Dog needs checkup before being given drug for arthritis

Can you tell me something about a new drug for arthritis called Deramaxx? My 9-year-old Lab, Max, has been taking Rimadyl for more than a year, but this new product sounds as if it might be better for him. He’s doing OK, but I worry about long-term problems that can occur by using Rimadyl. What are your thoughts?

First, I would strongly recommend against using Rimadyl in Labs (and I try to avoid it in golden retrievers as well) since Labs have an idiosyncratic reaction that can involve fatal liver failure. Even a few doses can cause illness in some retrievers. If a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) needs to be used in these breeds, I prefer to prescribe EtoGesic or Deramaxx, which so far have not caused these idiosyncratic reactions. Second, I am opposed to using NSAIDs for long-term control of arthritis. There are many safer and less expensive alternative therapies. I have never had to treat any dog with arthritis with chronic NSAID therapy.

Deramaxx belongs to a new class of NSAIDs that preferentially inhibit activity of the COX-2 enzyme (the bad enzyme that causes pain, inflammation and cartilage damage), while minimizing inhibition of the COX-1 enzyme (the good enzyme that maintains normal function of the kidneys and gastrointestinal system).

Deramaxx product literature reveals erosions of the intestines at 2.5 times label dose, and as dosage increases so does kidney damage. To quote the company’s literature: “All dogs should undergo a thorough history and physical examination before the initiation of NSAID therapy. Appropriate laboratory tests to establish hematolgical and serum biochemical baseline data prior to administration of any NSAID is recommended.”

Sadly, few dogs have this extensive and regular testing prior to chronic administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which is why I see their owners bringing them in for second opinions for treatment of serious side effects. I have been able to help all of these pets with aggressive integrative therapies. My recommendation is to use NSAID therapy as needed for control of severe pain in dogs with arthritis (or in the immediate postoperative period following any surgery in which pain is possible, such as spaying and neutering) and to rely on more natural therapies (acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, joint supplements, etc.) for long-term relief.

:quot; Shawn P. Messonnier is a veterinarian and pet care advocate.