Editorial note: This post follows up on Leonie Fennell’s post earlier this week – Dogs and Serotonin. The follow up comes from a celebrated event that happened over a decade ago, reported as follows in the WSJ with follow-up comments.
You might call it a made-for-TV drug. Approved for human use in the U.S. but not marketed that way, an arthritis medicine called Rimadyl languished for nearly 10 years in developmental limbo, then emerged in a surprising new form: Instead of a human drug, it was now a drug for arthritic dogs. And it became a hit.
With the aid of slick commercials featuring once-lame dogs bounding happily about, Rimadyl changed the way veterinarians treated dogs. “Clients would walk in and say, `What about this Rimadyl?'” says George Siemering, who practices in Springfield, Va.
Today, those TV spots are gone. The reason has to do with dogs like Montana.
A six-year-old Siberian husky with stiff back legs, Montana hobbled out of a vet’s office in Brooklyn, N.Y., six months ago accompanied by his human, Angela Giglio, and a supply of Rimadyl pills. At first, the drug appeared to work. But then Montana lost his appetite. He went limp, wobbling instead of walking. Finally he didn’t walk at all. He ate leaves, vomited, had seizures and, eventually, was put to sleep. An autopsy showed the sort of liver damage associated with a bad drug reaction.
Pet drugs are big business — an estimated $3 billion world-wide — and Rimadyl is one of the bestsellers. It has been given to more than four million dogs in the U.S. and more abroad, brought Pfizer Inc. tens of millions of dollars in sales, and pleased many veterinarians and dog owners. But the drug has also stirred a controversy, with other pet owners complaining that nobody warned them of its risks.
Montana’s owner, Ms. Giglio, is among them. After she informed Pfizer and the Food and Drug Administration of her relatively youthful dog’s death, Pfizer offered her $440 “as a gesture of good will” and to cover part of the medical costs. Insulted by the offer and a stipulation that she agree to tell no one about the payment except her tax preparer, she refused to sign and didn’t take the money. “There’s just no way in my conscience or heart I can release them from blame,” she says.
After reports of bad reactions and deaths started streaming in to the FDA, the agency suggested that Pfizer mention “death” as a possible side effect in a warning letter to vets, on labels and in TV ads. Pfizer eventually did use the word with vets and on labels, but when given an ultimatum about the commercials — mention “death” in the audio or end the ads — Pfizer chose to drop them.
Pfizer’s director of animal-products technical services, Edward W. Kanara, says that when reports started coming in, “we acted extremely promptly based on the information we had.” Pfizer points out that reported adverse events involve less than 1% of treated dogs.
Since Rimadyl’s 1997 launch, the FDA has received reports of about 1,000 dogs that died or were put to sleep and 7,000 more that had bad reactions after taking the drug, records and official estimates indicate. The FDA says such events are significantly underreported.
While the numbers include cases “possibly” related to Rimadyl, it is hard to be sure. Many dogs given the arthritis drug are older, and few are autopsied after they die. Pfizer says it analyzed cases of Rimadyl-treated dogs that died in 1998 and found a link to Rimadyl to be “likely” in 12% of cases and “not likely” in 22%; it says there was too little information for a judgment about the others.
Despite these problems, the FDA says Rimadyl deserves to be on the market, provided vets take the proper precautions. These include advising dog owners what bad reactions to watch for and periodically doing liver-function or other lab tests.
Within a few weeks, Pfizer will begin affixing a safety sheet directly to packages of Rimadyl pills. It is the first time either FDA officials or Pfizer can recall such a step being taken in the world of animal drugs.
Rimadyl — generically carprofen — is an anti-inflammatory medicine. Developer Roche Laboratories expected to market it for people in 1988 and received FDA approval, but shelved the plan after concluding the market for such drugs was too crowded. In addition, some outside experts expressed concerns; a commentary in a pharmaceutical journal noted unusual liver-function readings in 14% to 20% of test subjects and opined that “until additional data on carprofen are available, older compounds should probably be tried initially.”
