5 Rimadyl Alternatives (Drugs & Natural Remedies)

Rimadyl® (carprofen) was approved for use in dog in 1996. Before then, we had to rely on anti-inflammatory drugs originally intended for humans and horses to treat painful dogs. Some of those medications were too harsh for dogs and caused severe side effects. Rimadyl was a welcome medical advancement for treating dogs.  

Good Rimadyl alternatives include Metacam®, Deramaxx®, Galliprant® and Previcox®. Opioids, injectable glycosaminoglycans and corticosteroids like prednisone are all good options in some cases. We don’t have as much evidence to support the use of non-prescription supplements but they seem to help some dogs. 


What is the drug called carprofen?

Before we discuss alternatives, let’s make sure you understand carprofen itself.

Carprofen is the generic name for the active ingredient in Rimadyl. It’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in the propionic acid class. It inhibits an inflammatory enzyme, cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2). Other similar enzymes help protect body tissues including the stomach lining.

Earlier NSAIDs like aspirin inhibited more types of enzymes which left the stomach less protected from ulcers. Because carprofen is more selective for inhibiting mostly the COX-2 enzyme, side effects occur less frequently in dogs. 

Veterinarians prescribe carprofen every day to treat dogs for

  • Any kind of pain
  • Sudden joint inflammation and pain
  • Chronic arthritis pain
  • Injury pain
  • Post-surgical pain
  • Inflammation associated with fevers

Dogs who 6 weeks and older can be treated with carprofen.  

Dosage sizes include 25 mg, 75 mg and 100 mg. The brand name drug Rimadyl is supplied as caplets or chewable tablets. It also comes in an injectable form. Generic forms of carprofen may be available in soft chews or other forms.

Carprofen is labeled to be given either once or twice a day.

Many vets reach for carprofen over other veterinary NSAIDs because it’s been around a long time. There is a lot of data about which dogs tolerate it well and which ones shouldn’t take it.

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What are the side effects of carprofen and other NSAIDs?

Like most drugs, carprofen can cause some side effects. Diarrhea, vomiting and poor appetite are the most common adverse reactions seen in dogs. Pet owners might notice these symptoms right away or after several weeks of taking the medication.

Some dogs develop elevation of liver enzymes or stomach ulcer. Kidney toxicity, liver toxicity, and blood clotting problems are seen less frequently.

Some veterinarians recommend checking baseline bloodwork before starting the medication. This is done to identify any kidney or liver problems your dog already has that might make them a poor candidate for carprofen. Your vet may recommend running blood tests periodically on dogs needing to take the medication over a longer period of time.

Carprofen is not the only medication that requires these precautions. In fact, any dog NSAID can cause side effects and should be used with great care.


1. Alternative NSAIDs for Dogs

There are two cyclo-oxygenase enzymes in a dog’s body: COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 enzymes are protective to body tissues while COX-2 enzymes are more involved in creating pain. NSAIDs can inhibit both types of enzymes. But blocking COX-1 is undesirable as it prevents them from protecting and may cause diarrhea, vomiting and GI ulceration. That’s why it’s better to use NSAIDs that mostly block COX-2.

Carprofen blocks mostly COX-2 while aspirin blocks both COX-1 and 2. Aspirin is much more likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects than carprofen.

Fortunately, we have a lot of NSAIDs to choose from these days. Different drugs work well for different dogs. So if your pup has GI symptoms with one, ask your vet if you should try a different NSAID.

NSAID Alternatives to Rimadyl for Dogs

NSAID TypeCoxibOxicamCoxibPGE2/EP4 antagonist
Label UsesCanine osteoarthritis, Post-op pain,Canine osteoarthritisCanine osteoarthritis, Post-op painCanine osteoarthritis
Age  4 months and older6 months and older7 months and older9 months and older
Dosing ModeChewable tabletLiquid, injectionChewable tabletChewable tablet
Dog Size RequirementOnly use the 12 mg tablets for dogs less than 12.5 lbDogs less than 12.5 lb. can’t be accurately dosedUntested in dogs less than 8 lb.

