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Diclofenac use in dogs

Updated July 19, 2017

Diclofenac sodium is a medication that is used for dogs to treat inflammation of the eye. Dogs may also accidentally ingest forms of this drug that are meant for human use. The drug has mild to severe side effects and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified veterinarian.

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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Diclofenac sodium is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs block the cellular production of prostaglandins, chemicals in the body that are responsible for inflammation, pain and fever. Diclofenac sodium is available only through a prescription and should only be used by the person or pet for whom it was prescribed.

Veterinary use of diclofenac

According to information published by PetPlace.com, diclofenac sodium is registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human use only, but veterinarians also legally prescribe it as an extra-label drug. In dogs, diclofenac sodium is most commonly used in solution form to treat inflammation of the eye.

Accidental contact with diclofenac

According to information published by Medline Plus, diclofenac is prescribed for humans to relieve the pain and swelling associated with arthritis. The medication is available in several forms, including pills and topical gels and patches. Accidental ingestion of diclofenac may occur when dogs lick skin where gel has been applied, or chew on patches, pills or pill bottles. Accidental ingestion of human dosage levels of diclofenac can be fatal for dogs.

Diclofenac side effects

Diclofenac shares side effects associated with many NSAIDs including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, decreased appetite and drowsiness. According to an FDA warning letter published in December of 2009, diclofenac-containing products have also been associated with cases of liver toxicity and liver failure. Dogs that are sensitive to other NSAIDs, such as acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), acetaminophen or ibuprofen will likely be sensitive to diclofenac and may exhibit signs of toxicity even when given a proper dose of the drug.

Symptoms of overdose

The Veterinary Partner fact sheet recommends watching for the following symptoms if your dog is being treated with an NSAID like diclofenac: change in appetite, change in urinary habits, vomiting, diarrhoea, black or bloody stools, or a change in behaviour. Similar or more severe reactions can occur if your dog received an accidental dose of the drug and a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.

In an emergency, pet owners can also contact an animal poison control centre. Pet hotlines available include the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435) and the Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680).

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About the Author

Emily Jacobson has been working in online media and publishing for more than two decades. Her articles have been featured on America Online and the Maxwell Institute. She specializes in articles related to science, health and nutrition. Jacobson holds a Bachelor of Science in food science and nutrition.

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