The idea of switching the product to the animal-drug track soon arose. A couple of corporate transactions later, it ended up in the hands of Pfizer’s animal-drug unit. There, it was treated to the kind of sophisticated marketing Pfizer does well. A survey of 885 dog owners was done. Besides shedding light on favorite dog names (Jake, Ginger, Lady), the poll revealed that one-fifth of dog owners would be willing to spend “whatever it took” to buy an aging dog an extra year or two of life. No fewer than 53% agreed that “my dog is a better companion than other members of my family.”
The FDA requires safety and efficacy testing for animal drugs just as for human ones, but animal-drug tests are smaller. Pfizer says about 500 dogs got Rimadyl in various trials, which is no more than a fifth of the number of subjects in comparable human-drug trials. Some dogs showed unusual liver-function readings and one young beagle on a high dose died, but for the most part, the FDA and Pfizer didn’t find side effects alarming. The drug was approved for an early-1997 launch. That same year, the FDA made it easier to market drugs directly to consumers on TV.
Soon, Pfizer was running commercials in which a once-stiff yellow Labrador retriever named Lady bounded over a fallen tree as she fetched tennis balls beside a lake. In another ad, a dog leapt through a window and slid down a banister. There were also full-page magazine ads and a public-relations campaign, whose results, the PR firm later said, included 1,785 print stories, 856 radio reports and 245 TV news reports “generating 25.5 million positive impressions on the product.” Early on, vets were floored by the drug’s effects.
“The results in some cases have been pretty darn close to miraculous,” says David Whitten of the Hilldale Veterinary Hospital in Southfield, Mich. “I’m using this drug on my own dog. It has been effective. But as with all medications, side effects are certainly a problem.” Indeed, within months of the launch, vets at Colorado State University in Fort Collins noticed troubling reactions. Labrador retrievers seemed particularly affected. Since the safety studies for Rimadyl had emphasized testing on young beagles, Pfizer went back to conduct another, small test just on Labs; it says that test showed no particular problem.
Bill Keller, an FDA veterinary-medicine official, notes that “any time you take a product from the investigation and put it into actual practice, you’re going to see things you didn’t expect.” But reports about Rimadyl came in by the hundreds. The FDA had received just over 3,000 animal-drug bad-reaction reports in 1996, the year before Rimadyl’s launch; in 1998, the drug’s first full year, Rimadyl alone produced more than that many. They swamped the FDA’s tiny Center for Veterinary Medicine in Rockville, Md. Pfizer was scrambling as well. “Basically, their response,” says Dr. Keller, ” was `Tell us what you want us to do. We love the fact that it’s selling so well, but we don’t know what to do with all these adverse reactions.'”
The FDA and Pfizer discussed a “Dear Doctor” letter to be sent to vets. FDA records show the agency found parts of an early Pfizer draft “unacceptable as they are promotional in tone. . . .” It was revised. The records also show Pfizer disagreed with the FDA’s suggestion that the letter cite “death” as a possible side effect. To get the letter out, the FDA told Pfizer it was “agreeing to your exclusion of the ‘death’ syndrome from the letter at this time. However, we will revisit the ‘death’ syndrome issue and other potential side effects for possible inclusion in labeling at a later date.” So the term didn’t appear in the first warning Pfizer sent, in mid-1997.
Meanwhile, dog owners were asking for Rimadyl. “It was their advertising that sold me on the drug,” says Michelle Walsh, a Phoenix woman who says her miniature schnauzer was given it and later died. Not that vets needed much convincing. They saw clear benefits from the drug. On top of that, they could get points from Pfizer for each Rimadyl purchase they made; points were redeemable for PalmPilots, Zip drives for PCs and other equipment.
Although Pfizer’s letter told vets to explain to owners the signs of a bad reaction to Rimadyl, such as vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea, it is evident that a great many didn’t. The FDA’s Dr. Keller says, “There are a lot of veterinarians who don’t think they need to take the time, or who forget, or for whatever reason are not providing animal owners with this information.”
