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Rimadyl Risks Liver Failure

Heartbreaking but extremely informative - this reader, a medical professional who lost her dog to Rimadyl, details symptoms, Cornell University biopsy, pathology…


May 15, 2017

Darlene E. Shea, Owner


I lost my dog Logan to liver disease caused-exacerbated-compounded by the use of Rimadyl. I am sharing the biopsy/pathology report that was done at Cornell#1. The reason I am sharing is:

  1. It is WRITTEN documentation of significant injury exacerbated/caused by this medication.

  2. The report was received 2 months after my dog had the biopsy (was euthanized 4 days after biopsy surgery) but it lists treatment protocols that I hope may be helpful for owners and/or vets who even suspect adverse reactions from Rimadyl. I'm hoping that it will educate the importance of testing the liver levels before, during and after treatment with this medication and not to take random, isolated abnormal levels lightly.

  3. The pathologist states in her notes that liver disease/failure was "Collision Toxicity Injury" from using Rimadyl and it was the worst case she had ever seen.

  4. Despite having x-rays, labs, ultrasound, CT Scan, Upper Endoscopy, etc., liver disease wasn't even suspected until late into the process. Note that ALT, etc. was elevated prior to getting sick but not concerning to the vet at the time (we switched vets once we knew).

  5. My new "husky mix" puppy “Meika” is going to be DNA tested (for breed and genetic markers) and is insured for medical emergencies after spending over $13,000 on testing and surgeries on Logan ("once bitten, now shy").

Logan was a recue dog from Louisiana that I found on Petfinder. We drove to Portsmouth NH to pick him up when he was 17 weeks old. All we knew about Logan was that he was found “living on the street with his mother and 5 siblings.” We live in Massachusetts (on Cape Cod) and had to drive past Logan airport in Boston, which is how we came up with his name.


Logan was touted to be a "husky mix" and we had no doubt of that, although he was on the smaller side (45 lbs). He was also a jumper and loved to jump up and catch toys, etc. On occasion he would limp and being diligent pet owners, I would have him evaluated. He had an occasional trial of Rimadyl once or twice.


This past fall, he would noticeably limp and have difficulty with stairs. Our original vet (Vet A) thought the limping might be his "knee" although x-ray wasn't very conclusive. He prescribed Rimadyl, with a "watch and observe" trial. Blood work showed mildly elevated liver enzymes at this time, but not concerning to our vet.


At the advice of our vet and my request we took him to an "Orthopedic Specialist". We described the symptoms to the specialist who stated they didn't make sense to him for a knee issue. He checked the x-ray from "Vet A" and told us that he did have an old, healed knee injury that may act up on occasion, but felt it was more lumbar spine pain. He said to continue the Rimadyl and wanted us to follow up in a few weeks, which we did. As a side note, we had the name brand Rimadyl still from "Vet A" so we never used the generic brand Rimadyl (Carprofen). We tried once and Logan spit it out.


I took him again on November 18th for a follow-up and on the way Logan got car sick (which he NEVER did before). I told the vet and he was not concerned. Logan also got sick on the way home and continued with the off and on vomiting. The next several days, Logan barely ate and had intermittent vomiting. I took him to our Vet A on 11/25/16 and saw the covering vet. Exam, blood work and x-rays were done. He felt it was caused by lumbar spine pain. I questioned his symptoms with both vets as being an adverse effect from Rimadyl and was told "probably not".


The next step was back to the Specialty Vet, this time for an ultrasound. Per the veterinarian, he thought there was a pelvic mass and that Logan would need a CT scan. Again, I questioned Rimadyl, was told it was not caused by that but they prescribed a lower dose which I did not give him. They could not do CT scan at this specialty vet so I had to go to yet another facility.


When Logan essentially stopped eating anything at all, I called "Vet A" in a panic to ask where I should take him urgently for the CT and probably a feeding tube. It took "Vet A" 3 hours to call me back and he then asked me "do you really want to put Logan through all this testing". Mind you, I was never given a reason not to. If I was told he had an incurable or untreatable problem, I would have made decisions on what to do. Not having a diagnosis, I was fighting to save and/or treat him until I had no options. This is the reason I switched from "Vet A' to "Vet B" as my primary vet, not because they were bad vets.


Click to open Detailed Dog Medication Conversions


I took Logan to the second Specialty vet for the CT which was negative. They did an upper endoscopy which showed mild inflammation, but nothing concerning. They inserted a feeding tube through his esophagus and we brought him home the next day. He was doing well, although he had some regurgitation because the tube shifted. At this time we saw "Vet B' for the first time, who checked out Logan and ALL his records and basically said "Whoa, this is a lot of crap and lets start over".


"Vet B" is the one who determined it was Logan's liver and did a bile acid test with was highly abnormal proving it was the liver. The next step was the liver biopsy, which was done at the Secons Specialty Vet on 1/5/17. Unfortunately Logan did not do well after surgery. He developed some ascites, HORRIBLE bruising and we believe early hepatic encephalopathy.


It was determined at this point that we had no other option but to euthanize him.


We were distraught as we thought we were going to find out what exactly was up with the liver and begin treatment. I knew he wouldn't live forever, but I NEVER expected it to happen so unexpectedly sudden.


It took TWO MONTHS to get the pathology report and as you saw, it was very lengthy, very detailed and clearly showed the devastating effects the Rimadyl had on what could have been a treatable condition.


Again, my goal is to educate on the following points:

  • Don't underestimate or minimize abnormal lab values no matter how innocuous they may appear. If abnormal at the very least, watch and repeat.

  • If a medication is prescribed, know the adverse reactions that can happen and what organs it is filtered through and get tested before, during and after. Rimadyl isn't necessarily a bad medication and it helps many pets, but it basically killed our dog.

  • Insure your pet if you can afford to. There are many plans, with many options and price ranges.

  • Notify the manufacturer and/or FDA of adverse reactions. I notified Zoetis as soon as I SUSPECTED Rimadyl adverse reaction.

I work in the medical field, so I know the lingo, etc. and I know not everyone does, but it helps to educate yourself.


Reference Information:  #1 Cornell University Rimadyl biopsy/pathology report EST 2002 © 1705



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