NSAIDS, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, are commonly used (I would even say overused) for people and pets with inflammatory conditions, especially osteoarthritis. But it's been conservatively estimated that approximately 20,000 people die from NSAID-related deaths each year—and that includes only those patients who are taking NSAID therapy for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (so that number doesn't account for over-the-counter usage or usage for any other problems). We don't have similar figures for veterinary patients, but my clinical experience has convinced me that NSAIDs do contribute to a variety of medical problems in our older patients. Therefore, it's vitally important that we use them as safely as possible, so we can minimize side effects, decrease costs, and reduce the number of preventable deaths due to this potent class of medication.
I've found that most older arthritic dogs and cats don't require regular NSAID therapy. Instead, a number of natural therapies can be used to minimize pain, decrease inflammation, and help damaged joints heal.
For my patients, I usually recommend high doses of fish oil, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory herbs and homeopathics, cold level laser therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture. I advise owners to give nonsteroidals only when the pet is having a particularly painful day—and then I recommend an initial dose of no more than 50% of the label or typically prescribed dosage. This lower dosing regimen is usually enough to make the pet comfortable without resulting in any side effects.