Donna Allen, whose chow-mix, Maggie, started on Rimadyl last summer, says, ” All my vet did was give me this little bag of pills, with no information.” She says Maggie “didn’t want to take it, but I made her.” After four weeks, Maggie began to vomit violently, Ms. Allen says. The dog vanished from their home outside Birmingham, Ala., and later was found lying in a ditch. Ms. Allen loaded her into a truck and sped 35 miles to a veterinary clinic, but the five-year-old dog died. Her vet wouldn’t implicate Rimadyl in the death until Ms. Allen urged him to send the dog’s internal organs to the University of Illinois vet school, where an examination showed liver toxicity. Maggie was buried under a marker adorned with the figure of an angel. And Ms. Allen took to the streets, delivering a letter to all the vets in the area urging them to “understand that Rimadyl helps certain dogs, but it is poison to other dogs.”
As the complaints poured in, the FDA told Pfizer it would have to revisit the label issue. Pfizer had referred to “fatal outcomes” on the label as a possible effect of the drug class to which Rimadyl belonged, but not specifically of this drug. Now the agency asked that Pfizer cite “death” prominently as a possible side effect of the drug. Describing the back and forth with Pfizer, the FDA’s Dr. Keller says, “They did it. They weren’t enthusiastic about it, but they have always been cooperative. And that’s part of the nature of the game we play with industry.”
But the FDA also wanted the word “death” in the audio of commercials. Pfizer indicated this “would be devastating to the product,” FDA minutes of a February 1999 meeting show. A company spokesman says that “putting ‘death’ on a 30-second commercial and in proper context was something we didn’t think was possible.” Rather than do so, it eventually pulled the commercials. Pfizer says it now will do traditional marketing to vets, making sure they know the proper way to use the drug.
Another “Dear Doctor” letter will soon go out, and the company will start attaching a safety sheet to pill packages. Pfizer acknowledges it has a perception problem with some dog owners; a consumer group, for instance, has mounted a campaign dubbed BARKS, for Be Aware of Rimadyl’s Known Side-effects. The company is contacting dog owners who have told their stories on the Internet, and it is offering to pay medical and diagnostic expenses for some dogs who may have been harmed by Rimadyl.
But Pfizer stands firmly behind the value of the drug, of which it says sales have continued to grow. Most vets also remain strongly behind Rimadyl. Owners, too, generally say they think the drug is important — they just want to know the risks. Atlantan Roger Williams gave his mixed-breed terrier, William, Rimadyl for more than a year and believes it contributed to the dog’s death. “But if I had to do it all over, I would give my dog Rimadyl again,” he says. “The difference is I would have known what to expect. Without Rimadyl, William was miserable. And what’s the point of living another three years if you’re miserable?”
Physician Assists in Own Dog’s Autopsy
“I was shocked after reading The Wall Street Journal article on Rimadyl. Now I know the reason for the death of my 8-year-old female Rottweiller Athenas. She had a problem in her right hind leg and was given Rimadyl for two weeks. She died two weeks later, with exactly the same symptoms as Montana (described in the article). My husband, who is a doctor, assisted the autopsy. He saw the liver lesions, and knows exactly what people are talking about. We believed that she had died of a liver cancer. But, here in Brazil, news on the side effects has not reached the veterinary community (if it has, they’re not telling). We were told this was a new ‘miracle’ pill. It breaks my heart to remember the agony of her last moments. It happened last October, and I can’t describe how much I still miss her. Please banish this murderous pill from the market!”
Celina McCall Fortaleza, Ceará,
WasTiny Pekingese Overdosed?