Deracoxib (Deramaxx®)

Deramaxx first became available in 2002. It is approved for use in dogs to treat osteoarthritis pain and inflammation as well as treating post-surgical pain. 

This drug is a coxib that blocks cyclooxygenase-2 without affecting cyclooxygenase-1 much. The manufacturer is Elanco who supply Deramaxx in chewable tablet form. Pill strengths include 12 mg, 25 mg, 50 mg, 75 mg and 100 mg. The label instructs once-a-day dosing.  

Meloxicam (Metacam®)

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica introduced the veterinary drug Metacam in 2003.

This oxicam class drug is a COX-2 inhibitor. It’s supplied in liquid form for oral dosing in two strengths: 1.5 mg/mL and 0.5 mg/mL. Veterinarians can also use an injectable version of Metacam. Metacam is to be given a once a day. 

Firocoxib (Previcox®)

Merial started providing Previcox for dogs in 2004. It is labeled for treating pain caused by surgery and osteoarthritis. 

Previcox is a coxib-type of NSAID. It is to be given orally once a day. It is available as chewable tablets in 227 mg and 57 mg strengths.  

Grapiprant (Galliprant®) 

Elanco started selling Galliprant in 2016 as a treatment for osteoarthritis inflammation and pain in dogs.

Unlike traditional NSAIDs, it works by blocking a specific prostaglandin receptor instead of suppressing cyclooxygenase. This means it can reduce pain while still preserving the helpful prostaglandin functions, making kidney and stomach issues less likely to occur.

However, it can still cause problems for some dogs. Therefore, it’s recommended to check blood tests prior to starting a long-term regimen of Galliprant. Pet owners still need to monitor dogs for vomiting and diarrhea, which are the most common side effects.

Galliprant is a once-a-day oral medication that is supplied is 20 mg, 60 mg and 100 mg chewable tablets. No testing of this drug has been done on: dogs under 9 months old, dogs under 8 pounds or dogs who are pregnant or nursing. Pet owners and vets should monitor dogs for adverse reactions. 

Piroxicam (Feldene®)

Just because an anti-inflammatory drug is the strongest one available doesn’t mean it’s the best option.

Piroxicam, an oxicam NSAID originally made for human use, is very potent but more likely to cause side effects than NSAIDs made explicitly for dogs. Due to its higher likelihood of causing kidney and gastrointestinal adverse effects, veterinarians usually only prescribe it in specific situations such as certain cancer treatments. It is seldom used for canine arthritis pain.

It’s crucial to monitor dogs closely while taking this drug, and a veterinarian should oversee the entire process.

Monitoring Dogs on NSAIDs

Take the following precautions when your dog is taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

  • Only use one NSAID product at a time. If you need to change to another product, consult your vet about how long you need to wait in between switching.
  • Steroid drugs can cause problems for dogs who are taking NSAIDs. Ask your vet before giving corticosteroids medicines including dexamethasone, prednisolone, prednisone or methylprednisolone. You will need to allow some time in between if you need to switch your dog from NSAIDs to steroids or vice-versa. Consult your vet to find out how long to wait. 
  • Only give the dosage amount as directed on the prescription label. Giving a higher or more frequent dose can cause serious side effects.
  • Discuss with your vet all vitamins, herbs and supplements your dog is taking. Some can cause problems for dogs taking NSAIDs.
  • Watch for any unusual symptoms including but not limited to diarrhea, vomiting and poor appetite. Call your vet immediately for advice. 
  • Be sure to keep appointments for rechecks with your veterinarian. Periodic physical exams and monitoring blood tests can help keep your dog safe and feeling well.

2. Opioids & Other Analgesics

NSAIDs are not appropriate for all dogs. Some dogs have too many side effects and other dogs require incompatible drugs, such as prednisone. However, the following medications can treat pain even though they aren’t a substitutes for carprofen.

In cases where dogs have severe pain resulting from fractured bones or cancer, potent pain medications like opioids may be necessary.

Hydrocodone and other opiates are usually given to dogs in a veterinary hospital, but some outpatient treatment options exist. Keep in mind that these drugs can cause significant side effects such as increased sleeping, lethargy, diarrhea or constipation and sometimes vomiting.


