Diclofenac Use in Dogs

By Jane Meggitt

Your doctor might prescribe diclofenac if you suffer from arthritis. The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug combats pain and inflammation in people. But that's not what diclofenac is used for in dogs -- in fact, the tablet form is contraindicated for canines. Your vet might prescribe diclofenac in a topical form to treat certain eye issues. Diclofenac is approved for use only in humans, but U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations allow veterinarians to prescribe it in an off-label capacity.

Diclofenac Sodium

Diclofenac sodium works by inhibiting prostaglandin production, which aids in decreasing inflammatory responses. In humans, it is prescribed for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as for migraine headaches and menstrual cramping. It is contraindicated for human patients with history of heart disease, stroke, clotting, hypertension ,or liver or kidney ailments -- but those aren't issues in canines, since diclofenac is used almost exclusively to treat ophthalmic problems.

Diclofenac Uses in Dogs

In dogs, diclofenac serves primarily to treat eye diseases, particularly iritis and anterior uveitis. The latter condition is chronic and especially painful, so diclofenac use may be long-term. If your dog is scheduled for eye surgery, the vet may administer diclofenac sodium, marketed under the name Volteran, before and after the operation to control inflammation.

In a study published in 2011 in the "Asian Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances," diclofenac was used as a post-operative painkiller in 20 dogs undergoing spay surgery. The study concluded that it was an "excellent analgesic" for healthy dogs undergoing this surgery. It's important to keep in mind that these tests were performed under controlled veterinary conditions.

Side Effects

The side effects of diclofenac use as a topical eye treatment in dogs are minimal. However, if a dog consumes a diclofenac tablet, he requires an immediate trip to the emergency vet. NSAIDs can cause serious side effects in canines, including stomach ulceration, kidney failure and even death. Signs of diclofenac poisoning in dogs includevomiting, perhaps with blood in it; diarrhea or dark, tarry stools; appetite loss; lethargy; and seizures.

Diclofenac Contraindications

Dogs with glaucoma should not receive diclofenac. If your dog is prescribed the medication for long-term use, your vet will monitor eye pressure regularly for signs of glaucoma. Don't put diclofenac in a dog's eyes if they are bleeding. If your pet suffers from a corneal ulcer, he should not receive the drug, as it can slow wound healing. Dogs receiving corticosteroids should not receive diclofenac. Tell your vet about any medications or supplements you give your dog.