“If only we had been warned about the side effects of Rimadyl…….When our 5-year-old Pekingese jumped from a one-foot high wall, she herniated a disc in her back and was paralyzed in her hind legs. We immediately took her to the vet, and she was operated on a few hours later. She was put on Rimadyl (twice a day) and did very well, considering the right hind leg was very weak. Each time we called for a refill, it was prescribed without question. Our little Mie Ling lived almost two years on the Rimadyl. I noticed blood on her fur after urinating and took her to my vet who was concerned but put her on antibiotics for a possible UTI. He said we would monitor the urine and go from there. She died 5 days later. She was vomiting the night before she died. I blame myself for not being knowledgeable enough about what was happening to this poor little dog, but I also blame the vet for not monitoring her properly. If he didn’t know about Rimadyl’s side effects, he should have been educated so he in turn could educate his clients. I wish the side effects warnings had been noted on the label of the drug bottle. Because she was so young, I think her death is especially saddening. She was such a good dog and so full of spirit. We all miss her very much. I guess I can conclude that Rimadyl did give her mobility after the surgery, but it also killed her. I believe she was on a very high doseage — too much for such a little
Schnauzer “Alex” Survives, But Vet’s Own Dog Did Not
“Our Schnauzer, Alex, at 13 years 7 months, was slipping and sliding due to arthritis. Getting up and down was very hard for him. Rimadyl was prescribed beginning in November, 1999. Initially, he seemed to be less stiff and was definitely more active than in the months previous to the medication. As the “good” effect leveled off, we wondered about continuing the drug, but reasoned that if Alex was in less pain, it would be better to give it to him. On Friday, January 28, 2000, Alex walked towards me and literally fell over. His heartbeat and breathing were all very faint. Bowel control left, and we thought he was indeed dying. Our closest emergency animal hospital revived him with fluids, but could not even read his liver enzymes diluted 4 times. Alex stayed on an IV line all weekend, and by Monday was a little more stable. His liver enzymes were almost readable when diluted. A sonogram on the following Friday showed curious “thickened” intestines and some peculiarities in the liver and kidneys, but no tumors. The ‘internal medicine’ vet said that Alex’s diet should have less than 5% protein and under 4% fat. Alex refused to eat commercial preparations until I adapted a Hill’s homemade diet for restricted protein. Alex miraculously survived and actually loves his diet of mostly rice ad bread with a little meat and vegetable supplemented with vitamins and calcium. Somehow, I never trusted the Rimadyl and never gave it to him again. The Wall Street article on Rimadyl was indeed an awakening. One week of hospitalization and testing cost well over $1,000.00, but Alex is well worth the cost. We are upset that our vet didn’t know about the very bad effects of Rimadyl. His own dog, a well-loved Lab, died suddenly about two weeks before Alex got ill, and he was also on Rimadyl.”
Had WSJ Article Been Published Sooner, It Might Have Saved Casey
“We took our Labrador Retriever, Casey to the vet in the beginning of March because she had been limping when she rose from sleep. She is 5 years old and approximately 80 lbs. Our Vet prescribed Rimadyl. I’m not sure of the dosage. Her limp improved, but after being on the drug for two weeks and completing the prescription, we noticed that she seemed depressed or lethargic, and had a loss of appetite. She was even refusing treats. She was drinking a lot and asking to go out in the middle of the night. Then, we had two accidents in the house. I called the vet, and a urine sample showed an abnormally high glucose. They thought she might be diabetic, but a CBC showed she had extremely high liver enzymes and a subsequent sonargram showed that she had a small liver and they felt that is why she had a adverse reaction to the drug. Since being off the drug, she has shown steady improvement in her appetite and energy level. We are just praying that her next blood test for enzymes in another week will show that the levels are better. The thought that we almost lost our beautiful Lab is so frightening. I really wish the article in the Wall Street Journal had been published earlier than 3/13 (ironically, our dog’s birthday). I never would have put her on the drug. I think her injured front leg would have run its course and healed fine without it.”
