I remember back in 1996 when Rimadyl® (carprofen) first became available for veterinary patients. Before that, we only had human and horse anti-inflammatories to treat pain in dogs. And those caused serious adverse reactions in some dogs. Rimadyl came as a welcomed innovation in pain and inflammation control in dogs. 

Today, there are many Rimadyl alternatives including Deramaxx®, Metacam®, Previcox® and Galliprant®. Vets also prescribe opioids, injectable Adequan® and good old corticosteroids. Nutritional and herbal supplements are less proven in treating pain and inflammation in dogs. 

13 Rimadyl Alternatives for Dogs

Here’s a list of the carprofen alternatives I will discuss in this article. There are many others, but I’ve chosen these because they are the most likely to be effective.

  1. Deracoxib
  2. Meloxicam
  3. Firocoxib
  4. Grapiprant
  5. Piroxicam
  6. Opioids & tramadol
  7. Gabapentin
  8. Injectable glycosaminoglycans
  9. Corticosteroids
  10. Fish oil
  11. Glucosamine & chondroitin
  12. Turmeric/curcumin
  13. Boswellia

What Is Carprofen for Dogs?

Carprofen is in the propionic acid class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It selectively inhibits the inflammatory enzymes called cyclo-oxygenase. The way it works causes fewer side effects in dogs than a human NSAID like aspirin. 

Carprofen is one of the most common drugs prescribed for dogs by veterinarians for

  • General pain relief
  • Acute joint pain
  • Chronic pain from arthritis
  • Pain and inflammation from traumatic injury
  • Pain from surgery
  • Fever

Carprofen may be used in dogs over 6 weeks of age.  

Carprofen comes as a chewable tablet or caplet in dosage sizes 25, 75 and 100 mg. Injectable carprofen is also available for clinical use. 

A dog’s entire dosage can be given once a day or split into two dosages. 

Since carprofen has been around the longest of any of the veterinary NSAIDs, most vets are pretty comfortable with it. We have a good idea of which cases it will work for and which animals might not react well to it.

Rimadyl alternatives (Carprovet)
Generic/alternative brand of carprofen

Carprofen Side Effects

As helpful as carprofen is, it can cause unwanted side effects. Common adverse effects in dogs are vomiting, decreased appetite and diarrhea. These symptoms can occur shortly after starting carprofen or many weeks into therapy.

Liver enzyme elevation and gastric ulcers occur in a few dogs. Other side effects that are seen infrequently include liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, and bleeding abnormalities.

Your veterinarian may recommend screening your dog for pre-existing kidney or liver disease before they start taking carprofen. Dogs taking the drug long-term should have periodic blood tests to make sure everything is still normal.

These side effects and cautions are not unique to carprofen. All of the NSAIDs labeled for use in dogs can cause similar side effects and carry similar warnings.

Giving Carprofen Long-Term

Is it safe to give your dog carprofen caplets or tablets every day for years? Multiple studies have shown that carprofen is safe for long-term use but you should still monitor your dog closely for side effects as listed below.

Vuolteenaho, K. et al. found that long-term use of carprofen inhibited healing after tibial plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO) in dogs.(6) So if your dog is already taking carprofen and is soon having orthopedic surgery, your vet will want to monitor healing closely.

It can cause elevations in liver enzymes and has effects on the kidneys so your vet will want to monitor your dog’s blood and urine. Keep an eye out for 

Keep in mind that NSAIDs are not compatible with all medications. The biggest conflict is steroids–injectable, oral and sometimes even topical steroids can be a problem if your dog is concurrently taking any NSAID. 

Cheaper Alternatives to Rimadyl

Rimadyl vs. carprofen–which is better? Rimadyl is the brand name for the drug carprofen so they’re actually one and the same drug.

