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Your beloved canine companion is aging – you can see the white fur, the more mellow moods, and finally, a stiffness and unwillingness to get up in the morning. You know it’s arthritis and you don't know what to do. A friend tells you their dog uses etodolac or EtoGesic for arthritis, but their dog is a different breed, and you’re not sure what kind of arthritis your dog has. Is etodolac the right choice? Should you discuss it with your veterinarian? What are the other options? Read on to find out.
WHAT IS ETODOLAC?
Etodolac (Lodine, Lodine XL, EtoGesic) is in a group of medications called NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Drugs like ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin are also in this category.
These drugs work to control pain, reduce inflammation, and decrease fevers. Some are better at certain kinds of pain and inflammation than others, and some have special effects (aspirin can be used in some cases as a “blood thinner” to help with problems involving clotting).
The particular use for etodolac is as a pain medication for dogs. It is thought less likely to cause as many or severe side effects as aspirin or other NSAIDs. It’s used to treat several kinds of pain and can be used for chronic conditions like arthritis.
Like many later NSAIDs, etodolac is prescription only and must be obtained from a veterinarian or a pharmacy after receiving a prescription written by a vet.
IS ETODOLAC SAFE FOR DOGS?
When looking at drug safety, it’s essential to consider how long the drug will be used. Etodolac is not known to cause serious harm to dogs when used in the short term at average doses under the supervision of a veterinarian. However, some types of damage caused by NSAIDs are known to take place over more extended periods.
Few studies look at NSAID safety in dogs in the long term. Even studies that claim to be long-term often define that term as “28 days or more” or “six months” – when they are studying drugs specifically for use in arthritis, a lifelong condition that dogs may have for years.
For this reason, it’s hard to say how safe etodolac is in dogs if used for more than the periods for which it has been studied – but most NSAIDs do have a higher incidence of side effects, including serious side effects and abnormal lab values and tissue changes in the liver and kidneys the longer they are used.
What does this mean? Etodolac used after surgery for a week is likely to be safe and well-tolerated by your dog. Etodolac used for years to treat arthritis may eventually lead to health complications. Each decision is different, and the owner and veterinarian should regularly review long-term use together to determine if the therapy is appropriate to continue or if other options might be better.
Owners should watch for signs of harm – gut issues like vomiting and diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, and cuts or other bleeds that do not stop like they usually would.
WHAT IS ETODOLAC USED FOR IN DOGS?
Etodolac is favored for arthritic pain in dogs, especially osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by joint wear over time, unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by an autoimmune disease attacking the joints.
Studies show it seems to help movement and stiffness in dogs with osteoarthritis. Still, several professional analyses and reviews of the literature rate the evidence for it as “moderate” – meaning it exists but isn’t conclusive, and the studies were not of the best design.
ETODOLAC DOSAGE FOR DOGS
Etodolac is usually dosed at 10-15 mg per kilogram per day.
Etodolac is available in 200mg, 300mg, 400mg, and 500mg doses.
ETODOLAC FOR DOGS SIDE EFFECTS
Side effects recorded in the literature for etodolac include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, gut bleeding, liver problems, kidney problems, blood problems, seizures, heart problems, and skin problems.
Gut problems are the most likely to occur – especially vomiting.
Per the prescribing information, dogs that received etodolac for several months lose weight, have loose stools, and erode the lining of the small intestine.
- Other NSAIDs:
There are many other NSAIDs used in dogs. Some studies support meloxicam as a better choice for osteoarthritis in terms of effectiveness and how well it’s tolerated. Still, all NSAIDs carry the same primary risks for short-term and long-term side effects.
The risks of NSAIDs for dogs are so well known that the FDA requires veterinarians to provide dog owners with a take-home Client Information Sheet and a page with universal Advice for Dog Owners whose pets take NSAIDs.
Any long-term use of NSAIDs in a dog should be considered very carefully by owners and veterinarians in line with the FDA’s guidelines.
- Tylenol (acetaminophen):
Tylenol is not a good option for dogs. At the same time, it’s a good choice for people for many things; for dogs, it’s toxic.
- Turmeric (Curcumin):
According to literature reviews, evidence for using turmeric in dogs for osteoarthritis is lacking. It shows little or no effect on performance or pain measures.
- Physical Therapy:
Several forms of physical therapy lead to significant improvements in joint function for dogs with osteoarthritis. The studied forms of treatment included stretching, swimming, and putting the dogs on a diet to help them lose weight if they were overweight. This approach has no health risk to the dog as long as the dog is healthy enough to engage in these activities. Exercise and using joints, connective tissue, and muscle that do not cause damage make them more limber and muscular. It’s worth talking to your vet about the possible stretches or simple exercises you might be able to help your dog do, and walking/general exercise is almost always a good option.
- Cannabinoids (CBD):
Evidence for CBD is scant compared to NSAIDs like etodolac. Studies show that high-quality CBD extracts can help with anxiety and osteoarthritic pain and have few to no side effects at recommended doses. Evidence for longer-term use of CBD (mostly individual case reports as extensive long-term studies have yet to be done) seems to show few toxicities or dangers.
CBD is an excellent option to discuss with your veterinarian, mainly if your dog has used NSAIDs for a while and is showing unhealthy weight loss, lack of appetite, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Etodolac is effective for osteoarthritis in dogs, but short-term and long-term use may lead to inconvenient, painful, or even seriously harmful side effects. Like all NSAIDs, it falls under the FDA’s warnings about these dangers, and owners should be on the lookout for evidence of toxicity or harm.
A veterinarian should review long-term use regularly, and owners should feel free to ask about other treatments. Is the dog overweight? Would a better diet and more exercise help? What about physical therapy or swimming?
Suppose an owner and veterinarian agree on CBD as a possible alternative to NSAIDs with or without other treatments. In that case, they should take care to source from a high-quality manufacturer offering affordable products. Transparency is a vital part of quality – the manufacturer should make independent third-party lab reports available to the owner to show that CBD strengths are correct in the product and that the product doesn’t contain THC. Too much THC can harm dogs, and anything over the legal limit makes the extract marijuana in the eyes of the government, which makes it an illegal drug.
Once a good manufacturer is found, the owner should work with their vet to establish correct dosing and monitor their dog as recommended by their vet to ensure that the dog reacts well to all treatments and should watch for improvement.