Boarding Kennel Owner Feels Responsibility to Inform Clients about Rimadyl
As the owner of a boarding kennel, I have tried to keep myself informed and open-minded regarding the use of Rimadyl because we see a number of dogs taking the drug, which we administer in accordance with the veterinarians instructions. Your site and the Wall Street Journal article have been very informative. What has been surprising is that not one of our clients with a dog on Rimadyl was informed by their veterinarian about the severity of side effects! While I am not a veterinarian and don’t pretend to be one, I do feel a responsibility to my clients and have been informing them of your site and what I know and advising them to contact their veterinarian. I also was the owner of an 11-year-old Sheltie that died not long after being put on Rimadyl. At the time, I attributed his death two years ago to old age. Now, I have my doubts. Bill Roessler, Legacy Boarding Kennel, Winston-Salem, NC
Rimadyl Never Mentioned as Possible Cause of Symptoms
“Our Boxer ‘Lady’ passed away in December of 1999. In September 1999, we noticed that she was having some difficulty breathing and took her to an emergency vet. They did x-rays and noticed something in her lungs; they thought it was possibly pneumonia. We then took her to our regular vet, who gave us Rimadly because Lady was having problems moving around; she was about to be 12. An ultrasound of her complete body was also performed and found no growths in her; they even performed a fungal blood exam. Shortly after she began taking Rimadyl, she started having problems. First, she had what our vet called a ‘stroke.’ Then she started walking in circles and had blood in her vomit, urine and stools. She had at least three more ‘strokes,’ as they called them, even though we thought they were more like seizures. One vet guessed she might have brain cancer, though it was never officially diagnosed. Nonethelss, they would still always sell Rimadyl to us; believe me, we spent hundreds of dollars on these pills. We noticed that our vet started to avoid us when we would bring Lady in. We’d hear comments like, “Quality of life is an important issue,” hinting towards putting her down. On Sunday, March 26, I was catching up on reading some past issues of the Wall Street Journal and saw the article on Rimadyl. How can a company like Pfizer put this drug out and not warn the vets about the possible side effects? We trusted our vet with Lady’s life for 12 years; it seems to us that, in the end, she was sold out to Pfizer. Lady was our daughter. She was loved by everybody who ever met her; she had a magnetic personality. We never for a moment thought it possible that she was suffering from a drug reaction — especially when we were taking her to the vet two to three times a week. To many, a dog is just a lower life form; but, to us, our dog was an individual with a personality, humor, love and a thrist for life that was taken away because somebody wasn’t advised of the problems or chose to ignore them.
Dog Died Before Her Time
“Quisha was an Akita; she was my every breath. She was 13 years old, with several years left to live. I wished she could live forever. She was very healthy and strong and proud. I loved her more then anyone in this world. She had a slight favoring of her back legs. I hated the thought of arthritis being the reason ever to have to put her down. I saw a commercial on TV one day. I thought, my god, I don’t beleive it! This would be wonderful! All it could mean is more time with my most treasured friend! Off to the vet we go. One tablet of 75mg twice a day is prescribed; there’s a pamplet that says nothing, and the vet’s words, which I’ll never forget, ”You’ll notice the difference tomorrow.” Well, he was right about that. I noticed a lot of differences in the next ten months. In fact, my dog would still be here if I had been told about the side effects. He’s the vet; don’t I pay him enough to know those things and to tell them to me? I guess I don’t pay as much as Pfizer can. My best friend died on February 25, 2000. It’s hard to find a reason to get out of bed, and when I do, I don’t go back for as long as possible, because I’m affraid I won’t get back up.To die of old age is one thing; but to die when it wasn’t time is hard for those of us that are left here to live with.”
Family Suffers Several Deaths, Including That of a Beloved Dog from Suspected Rimadyl Side Effects
“I’m sure you’re being flooded with mail following today’s front page piece in the Wall Street Journal about Rimadyl. This is the first I am hearing of it. We did not know the dangers of the medication and lost a dog a month ago, exactly as outlined in the article.