Tramadol is a pain medication that is similar to opioids. Experts disagree as to whether is is very effective for treating painful dogs. Certain pain conditions seem to respond better, including back pain. 

Drowsiness is possible with this drug but it’s not as severe as the side effects caused by opioids like morphine or hydrocodone.


Gabapentin is the generic name for Neurontin® which is a human anti-seizure medication.

Scientists later discovered it had some pain-relieving effects for both people and animals. Although currently used as a pain reliever in dogs, we need further research to determine how effective it is. While vets have varying opinions using gabapentin to treat pain from osteoarthritis in dogs, it appears to work well for nerve-related pain.

Gabapentin may cause side effects similar to those seen with opioids, such as sleepiness and a trouble walking. Most dogs adjust to the medication with side effects becoming less severe after several days.

3. Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are man-made versions of natural hormones that have various functions, including quelling inflammation.

Two commonly used corticosteroids are prednisolone and prednisone, often referred to as “steroids.” However, they are not the same as the anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders.

Although corticosteroids have potent anti-inflammatory effects, they can cause adverse effects, including increased appetite, thirst and urination. Excessive panting is also common. Chronic use may lead to liver changes and/or weak muscles.

Steroids are sometimes use as a short-term treatment for inflammation. But long-term use causes so many side effects, other drugs are prescribed instead.

Steroids and NSAIDs like carprofen are rarely compatible in dogs. Using both drugs simultaneously increases the risk of ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems. Consult your vet before you switch between NSAIDs and steroids.

4. Injectable Glycosaminoglycans

Adequan® is an injectable glycosaminoglycans used for canine osteoarthritis pain. These natural compounds may help normalize tissues in the joints, reducing inflammation and pain. The compound is similar to oral glucosamine but the injectable form appears to be more effective than oral glucosamine supplements.

Typically, pet owners take their dogs to a veterinarian for an Adequan injection. Some owners may be able to give the monthly injection at home.

Although Adequan injections are more costly than carprofen, the potential benefits make it worth the expense. Additionally, Adequan can be used in conjunction with NSAIDs to effectively manage osteoarthritis pain with minimal side effects.

5. Non-Drug Natural Pain Relief

Although natural alternatives are advertised as NSAID substitutes for dogs, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness. I’ve found that natural remedies are rarely as potent as carprofen.

Nonetheless, you might consider trying these supplements. They’re occasionally effective in treating mild forms of chronic pain with or without concurrent use of NSAIDs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs) are naturally-occuring nutritional fats that help fight inflammation. OFAs are present in high concentrations in fish oil.

We have good scientific evidence to support using OFAs to help dogs with pain and inflammation. For example, a 2013 study found that dogs who took fish oil plus carprofen for arthritis pain required less carprofen to remain comfortable (4).

Most dogs do well with fish oil supplements as long as you give the recommended dosage.

Chondroitin, Glucosamine, Etc.

Chondroitin and glucosamine occur naturally in a dog’s cartilage and joints. They are often administered orally to alleviate osteoarthritis pain and enhance joint health.

The effectiveness of this treatment is a matter of debate, with conflicting evidence. (1) However, since glucosamine and chondroitin are well-tolerated and may provide relief for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis pain, veterinarians continue to prescribe them. Cosequin® and Dasuquin® are popular brands with proven histories of quality.


Curcumin is the active compound derived from the cooking spice, turmeric. Traditional medicine practitioners have used it an anti-inflammatory for centuries. However, the scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness in treating canine pain and inflammation is mixed.

Orally administered turmeric is not very effective because not much is absorbed. Scientists are exploring new methods to deliver the active components of turmeric to areas of inflammation. Researchers have developed a particular way of processing turmeric that is thought to make it more effective. Turmeric derived from this process is called “Meriva.”


Traditional medicine has long used herbals to alleviate pain in humans as well as in animals. However, the effectiveness of most herbs is still debatable due to conflicting reports from researchers.

