NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications) are commonly used (I would say overused) in people and pets with various inflammatory conditions, especially osteoarthritis. It has been conservatively estimated at approximately 20,000 people die from NSAID related deaths each year, and this only includes those patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis for whom NSAID therapy has been prescribed (it does not include over-the-counter usage or usage for any other problems.) Similar figures are not available for veterinary patients, but 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 if and when NSAID therapy is necessary for our arthritic pets, they be used as safely as possible to minimize side effects, decrease costs, and reduce the number of preventable deaths due to this potent class of medication.
In my practice, most older arthritic dogs and cats rarely require regular NSAID therapy. Instead, a number of natural therapies are used to minimize pain, decrease inflammation, and help damaged joints heal. These natural therapies can include but are not limited to high-dose fish oil, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory herbs and homeopathics, cold level laser therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture. Nonsteroidals are only given by the owner when the pet experiences a particularly painful day. On that day, owners are instructed to use an initial dose of no more than 50% of the label or typically prescribed dosage. This lower dosing regimen is usually adequate to make the pet comfortable and yet not experience any side effects.
Using nonsteroidals in this way (low dosage, as needed basis) is the safest way to control pain and inflammation.
This is a topic I deal with on a daily basis as pet owners come to my practice to learn how to use natural therapies to help their pets avoid disease and live longer healthier lives. As is true with people, using nutritional supplements can enhance the health benefits of a properly prepared natural diet (while supplements are still important if your pet is eating a less than ideal diet, no supplement to make a poor diet better. Therefore it’s important to make sure your pet is eating a great diet in addition to using nutritional supplements.)
There are many different supplements I prescribe depending upon the pet’s condition. For the sake of your question, I will assume your pet is normal and healthy and does not have any particular medical problems.
I like to start with a basic all-around health-maintenance formula. While there are several of these on the market, the one I most consistently prescribe for my patients is called Vim & Vigor by Pet Togethers (note-I am a consultant for this company because I absolutely LOVE their product and seen wonderful benefits for my patients take it.) The basic health-maintenance formula should contain vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and nutrients such as glucosamine and enzymes to support the various systems in the body (gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, urinary, etc.)
For pets five years of age and older, I also prescribe Cholodin (made by MVP Labs) in addition to Vim & Vigor. Research I have done the product shows it is an effective treatment for cognitive disorder (doggie and kitty Alzheimer’s) and reduces the chance your pet will ever develop cognitive disorder as it ages (cognitive disorder is the most common chronic degenerative nerve condition of older pets.) For older pets that have developed arthritis or are likely to develop arthritis I prefer another product made by MVP Labs called Cholodin Flex, which is essentially their Cholodin supplement plus hyaluronic acid to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritic joints.
I also think that pets can benefit from fatty acids (I like the balanced fatty acid liquid made by RX Vitamins for Pets called Ultra EFA,) antioxidants (I like Proanthozone made by Animal Health Options and Super Ox made by Nutriwest) and enzymes (I like a product called RX Zyme, also made by RX Vitamins)
To make administration of supplements easy, I try to prescribe products that are specifically formulated for pets and are made in flavored vehicles (flavored chewable treats or flavored liquids.) I encourage you to work with your veterinarian to find the best products to help keep your pet healthy!