“My mom’s dog, a 12-year-old Shepherd, had a slow, progressively degenerating neurological disorder in the hind quarters. Organ functions and general health were normal to excellent for her age, but Lovee was having increasing difficulty walking, especially up steps. Rimadyl was prescribed and her ‘recovery’ (four hours!) was indeed the miracle we had seen advertised on television.
“A short few weeks later, she began to urinate less frequently and lost her appetite. She ate grass on occasion. On night, she seized, vomited, could no longer stand and shook. We took her to the vet just after dawn. He examined her, and we made the extremely painful decision to put her to sleep. It seemed like something resembling a stroke had caused her seizure, and it was clear that to let her live on in that condition would have been cruel. We believed it was ‘her time,’ and let her go. Our vet was very caring and sensitive to my family, and he did not, nor did we, request an autopsy due to Lovee’s age.
“We lost my brother to heart failure in 1997and my father to cancer in 1998. To lose my mother’s only at-home companion to a pharmaceutical company is about as much as we can stand. A drug isn’t good enough for humans, so slip it through on helpless animals?? It is beyond my comprehension that Pfizer continues to market this product at all; safety sheets are not enough. Pfizer has caused animal deaths and untold suffering and grief for pet owners, while taking in millions — and even offering perks to the veterinarians who prescribe the drug. Frequent testing ‘just in case’ is an unsatisfactory and costly alternative to the consumer, and invasive to our animals. The product should be removed from the market. Pfizer should be ashamed.”
Rusty’s Guardian Rues the Day “Rimadyl” Was Mentioned
“I read the Wall Street Journal article yesterday and realized that we had unintentionally contributed to the death of our beloved Chesapeake Retriever, Rusty. He was a large Chessie, nearly 120 lbs, with severe arthritis. When we first learned of Rimdadyl, it seemed like a wonder drug. At my request, our vet special ordered the drug, which we administered daily to Rusty for several months. At first, it seemed like a miracle; he was 11 years old and like a puppy. After probably 6 months on the drug, he developed all the symptoms described in the article — the worst occurred shortly before we made the painful decision to have him put to sleep. He had severe diarrhea, wobbled, had difficulty rising and walking and vomited 1-2 times daily. He appeared to be in discomfort and clearly suffered from a loss of dignity, as well. At the too young age of 12, Rusty was put to sleep in November 1997. As nice as our vet is, he did not give us any literature about any known side effects and did not equate Rusty’s decline with this drug. I wish that we had merely continued the regimen of baby aspirin in peanut butter and had extended his life. He was truly the best dog ever. As a side note, one of the people in my office had given her dog Rimadyl for a very brief period and, as her dog was much younger, recognized and had her vet test for liver problems. Withdrawal of the Rimadyl and providing proper treatment enabled her dog to recover. I now rue the day I heard of Rimadyl.”
Could a Stroke Be Coincidental Following One Dose of Rimadyl?
“After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal, I immediately knew what had caused our dog’s untimely death. He was 14 years old and had one dose of Rimadly The morning I gave him that initial dose, I returned from work to find him collaped on the floor, unable to stand or move his head without vomiting The vet advised to watch him until the next day, when we carried him to the office. I asked the vet at that time if it could possibly have been an adverse reaction to the drug and was assured that it could not and that he’d probably had a stroke. After three days without improvement and with great anguish, we decided to have him put to sleep. It was very traumatic and preventable according to this information. I had always suspected it was not coincidental.”
Veterinarian’s Dog Cannot Walk Without Rimadyl
“Shady is my dog. I do not know how old she is. I was called to an emergency involving a stray dog, and there she was, under a parked car, bleeding. I coaxed her out and carried her to my veterinary hospital two blocks away. We gave her IV fluids and treatments for shock, and hospitalized her. The next day, her owner called the animal shelter and described her. He was told where she was, but he did not leave his name or phone number. He never came for Shady.
