Share this article

print logo

Pets: Gauging trade-offs of Rimadyl

Q: I’m curious if you’ve ever done a follow-up to your series of columns “Rimadyl: Friend or Foe?” All these years later (the columns the reader refers were published in 2002), have the drug’s benefits outweighed the risks? Our beloved dog, Hannah, was prescribed Rimadyl and became a statistic, as one pill caused sudden death. I believe veterinarians still hand out Rimadyl without indicating the possible side effects. I still carry the guilt that we did a terrible thing. What do you think?

A.H., Cyberspace

A: Let me begin by offering my condolences for your loss, which understandably still disturbs you all these years later.

Rimadyl was the first nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) specifically created for dogs. Today, there are many similar drugs.

I recall writing about what was then a soon-to-be-released revolutionary drug that would help dogs with postsurgical or chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis. Veterinarians soon saw lines outside their doors of desperate clients eager to help their pets.

Because demand was overwhelming, and also because there had never been a drug like Rimadyl before, veterinarians were caught somewhat off-guard. Often, individual dogs weren’t first tested to ensure that they were good candidates for the drug. Veterinarians sometimes failed to warn owners about all possible side effects. Also, without previous real-life experience with these side effects, some weren’t fully understood. All this, combined with the sheer number of dogs on Rimadyl, multiplied the problem.

Of course, if we only knew then what we know today, a good percentage of those adverse reactions might not have occurred.

However, there was one more factor that played a role in disseminating both information and misinformation about Rimadyl: the Internet.

To directly answer your question, Rimadyl (carprofen is the generic name) has saved lives and benefited millions of dogs. Today, most veterinarians do warn owners about the possible side effects of any drug, including Rimadyl. I pushed for this, as did many others. After all, our pets can’t read warning labels.

Given to the right dog, for the right purpose, the benefits of Rimadyl (or any of the current list of NSAID drugs) certainly outweigh the risks.

Unless you conducted an animal autopsy, I’m uncertain whether you could pinpoint Rimadyl as the cause of Hannah’s death, since it’s exceedingly rare for the drug to cause sudden death. While sudden death in cats (due to heart disease) is sadly somewhat common, it’s rare in dogs. Today, veterinarians could only speculate on what happened to your best pal. I’m not suggesting that Rimadyl wasn’t the cause of death. I am saying that cause and effect aren’t always as clear as we think.


Q: Unfortunately, I’m allergic to cats, so we have dogs. There are many outdoor cats in our area. Their owners don’t seem to understand that I don’t want cats in our yard, leaving their urine behind. We’ve tried putting cayenne pepper at spots where the cats mark. What else can we do?

– B.A., Brockton, Mass.

Q: I’m tired of cats using my garden as their litter box. I know who these cats belong to, but she doesn’t seem to care. I’m ready to trap them and take them to a shelter. I can’t bring myself to do it yet, but I’m getting close.

– T.A., Appleton, Wis.

A: I agree that both cat owners are not being neighborly. For starters, allowing cats to roam isn’t in the pets’ best interest, as they’re prone to being hit by cars and exposed to inclement weather, other cats and predators, not to mention the garden issue.

There are repellents available, including coyote urine (though you have to reapply after it rains). Another option is a motion-detector sprinkler that sprays water when it senses movement. One model is called the Scarecrow.

For both readers, if you know the cats’ owners, try chatting with them. Some cats that have lived outdoors all their lives resist switching to the indoor life, while others seem downright grateful, particularly when their indoor environment is enriched with toys and other enticements.

For T.A., the frustration is palpable, and I suppose that if the cats are on the property, there’s a legal right to take them to a shelter.

I’m not sure that’s the ethical thing to do, however. In a shelter, the cats could be euthanized. Death is an awfully harsh penalty for animals whose only crime was to have irresponsible owners.