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Medication details

  • Medication type: NSAID
  • Form: Pill, Tablet, Injection
  • Prescription required? Yes
  • FDA approved? Yes
  • Life stage: All
  • Brand names: Rimadyl®, Novox®, quellin®, Vetprofen®, Levafen®, Rovera®
  • Common names: Carprofen
  • Available dosages: 25 mg, 75 mg, 100 mg
  • Expiration range: Approximately three years

If your dog has ever had surgery or sustained any type of injury, you are likely familiar with carprofen. This medication is commonly prescribed to treat pain and inflammation in dogs, both of which can have a wide variety of potential causes. While carprofen can be associated with side effects, these side effects are typically mild and, in most dogs, the benefits of treatment far outweigh the risks. 

What is Carprofen?

Carprofen is an anti-inflammatory for dogs, belonging to the NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) class. It was first introduced for veterinary use under the brand name of Rimadyl® in 1997. Since its introduction, carprofen has been widely used to treat pain and inflammation in dogs and it is currently available under a number of different brand names. While this drug was also used in humans for approximately 10 years, it is no longer available in a human version.

Carprofen acts by inhibiting enzymes that are involved in pain and inflammation. It acts quickly, alleviating pain and inflammation within one to three hours of oral administration. Carprofen is related to ibuprofen (a commonly-used NSAID in humans), but it is much less likely to be associated with toxicity in dogs. 

Most veterinary practices keep carprofen in stock and prescribe it regularly. Additionally, carprofen may be available for purchase through veterinary pharmacies (with a prescription). 

What is Carprofen Used For in Dogs?

Dog recovering after surgery

Carprofen is used to manage pain and inflammation. The most common indications for carprofen are post-surgical pain (many dogs receive several days of carprofen after spay/neuter surgery and other surgeries) and osteoarthritis. However, carprofen can also be used to treat a number of other acute injuries or illnesses, including lameness, intervertebral disk disease, trauma, bite wounds, anal sac impaction, and other conditions.

Is Carprofen Safe for My Dog?

Carprofen is a commonly-prescribed pain medication for dogs that is typically well-tolerated. Side effects can occur, however, and it is important to know which side effects to watch for. Being familiar with common side effects can maximize the likelihood that you detect these side effects quickly and address them appropriately. 

If your dog is going to be on carprofen long-term, your veterinarian will likely recommend performing blood tests before starting the medication. These blood tests can help identify factors that may make your dog more susceptible to side effects. Additionally, dogs that remain on carprofen long-term often receive monitoring blood work on a regular basis, typically every three to six months. Monitoring blood work can help your veterinarian detect possible side effects early, before they cause serious illness in your dog. 

Carprofen Side Effects in Dogs

The majority of dogs do not develop any side effects while taking carprofen. In dogs that do experience side effects, however, the most common side effects are gastrointestinal in nature. Affected dogs may develop vomiting, diarrhea, or a decreased appetite. In many cases, these gastrointestinal side effects can be minimized by giving the medication with a full meal. Less commonly, dogs may develop kidney disease or liver disease as a result of carprofen. 

Potential side effects that may be associated with carprofen may include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tarry or bloody stool
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst/urination
  • Other urinary changes
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin/eyes)
  • Neurologic effects, such as weakness or incoordination
  • Skin inflammation or redness

If your dog shows possible side effects that may be associated with carprofen, stop giving the medication immediately. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible and describe the effects your dog is experiencing. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether a medication change may be needed.  

Reactions With Other Drugs and Medications

Carprofen should never be given in conjunction with other NSAIDs (such as meloxicam, deracoxib, firocoxib, grapiprant, or aspirin) or corticosteroids (such as prednisone). Other medications that may interact with NSAIDs include cyclosporine, anticoagulants, digoxin, and ACE inhibitors. 

To minimize the risk of drug interactions, be sure that your veterinarian is aware of any other medications that your dog is receiving. If you are giving any vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies at home, your veterinarian should also be aware of these substances.

Carprofen Dosage for Dogs

Pet owner giving dog a pill

Your veterinarian will prescribe an appropriate dose of carprofen for your dog, based on your dog’s weight and overall health status. Carprofen may be prescribed for once-daily or twice-daily dosing. A dog’s total overall daily drug dose is the same regardless of whether the medication is given once or twice daily; the only difference is whether you give your dog’s full daily dose at one time or split it into two smaller doses. Your veterinarian will recommend the best dosing regimen for your dog’s condition and overall health status. 

What if My Dog Misses a Dose of Carprofen?

If your dog misses a dose of carprofen, you have two options. 

If it is almost time for your dog’s next medication dose, simply wait and give the next dose on schedule. Then, follow your regular dosing schedule. 

If you realize that you missed a dose and it is not yet time for your dog’s next dose, you may want to give the missed dose immediately. If you do this, be sure to wait 12-24 hours before giving the next medication dose, as directed by your veterinarian on the prescription label. 

Price of Carprofen for Dogs

The price of carprofen can vary considerably, based on your dog’s size and whether your dog is taking a name-brand or generic formulation of carprofen. In general, generic formulations are less expensive than name brands. 

You can expect to pay anywhere from 50 cents to $5 per day for carprofen, depending on your dog’s size and whether you purchase brand-name or generic.

Carprofen Storage Instructions

Carprofen should be stored at room temperature. You can safely store this medication on your counter or in a cabinet. 

Flavored, chewable carprofen tablets are often very appealing to dogs and even some cats. Therefore, flavored carprofen chews should always be stored safely out of reach of animals (and children). Food-motivated pets can chew through medication bottles and overdose on carprofen, potentially leading to significant side effects.

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