“Shady was not hurt that badly. She had an ugly tumor over her eyelid, and her face was totally grey. She was very, very stiff and hurt all over. She had a moderate heart murmur, but she was so friendly and quiet, she was no trouble at all. We waited for her owner to claim her, but, after a week, we decided he would not show up, so I took her home.
“I think Shady is probably about 14 years old. She is a retriever mix, apparently spayed, with severe hip dysplasia and aches and pains in most of her joints. She cannot walk without Rimadyl. I have checked her bloodwork periodically, as a pre-anesthetic check before removing tumors, and her health is good. When Shady missed just one dose of this drug, she started limping again.
“I prescribe Rimadyl for my patients who need it. I always offer bloodwork before starting the medication, and recommend rechecking it periodically. Some of my clients choose to have the bloodwork, others don’t. In most cases, the Rimadyl is prolonging the life of the dog with good quality and comfort. In my opinion, that’s all that matters to a dog. Longer life means nothing if it just means longer pain.”
Rimadyl Not Withdrawn, Despite Classic Symptoms; Dog Dies
“I took my 12-year-old Lab to the vet after noticing her urine was dark orange. Five days later, an ultrasound showed an enlarged liver, and she was put on a course of antibiotics. She showed improvement in eating and energy. My vet did not mention that Rimadyl should be withdrawn, and I continued to give it to her. Three weeks later, she stopped eating and developed diarrhea and vomiting. I saw the article about Rimadyl in the New London Day and immediately took her to the vet. She was put on an IV and given antibiotics but died in her sleep that night. I feel that if I had not given her the Rimadyl when she was ill, she might have lived. Her name was Mabel and she was the sweetest dog of about 20 I have owned.”
What If the Wall Street Journal Hadn’t Been Read? …..Would This Dog Have Been a Victim?
“On Monday, March 13, 2000, we took our 15.5-year-old Brittany Spaniel, Rusty, to our vet. We were concerned about his limp. He was already taking Cosequin for his joints. We thought maybe his time was done. Our vet suggested Rimadyl. I asked if there were any side effects or interactions with the Cosequin. …None that he knew of…The very next day our Rusty began to vomit. I thought nothing of this, as Rusty has a nervous stomach. When I arrived at work Tuesday morning, I mentioned the new medicine the vet prescribed. Someone told me to read the Wall Street Journal article on Rimadyl, and I became very concerned. I immediately stopped the medication and phoned the vet. ….Yes, possibly this was a side effect. ….Why was I not told beforehand? What if I had never seen the article? Would my beloved Rusty be a victim to this miscommunication? Thank God for the article and stories posted on this network.”
Rimadyl Article Leads Dog’s Guardian to Discover That EtoGesic Has Side Effects, Too
“I read the Wall Street Journal article through Animal Talk:Digest and was led to your wonderful Senior Dogs website. I am writing about the drug Etogesic — which recently almost killed my senior dog. I wish I had known what I just read about this drug on your site. My vet, knowing my aversion to Rimadyl and its side effects, had suggested this drug as an alternative for my Dalmatian who has suffered from arthritis and spondilitis for some time. I was not warned of the possible side effects. (He was taking Dexamethsone but didn’t seem to be getting better.) Within a week (and at first I didn’t associate it with the drug), he had the most severe case of diarrhea I have ever witnessed (thick, bloody, including parts of the bowel lining). It was literally shooting out of him. (sorry to be so graphic). I thought he was dying. After one night at the vet, I kept him at home, giving subcutanious fluids as he couldn’t eat for days. Already weak from age and arthritis, this practically killed him, but he rallied — though he is much weaker from the ordeal. NOW I also realize, after visiting your web site, that the runny stuff from his eyes was probably caused by this drug as well, something never mentioned to me either. It is obviously very painful to him as he has tries to bite me when I clean it. It seems to be better but is still present. Needless to say, he is back on the Dex and I give him glucosamine supplements, as well. He turned 14 today. Again, we must get this information out to people. Our beloved and trusting companions should not be, forgive the term, ‘guinea pigs’ for these supposed miracle drugs.”
