescribe carprofen or Rimadyl® to treat osteoarthritis (OA) and other causes of inflammation in dogs. Rimadyl® is in a class of medications called NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications work to reduce your dog’s pain by reducing inflammation. Your veterinarian may also prescribe Rimadyl® after surgery to manage surgical pain.
Rimadyl is used off label for pain relief and inflammation in other species, among them horses, cows, sheep, birds, rabbits, ferrets, other small mammals and reptiles. The term off- or extra- label use means that a medication can be used in a way or in a particular species that are not specified on the medication label. Off- or extra- label use of a medication can only be done by a veterinarian who has direct and personal knowledge of your pet and when there are no other appropriate medications for a particular pet's circumstance.
In certain circumstances, your veterinarian may recommend a compounded formulation of carprofen. Compounded medications are prescribed if there’s a specific reason your pet’s health can’t be managed by an FDA-approved drug, such as if your pet has trouble taking pills in capsule form, the dosage strength is not commercially available, or the pet is allergic to an ingredient in the FDA-approved medication. Compounded medications are not FDA-approved. They are created by either a veterinarian or a licensed pharmacist on an individual basis to best suit a patient’s particular needs. You can learn more about compounded medications here.
How Carprofen (Rimadyl®) Works
The active ingredient in Rimadyl® is carprofen. Carprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that provides pain relief, decreases inflammation, and reduces fever.
NSAIDs, in general, block the production of natural chemicals that trigger inflammation, something called a COX pathway. Some COX pathways are helpful in digestion, kidney health and clotting. In dogs, carprofen blocks significantly more of the chemicals that cause inflammation with fewer negative effects on the beneficial chemicals. Because of this, carprofen decreases inflammation and pain in dogs with fewer side effects than some other types of NSAIDs. This is not true of every species. In cats, carprofen blocks many of the beneficial pathways as well as those that trigger inflammation.
Carprofen is also available as Caprieve®, Carprovet®, Novox®, OstiFen™, Quellin™ , and Vetprofen®.
Carprofen (Rimadyl®) Directions
Follow the directions on the drug label or as provided by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will prescribe a dosage and treatment plan based on your dog’s weight and the cause of their pain.
Most dogs willingly take Rimadyl® chewable tablets like a treat. If not, you can hide the tablet in a small amount of tasty food. Although Rimadyl® can be given with or without food, giving it with food can help reduce the chance of stomach upset.
Give Rimadyl® for as long as your veterinarian recommends. Many dogs, especially those with OA, require long-term treatment. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog still appears in pain or is reluctant to play, climb stairs, or jump. Additional pain medications may be necessary.
Missed a Dose?
If you forget to give a dose of Rimadyl®, give it when you remember. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume the normal dosing schedule. Do not give extra or double doses.
Carprofen (Rimadyl®) Possible Side Effects
Although Rimadyl® is typically well-tolerated by dogs, serious side effects can occur. Contact your veterinarian if you see any of the following signs:
Decreased energy level (lethargy)
Dark, black, or tar-like stools
Increased urination or accidents inside the house
Pale gum color (very light pink, white, or grey gums)
Yellowing of the gums, skin, or whites of the eyes
Incoordination or weakness
Any behavioral changes
Serious reactions can occur without warning. However, most dogs recover if the medication is stopped, and any necessary emergency veterinary care is promptly provided.
Human Side Effects
While this medication can also be used in humans, it may be given differently and have different side effects. If you accidentally ingest this medication, call your physician or local poison control center.
Your veterinarian is likely to recommend routine testing while your pet is on this medication. Testing may vary depending on your pets' individual needs, the length of time your pet will be on this medication, any other medications they may be on and/or the issue that initially caused your pet to be placed on this medication. Most common recommendations for monitoring on this medication is blood work, encompassing a complete blood cell count and chemistry panel.
Call Your Vet If:
Side effects are seen (see above)
You see or suspect an overdose,
If your pet still appears to be in pain
Call your vet or pharmacist if you have additional questions or concerns about the use of Rimadyl®.
Carprofen (Rimadyl®) Overdose Information
By design, dogs are meant to like the taste of Rimadyl® chewable tablets. As such, they can eat too many tablets and easily overdose if given access to the medication. Severe side effects can occur after a large overdose. Emergency treatment is often necessary. If you suspect an overdose, immediately contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control center. Consultation fees often apply.
Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661
ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435
In the event of an overdose, you can also call the manufacturer of Rimadyl® at (888) 963-8471.
Carprofen (Rimadyl®) Storage
Store Rimadyl® tablets between 59-86F (15-30 C). Check the drug insert for storage information for the generic versions.
Keep out of reach of children and pets. Remember that Rimadyl® chewable tablets are supposed to taste good to pets. Animals can overdose if the medication is not securely stored out of their reach.
How long does it take for Rimadyl® to start working in dogs?
Rimadyl® reaches peak blood levels within 1-3 hours of use. However, it may take a few days before your dog shows signs of improvement. Depending on the cause of your dog’s inflammation, the signs of pain may return if you stop treatment too soon. For example, osteoarthritis is a chronic, progressive condition that often requires consistent, long-term treatment. Your veterinarian will instruct you as to how long and often you need to treat your dog based on their medical condition.
Is Rimadyl® the same as tramadol?
No. Rimadyl® is an NSAID that reduces pain by reducing inflammation. Tramadol belongs to a different class of medications called opioid agonists. Opioid agonists work differently compared to NSAIDS and reduce pain by inhibiting the action of certain neurotransmitters.
Is carprofen the same as ibuprofen?
Carprofen and ibuprofen are both non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, carprofen (Rimadyl®) is used in dogs, and ibuprofen is used in people. Do not give ibuprofen to dogs. Ibuprofen acts differently in dogs than in people, causing an increased risk for side effects. It is also excreted differently in dogs. Because of these differences, even small doses of ibuprofen can cause serious, potentially life-threatening side effects in dogs. Your veterinarian can prescribe an appropriate pain medication for your pet.
Is Rimadyl® bad for dogs?
Rimadyl® is usually well-tolerated by dogs. However, serious side effects can occur suddenly. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you see any side effects when giving Rimadyl®. Most dogs that experience severe reactions recover if the mediation is discontinued and any necessary emergency veterinary care is promptly provided. Talk to your veterinarian to determine if Rimadyl® is an appropriate choice for your dog.
Featured Image: iStock.com/dontaeH
No vet writer or qualified reviewer has received any compensation from the manufacturer of the medication as part of creating this article. All content contained in this article is sourced from public sources or the manufacturer.
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