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Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, has been widely and successfully used for human pain relief since 1955. Although Tylenol is approved for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is not approved for animal use. Therefore, there is no safe and/or effective dose for dogs. According to the Animal Poison Control Center, "Acetaminophen toxicosis is usually associated with single acute ingestion, and the primary target organ affected is the liver in dogs."
Dogs are living longer and healthier lives thanks to advances in research, medicine and pharmaceuticals. Living to an advanced age often means living with osteoarthritis, in addition to undergoing increased numbers of surgical procedures with post-operative pain. Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to control these and other types of pain, such as those resulting from minor injuries. As with any pain medication, side effects exist, which is why it is important to consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any drug.
NSAIDs are today's most frequently prescribed pain management drug for humans and animals. According to North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, "Like people, there may be greater differences among individuals in their responses than there are differences among the drugs. In past practice, veterinarians often selected aspirin or phenylbutazone ('bute') as an initial drug, and then progressed to off-label human drugs or other agents as an alternative." However, now several approved NSAIDs exist with excellent published studies.
According to the FDA, "In the United States, NSAIDs commonly used in dogs include EtoGesic (etodolac), Rimadyl (carprofen), Metacam (meloxicam), Zubrin (tepoxalin), Deramaxx (deracoxib), Previcox (firocoxib), and Novox (generic carprofen). The Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine has approved these drugs for use in dogs." In addition, the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994 gives veterinarians discretionary authority to prescribe drugs for "extralabel" uses–those not listed on the drug label.
Your veterinarian should describe the benefits, as well as the risks, of any NSAID he prescribes for your dog. Although veterinarians responsibly prescribe millions of doses of NSAIDs each year, adverse reactions do occur. Most are mild, but some result in serious injury or death, which is why it is important to diligently monitor your dog's health. Most common NSAID side effects are vomiting, loss of appetite, depression/lethargy and diarrhea. More serious effects include gastric ulcers, kidney and liver problems.
Although all drugs approved by the FDA are extensively tested, not all side effects are known, nor are they predictive. According to the FDA, "NSAID therapy can unmask hidden disease, previously undiagnosed due to the absence of apparent clinical signs. Dogs with underlying kidney disease, for example, may experience worsening of that disease while on NSAIDs." Many reactions can be lessened or averted through pet owner education and careful, continuous monitoring of your dog's health.
- dog image by Michal Tudek from Fotolia.com