Boswellia is an exception, with some scientific evidence to support its use to for canine osteoarthritis pain. A study published in 2004 reported significant improvement in dog’s osteoarthritis symptoms after six weeks of taking Boswellia resin extract. (7)

While small amounts herbs are generally safe, larger doses may cause significant problems. You should seek the guidance of a veterinarian experienced in the use of herbal medicines before trying them on your dog.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound extracted from cannabis plants. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using CBD oil for various health issues in dogs.

Although some research has shown benefits of using CBD to treat dogs for pain, seizures and other health conditions, other studies have not found significant benefits. (2,3)

Currently, there is insufficient evidence supporting the use of CBD oil for treating any condition in dogs. Far from being without risks, CBD can cause liver changes and other adverse effects in dogs. For these reasons, CBD is not a supplement most vets recommend routinely.


Can I Give Rimadyl/Carprofen Long-Term?

Can carprofen be given to a dog daily for a long time? Yes researchers have shown that the drug can be given over a long period of time safely.

There has been some concern that carprofen inhibits healing as found in a study done on dogs undergoing tibial plateau-leveling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery.(6) Veterinarians and pet owners need to be diligent about monitoring for side effects and complications during use of the NSAID.

Carprofen can cause elevated liver enzymes and kidney trouble. Monitoring blood and urine can help catch problems early. You should also watch for 

  • Losing weight
  • Poor appetite
  • Increased drinking
  • Increased urination
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

Be aware that other medications may cause problems when given with NSAIDs. Discuss all drugs and supplements your dog is taking with your vet.  

Carprovet (Rimadyl alternatives)

Is Generic Carprofen Any Good?

Rimadyl is the brand name for the drug carprofen so they’re actually one and the same drug. Most veterinarians feel that the generic version produces similar benefits to the brand-name medication.

Several generic versions of carprofen are available. Like most generic drugs, they usually cost less than Rimadyl. Some common generics versions of carprofen are

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

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

You cannot buy carprofen for dogs without a prescription in the U.S.. People ask why a prescription is required when ibuprofen and aspirin and ibuprofen are sold over-the-counter.

The big reason is that dogs are physiologically much more sensitive to the effects of NSAIDs than humans are. So dogs are more likely than humans to have serious side effects when taking drugs like carprofen. It’s safer to give NSAIDs with supervision from a veterinarian. 

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  1. Fernández-Martín, S., González-Cantalapiedra, A., Muñoz, F., García-González, M., Permuy, M., & López-Peña, M. (2021). Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate: Is There Any Scientific Evidence for Their Effectiveness as Disease-Modifying Drugs in Knee Osteoarthritis Preclinical Studies?—A Systematic Review from 2000 to 2021. Animals, 11(6), 1608.
  2. Gamble, L. J., Boesch, J. M., Frye, C. W., Schwark, W. S., Mann, S., Wolfe, L., … & Wakshlag, J. J. (2018). Pharmacokinetics, safety, and clinical efficacy of cannabidiol treatment in osteoarthritic dogs. Frontiers in veterinary science, 5, 165.
  3. Mejia, S., Duerr, F. M., Griffenhagen, G., & McGrath, S. (2021). Evaluation of the Effect of Cannabidiol on Naturally Occurring Osteoarthritis-Associated Pain: A Pilot Study in Dogs. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 57(2), 81-90.
  4. Moreau, M., Troncy, E., Del Castillo, J. R. E., Bedard, C., Gauvin, D., & Lussier, B. (2013). Effects of feeding a high omega-3 fatty acids diet in dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis. Journal of animal physiology and animal nutrition, 97(5), 830-837.
  5. Reichling, J., Schmökel, H., Fitzi, J., Bucher, S., & Saller, R. (2004). Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease. Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde, 146(2), 71-79.
  6. Sandersoln, R. O., Beata, C., Flipo, R. M., Genevois, J. P., Macias, C., Tacke, S., … & Innes, J. F. (2009). Systematic review of the management of canine osteoarthritis. Veterinary Record, 164(14), 418-424.
  7. Vuolteenaho, K., Moilanen, T., & Moilanen, E. (2008). Non‐steroidal anti‐inflammatory drugs, cyclooxygenase‐2 and the bone healing process. Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology, 102(1), 10-14.