Carprofen is now available as a generic drug and may be sold under any of the names listed below. The price is often significantly lower than the brand-name product, Rimadyl. I don’t think there has been a clinical trial on the effectiveness of generic carprofen, from what I’ve seen it seems to work just as well. Some of the names for generic carprofen are

  • Carpaquin
  • Carprieve
  • Carprovet
  • Norocarp
  • Novocox
  • Novox
  • Quellin
  • Rovera
  • Truprofen
  • Vetprofen

Is There an Over-the-Counter Version of Rimadyl?

There is no over-the-counter version of carprofen or any of the NSAIDs made specifically for dogs. So why do you need a prescription from a veterinarian to buy carprofen for your dog? After all, aspirin and ibuprofen are available for human use without a prescription.

Dogs are more likely than humans to have serious side effects when taking drugs like carprofen. That’s why regulatory agencies require the drug to be administered under the care of a veterinarian. 

Carprofen Alternatives–NSAIDs

The main action of NSAIDs is to decrease the formation of cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2), an inflammatory enzyme produced in the body. But there are other cyclo-oxygenases like Cyclo-oxygenase-1 (COX-1) that act in a healing/protective capacity. It can be harmful to block COX-1 enzymes.

NSAIDs that are able to block COX-2 but not COX-1 are less likely to cause bad side effects like vomiting and diarrhea. Older NSAIDs like aspirin block all COX enzymes, including the protective ones. Carprofen is more selective in blocking COX-2 more than COX-1. That’s why dogs tolerate carprofen much better than aspirin.

We are fortunate to have many choices of dog NSAIDs these days. If your dog doesn’t respond well to one, it might be worth trying a different drug. 

Brand NameDeramaxxMetacamPrevicoxGalliprant
Class of NSAIDCoxibOxicamCoxibPGE2/EP4 antagonist
Approved UsesPost-op pain, Canine osteoarthritisCanine osteoarthritisPost-op pain, Canine osteoarthritisCanine osteoarthritis
Youngest Age 4 months6 monthsMay cause problems in puppies under 7 months of age9 months
Form SuppliedChewable tabletLiquid, injectionChewable tabletChewable tablet
Weight RestrictionsOnly use 12 mg tablet to dose dogs under 12.5 poundsCan’t be dosed accurately for dogs under 12.5 poundsNot tested in dogs under 8 pounds

Deramaxx (deracoxib)

This drug was approved by the FDA in 2002 for postoperative pain control plus treatment for pain and inflammation associated with canine osteoarthritis. 

Deramaxx is in the coxib class and selectively inhibits cyclooxygenase-2 while sparing cyclooxygenase-1. It is made by Elanco and comes as a flavored, chewable tablet. Dosage sizes are 12, 25, 50, 75 and 100 mg. The usual dosing regimen involves giving a dog’s entire dose one time per day.  

Metacam (meloxicam)

Metacam is a veterinary drug that was approved for U.S. veterinary use in 2003 and is made by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica.

It is an oxicam NSAID that selectively inhibits cyclooxygenase-2. It comes as a liquid with a concentration of either 0.5 mg/mL or 1.5 mg/mL. It’s also available in an injectable form. The oral liquid form is flavored and the small volume makes it easy to give to a dog by syringe dropper. Metacam is given orally every 24 hours. 

Previcox (firocoxib)

Previcox, made by Merial, was approved by the FDA in 2004 to treat pain from osteoarthritis and postoperative pain. 

This drug is in the coxib class of NSAIDs. Previcox is dosed by mouth every 24 hours and comes in 57 and 227 mg chewable tablets.  

Galliprant (grapiprant) 

Galliprant is sold by Elanco. It was approved in the U.S. in 2016 for use in dogs to treat pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis. 

It works in a slightly different way than traditional NSAIDs. Rather than suppressing cyclooxygenase or other prostaglandins, it blocks a particular prostaglandin receptor

The effect is that pain is decreased while sparing the beneficial functions of prostaglandins. In other words, the risks of stomach and kidney side effects are less than with older NSAIDs.

