Q: My dog has bad arthritis in his knee. I've read a lot of stuff about Rimadyl that scares me, so I'm thinking of using Zubrin -- or do you have any suggestions about what might be safer? -- V.W., via Cyberspace
A: Well, you're not going to use Zubrin. The drug is no longer available. This has nothing to do with safety, but instead with mergers and acquisitions and related business decisions.
Dr. Robin Downing, past president and founder of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and a certified pain practitioner, says, "Don't believe all the untrue hoo-ha on Rimadyl and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for dogs. Each of these (NSAID) drugs are very effective, but like most drugs not without potential side effects. The risk is similar (for each of the NSAID drugs for dogs), though one individual dog might have an adverse event with one drug but not another."
Though they are all similar, some NSAID drugs might be more effective for some individual dogs than others. "If one drug doesn't seem to be as efficacious as expected, we often advise another," adds Downing, of Windsor, CO. She adds that NSAID drugs should never be "given in a vacuum." Blood work should always be done before prescribing a drug, and over the course of a drug's use. Regular veterinary visits are important to keep tabs on how the dog is doing.
By diminishing pain, a NSAID drug may make it possible for a dog to exercise (talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate workout). Physical therapy (including underwater treadmill), acupuncture, chiropractic and therapeutic laser may also help. The most important factor may be weight loss.
"The best answer is multimodal therapies designed specifically for each individual," adds Downing. "In the end, most dogs can live virtually pain free."
Q: Our veterinarian says my cat, Tabitha. has arthritis. I never knew cats could get arthritis. I suppose it makes sense, since Tabitha is 16. She doesn't act lame, though. My vet suggested a drug called Metcam, but I've read bad things on the Internet about this drug, and it scares me. What do you think? -- V.D., St. Paul, MN
A: Cats are indeed prone to osteoarthritis, as are people and dogs. However, cats are typically so good at masking pain that they don't act lame. Look for more subtle signs, like not jumping up on the counters or not scampering up and down stairs as enthusiastically as before.
It's true that the FDA and the drug manufacturer issued a "black box" (or warning) about the use of Metacam, but Dr. Robin Downing, past president and founder of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and a certified pain practitioner, notes that used appropriately, this non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug is safe for cats.
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