“Logan, Our Beautiful Sheltie”
“I didn’t know about the article in the Wall Street Journal until my husband brought the paper home and pointed it out to me. My dog Logan had been put on Rimadyl for his arthritis when he was 12. He was our beautiful Shetland Sheepdog that loved to do anything as long as it was with us. He was our ‘miniature Lassie’ — only a lot more beautiful. He was never well again after the Rimadyl. The vet kept saying it was his old age; I had never had an older dog before, so I believed it. He started having loose stools and occasional vomiting for no apparent reason. One year later, he went to the vet for diarrhea and vomiting, was given an antibiotic. Four months after that, we took him to the emergency vet for uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea along with what appeared to be seizures. He could not even move — we thought we had lost him then. He was given IV fluids, put on Tagamet and force feedings, as he no longer would eat. We followed-up with his regular vet and liver enzymes were done that were elevated. I asked the vet if this could be the Rimadyl; her reply was possibly, but it’s probably his age. I stopped giving him the drug at this point, but he remained very sick. Two months later, he could not get up again and had more seizures and vomiting, diarrhea — he was given injections for apparant infection and IV fluids but became even worse on the medication at home. He had another severe illness 4 months later and was euthanized on July 27, 1999. He had been started on Rimadyl on 3-24-97; he took it for 16 months (until 7-12-98). There was no necropsy done. I have spoken with the vet at the FDA and called Logan’s vet to request a copy of his vet record. When this arrives, I’ll know exactly what the liver tests results were. As suggested by the FDA vet, I’ll call Pfizer to inform them. I may never know clinically for sure, but I do know personally Logan didn’t get sick until he was on Rimadyl. I’m sure it killed him.”
Two Dogs in the Same Family Appear to Suffer Adverse Reactions to Rimadyl
“My sister’s 10-year-old Standard Schnauzer dropped dead on 3-17-00 after exhibiting the typical toxic symptoms from Rimadyl — vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and bloody stools. Rimadyl was the only different thing in his diet, and he had taken it for several weeks. My mini-Schnauzer took Rimadyl for about a week or less, shortly after it came on the market. The vet had prescribed a dosage of 25mg twice daily. He was 9 years old at the time. He exhibited similar toxic symptoms. The Rimadyl was the only thing different in his life, also. I am just thankful that I was observant enough to see the symptoms, look up the drug on the internet, and immediately discontinue use. My dog recovered soon after I discontinued the drug and is apparently fine, over two years later. Although the evidence is ‘anecdotal,’ neither my sister nor I was warned of the possible dangers. I was given the pills in a plastic bag with no manufacturers sheet or anything but a sticker on the bag stating that the pills were 25mg Rimadyl and should be administered twice daily. It’s just too suspicious that dogs who were otherwise fine would become so ill or die when nothing had changed in their lives other than the Rimadyl Rx.”
“Death Of Our Dog Due To Rimadyl Use”
“Last Wednesday, March 22, 2000, we were forced to put our Labrador/German Shepard mix to sleep. Our dog, Sheba, was 11 years old and had been using Rimadyl for approximately 7 months. An ultrasound was performed Wednesday morning, which showed a large tumor in her liver. In addition, her liver and kidney’s were perforated from the bacteria of the tumor. Our veterinarian had been treating her with antibiotics for two weeks, and several blood tests were performed, but she would not eat, had severe gastric pains, lost over ten pounds, became very lathargic and weak, and could not recover. In addition to her taking Rimdayl, she had been taking Predinisone on an every other day basis for the past several years. Our vet did no blood or liver testing (screening) during her use of Rimadyl. We were never informed of any serious risks or possible problems. We believe that our vet did what he thought was best but was probably not well informed of the precautions in using Rimadyl. This has been a very upsetting experience; we wish we had done research or had known of this Rimadyl information seven months ago. Had we been informed, we’re confident our precious pet would still be alive today.