But that doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe for all dogs. It’s still recommended to run blood tests before starting a chronic regimen of grapiprant. You should also monitor for GI side effects including diarrhea and vomiting. 

Galliprant is supplied as 20, 60 and 100 mg chewable tablets to be given once a day. This medication has not been tested in animals less than 9 months of age, less than 8 lb. or in pregnant or lactating dogs. Appropriate monitoring is recommended if used long-term. 

Feldene® (piroxicam)

The strongest anti-inflammatory available is not necessarily the best or safest drug. 

Piroxicam is a very strong human NSAID in the oxicam class. It’s less specific for COX-2 inhibition than the NSAIDs made just for dogs that I listed above.  

Piroxicam is more likely to cause gastrointestinal and kidney adverse effects than the other NSAIDs listed above. Veterinarians generally use it for treating very specific circumstances like treating certain types of cancer. It is rarely used to treat arthritis pain in dogs.

This drug requires close monitoring by a veterinarian.  

Cautions for Dogs Taking Any NSAID

No matter which NSAID you’re giving your pup, you should follow some general cautions. 

  • Don’t give more than one NSAID at the same time. Ask your vet how long to wait if you’re switching to a different medication.
  • Don’t give steroids like prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone or dexamethasone at the same time as giving NSAIDs. A washout period is recommended between the two types of drugs to prevent side effects like gastric ulceration. Talk to your vet before switching drug classes. 
  • Don’t give more medicine than your veterinarian instructs on the label. Higher dosages are more likely to cause side effects.
  • Ask your veterinarian if any of the nutraceuticals, herbs or supplements you give your arthritic dog could interact badly with NSAIDs. 
  • Do call your veterinarian immediately if you notice vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite or any other new/unusual symptoms. 
  • Do follow your vet’s recommendation for monitoring including physical exam, bloodwork and urine before, during and after giving your dog NSAIDs. This is especially important with chronic use and in dogs with other health conditions. 
senior Golden Retriever

Carprofen Alternatives–Non-NSAIDs

Some dogs can’t tolerate any kind of NSAID due to an intolerance or their need to take an incompatible drug such as a corticosteroid (prednisone). 

While the drugs listed below are not really a substitute for Rimadyl/carprofen, they can help relieve pain. 

Opioids & Tramadol

Strong pain medication like opioids may be used for dogs with severe pain from broken bones or end-stage cancer. 

Opiates like hydrocodone are usually administered in a vet clinic but there are also a few options for outpatient treatment. Side effects include lethargy, increase sleeping, changes in digestion, constipation, diarrhea, and even vomiting sometimes.

Tramadol is not exactly an opioid, but it is similar. The jury is still out on whether tramadol is effective in treating canine pain. It seems to be effective for certain situations like back pain in dogs

Tramadol can cause some drowsiness but it’s usually less pronounced than what we see with drugs like hydrocodone and morphine.


Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin) was originally created as an anti-seizure drug for humans. At some point, scientists realized that it reduced pain in humans and animals. Gabapentin is currently used to treat pain in dogs but more research is needed to understand how to use it effectively. Vets disagree on whether gabapentin is a good treatment for osteoarthritis pain in dogs but it seems to work for some types of neurologic pain.

Gabapentin can cause similar side effects to those of opioids, most notably drowsiness and a wobbly gait. Dogs tend to get used to Gabapentin after a few days and the side effects are less noticeable.

Injectable Glycosaminoglycans

Adequan is a type of injectable glycosaminoglycan that helps relieve arthritis pain in dogs. It contains natural substances that can normalize joint tissue, reducing inflammation and pain. Compared to oral glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, the injectable form of treatment appears to be more effective.

People usually take their dogs to the vet for an injection of Adequan, but some can administer the shot themselves once a month. Although Adequan treatment costs more than carprofen, it’s definitely worth it as it has minimal side effects and works effectively. Moreover, it can be used in combination with NSAIDs for osteoarthritis pain treatment.


Corticosteroids are naturally occurring hormones that serve many functions in the body. 

