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Prescription Arthritis Medication for Dogs

Everything You Need to Know About Pain and Anti-Inflamator Medication for Dogs

Approximately one in five dogs older than one year of age suffers from arthritis , the painful inflammation and stiffness of joints caused by the natural deterioration of connective tissue. Most common to geriatric dogs, large and giant breed dogs, and overweight dogs- arthritis can cause extreme discomfort and often requires the use of medication to control the pain and inflammation it causes.

Though the risk of developing this degenerative condition can be offset with dietary supplements and low impact exercise, there is no cure for arthritis once it begins to do damage to a dog’s joints. The treatments, therefore, focus on preventing further damage to joints and on reducing the pain associated with mobility. Dogs suffering from arthritic conditions may be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, or polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) to combat the deterioration of joint cartilage and relieve the pain of stiff joints.

NSAIDs- Non-steroidal Inflammatory Drugs

Carprofen is one of the most popular NSAIDs used to treat arthritic conditions in animals. Aside from carprofen, however, metacam is another popular NSAID that is available in an oral suspension for pets with that may be unable to use other prescription medications due to additional health problems.

Metacam (meloxicam) – This medication is available as an oral suspension that begins working 30-60 minutes after administration. The typical dosage of Metacam in dogs is 0.5 mg per pound once a day, following an initial dose of 0.1 mg per pound on the first day. The medication is available as a 1.5 mg/mL suspension in 10 mL, 32 mL, 100 mL, and 180 mL dropper bottles.


Carprofen is available in many forms and is the active ingredient in popular medications such as Quellin, Vetprofen, Rimadyl, and Novox. Carprofen is safe for use in dogs 6 weeks of age or older, though it has not been proven as safe to use in pregnant dogs, dogs used for breeding purposes, or lactating females. The recommended dosage of carprofen is 2 mg per pound of body weight administered daily, or 1 mg per pound administered twice daily. Each of the medications below is scored such that they can be given as half-caplets or chews and is available in dosages of 25 mg, 75 mg, and 100 mg.

Vetprofen – Produced by Vetoquinol, Vetprofen is a carprofen caplet that is used to control postoperative pain and for the relief and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis . It is available in bottles of 60 capsules and 240 capsules for each standard dosage and is highly affordable relative to other carprofen caps or chews.

Rimadyl– A 24-hour NSAID that features a palatable liver flavor, these chewable caplets are produced by Pfizer and also come in bottles of 30, 60 and 180 caplets of each standard dosage. This is one of the most well-known and trusted brands of carprofen on the market.

Novox – A once-daily carprofen caplet that is available in bottles of 30 caplets, 60 caplets, and 180 caplets of each standard dosage. This medication is often used to treat the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and related joint diseases, including hip dysplasia.

Quellin – Produced by Bayer, this form of carprofen is available in a delectable soft chew to make the medicine go down easy. Unlike other medications that may require pill-concealing treats, your dog will actually enjoy eating this soft chew to make administration easy. Quellin is available in bottles of 30, 60 and 180 delectable soft chews.


Though the side effects of carprofen are extremely rare, pets that may be prone to adverse reactions with carprofen could be spared with a unique type of NSAID that inhibits only the enzymes most directly associated with joint inflammation. Firocoxib and deracoxib both belong to this special class of NSAID that minimizes impact on gastrointestinal, hepatic, and renal systems.

Previcox (firocoxib) – Available for dogs weighing at least 12.5 pounds and that are at least 7 months of age, this non-narcotic NSAID features a larger dosage than carprofen of 2.27 mg per pound of body weight. This drug is sold in scored chewable tablets of 57 mg and 227 mg dosages.

Deramaxx (deracoxib) – Comes in a beef-flavored chewable tablet that is easy to administer. This medicine is usually administered with a single daily dose. For controlling osteoarthritis pain and inflammation, the standard dosage is between 0.45 mg and 0.91 mg per pound of body weight. As such, the drug is sold in dosages of 12 mg, 25 mg, 75 mg and 100 mg.

Other Solutions

Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycans (PSGAGs)

One of the best ways to combat arthritis is to provide the glycosaminglycans (GAGs) that compose joint cartilage. An injection of polysulfated GAGs into your pet’s muscles or joints not only provides more raw material for the construction of this protective cartilage, but it also helps slow the damage to existing cartilage and promote enzyme systems that facilitate additional channels of joint repair and maintenance, such as the creation of lubricating synovial fluid.

Adequan (PSGAG) – This polysulfated glucosaminoglycan is derived from cow trachea tissue and consists primarily of chondroitin sulfate. Used primarily to treat arthritic conditions, this medication is injected straight into the joints or muscles of the pet. Though it is available in a dosage for horses, the canine formulation contains 100 mg/mL of polysulfated GAGs that work to facilitate cartilage construction and the production of synovial fluid. It is administered at a typical dosage of 2 mg per pound of body weight (or 0.2 mL per pound of body weight) twice weekly for no more than 4 weeks.


Dexamethasone (corticosteroid) – Used to treat arthritic conditions, allergies, cancers, brain swelling, lupus, and more- this medication reduces inflammation and irritation for dogs of all weights. The dosage can vary greatly depending on its use, so it is available in 0.5 mg, 0.75 mg, 1 mg, 1.5 mg, and 4 mg scored tablets. Dexamethasone suppresses virtually every component of the inflammatory process, a property that makes it a popular anti-inflammatory drug; however, this same quality also increases the likelihood of adverse reactions.

Though there are many more medications that are available to your pet, we believe these to be the top products available for treating arthritis in dogs. We encourage you to ask your veterinarian which treatment is best for your dog.