Prednisolone and prednisone are synthetic corticosteroids that are frequently prescribed for dogs. Many people refer to them as steroids for short, but they’re different from the drugs used by human bodybuilders.

Synthetic corticosteroids are strong anti-inflammatories but cause a lot of unwanted side effects. Most dogs taking high doses of steroids experience increased thirst, increased appetite, increased urination and panting. Long-term use can lead to muscle weakness and liver problems.

Lower doses of steroids may be used short-term as an anti-inflammatory in some situations. But vets don’t usually reach for steroids when a dog needs treatment for longer than a week or two.

It’s important to remember that steroids are almost never compatible with carprofen and other NSAIDs in dogs.

Stomach ulceration, vomiting and diarrhea are more likely to occur when these two types of drugs are used at the same time. If you’re thinking about switching from one to the other, it’s extremely important to talk to your vet about how long you need to wait between using the two drugs.

Carprofen Alternatives–Natural Pain Relievers

There are many natural alternatives promoted as replacements for NSAIDs for dogs. Scientific evidence to support this is lacking. In my experience, none of these natural alternatives are quite as effective as carprofen. 

Still, it may be worth trying one or more of these nutraceuticals. They may be enough to treat mild, chronic pain on their own. Or they may allow a dog owner to decrease their dog’s dosage of carprofen.

Fish Oil

There is quite a bit of research supporting the use of fish oil against inflammation in dogs. Fish oil is unlikely to cause problems for most dogs when given in recommended dosages.

I have written a couple of articles regarding the use of fish oil for dogs with allergies but the dosing can be used for dogs with arthritis pain. 

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural substances found in the joints and cartilage of dogs. These substances have been given to dogs orally to decrease pain from osteoarthritis and improve joint health. 

According to Fernández-Martín, S. et al., there is conflicting evidence on whether this therapy is effective. Since oral glucosamine/chondroitin supplements are unlikely to cause harm and may help dogs with arthritis pain, many veterinarians recommend them. Dasuquin and Cosequin are common brands that have a reliable track record. 


Turmeric comes from a plant root and is used as a spice in cooking. It has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used in traditional medicine for many years. There is mixed scientific evidence to support the use of turmeric to treat pain or inflammation in dogs. 

Unfortunately, turmeric is poorly absorbed when given orally to dogs. Researchers continue to look at new ways to get the active compounds in turmeric into the cells that need it most.

Current thinking is turmeric works best when processed in a very specific way. Look for “Meriva” on the label of turmeric supplements for dogs. Read more: 

Learn more about Turmeric for Dogs

golden turmeric on a white plate with a silver spoon

Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements have been used in traditional medicine to treat pain and inflammation in humans and animals. Most herbs have conflicting research results on whether they’re effective. 

Boswellia is an herb with some research supporting its effectiveness in treating arthritis pain in dogs. A 2004 study found that dogs showed improvement in symptoms of osteoarthritis after taking a Boswellia supplement for 6 weeks.

While most herbs are safe when given in small amounts, some of them can cause serious side effects, especially when given in large amounts. My advice is to get the help of an experienced veterinary herbalist if you want to try herbal medicines for your dog.


CBD, or cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound derived from a cannabis plant. Interest in therapeutic uses of CBD oil in dogs has exploded in the last ten years. 

Researchers continue to look at the risks and benefits of CBD oil to treat seizures, pain and other diseases. Gamble, L. J. et al. found a benefit from CBD and others (including Meija et al.) have found none. 

At this time, there is not enough evidence to recommend CBD for the treatment of any condition and dogs. 

Cannabidiol may lead to increased liver enzymes and other side effects. It’s not a completely safe medication to try without risking any side effects. 

I’ll continue to watch how the situation unfolds and will change my recommendation if more evidence becomes available.

The content provided on NaturalPetsHQ.com is for general information only. It is not meant to replace individualized medical advice from your own veterinarian. Read more on the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use page.

Related Posts: