Sadie and her brother were my first two rescues. At around 8 weeks old, they had been driven out to the country and dumped. Without exception, I’ve found over the years that nobody around the area wants these dumped or abandoned animals. Most people won’t even feed them, for fear that the animal won’t leave. New to the area, and always one to help anyone in need, I took them in. Our three paths crossing in June 2000 would set the course for my taking in all the future cats and dogs I found discarded in my little corner of the world. Sadie’s tragic death would also be one of the big reasons for this blog. I’ve made it my mission to warn every person on the planet about the dangers of Previcox (firocoxib) and all the other NSAIDs given without warning to trusting pet parents.
Despite being brother and sister, Sadie and Justin were very different. Sadie was the happier and sweeter of the two dogs. To this day, seventeen years and many dogs later, and 3 1/2 years since I lost her, Sadie still reigns as the sweetest dog I’ve ever had the good fortune of finding and rescuing. Her unwavering happy and gentle temperament towards every person and animal that came along is another reason why her death hurt so bad and continues to hurt so much to this day. Sadie was special and dogs like her don’t come along every day.
Sadie’s death was easily avoidable. If only I’d googled the side effects BEFORE I gave her the Previcox (firocoxib). If only I hadn’t been so trusting of my vet. Or if I’d gotten Sadie to the vet sooner when she stopped eating. The ‘If Only’s’ are endless, as is the guilt I will have for the rest of my life. As they say, live and learn. I just wish the lesson learnt hadn’t been so harsh.
Being too trusting of my vet
On October 11, 2013, I took Sadie, my 13 1/2-year-old mixed breed dog to the vet after she had a really bad day of hardly being able to get up and around. She’d been moving slower in her senior years, but nothing I hadn’t been able to help with supplements. To try to keep both her and Justin, my first senior dogs ever, healthy and with me for as long as possible, I had them on joint supplements, krill oil, ubiquinol, spirugreen superfoods, and liver and kidney support.
I was told at the vet’s office that there was a big storm front coming through and it was affecting a lot of peoples’ arthritis. The vet gave Sadie a laser treatment and prescribed Previcox (firocoxib), with the instructions “Give her an antacid with it so it doesn’t cause tummy troubles”. Sounds harmless enough, right?
I brought Sadie home and started giving her the Previcox (firocoxib) sparingly, only as needed on the days she was having an especially hard time getting up from her bed. I’ll admit, it worked very well for her. Until it slowly, yet quickly killed her. After about five random doses, Sadie refused her nightly food and supplement mix. That’s where the nightmare began.
Over the course of the next few days, Sadie continued to not be interested in eating and just layed around. I had called the vet’s office to let them know of my concern. My vet had left early the day I called and the vet tech I talked to did not seem concerned at all and told me to just keep an eye on her. Meanwhile, Sadie slowly got worse. She began to have trouble walking and became incontinent. Justin had recently started having some incontinence issues himself, without taking any Previcox, so I thought maybe it was genetic? I called the vet’s office a second time, even more worried about how Sadie seemed to be getting worse by the day. I had to speak with the same vet tech, who again seemed unconcerned with the information I was giving her.
As I was unusually busy during that time getting medical treatment for a shoulder injury I had, and trusting this vet tech, I kept hoping the next day would be the day Sadie started eating again and doing better. Meanwhile, she continued to go downhill. After the not eating continued, random laying way out in the yard started and was followed by tarry stools, I called the vet’s office insisting something was wrong and Sadie needed to be seen. The day we were scheduled to come in, apparently, the vet didn’t want to come back into the office that afternoon, so she had the assistant call and reschedule our appointment for the following morning. I showed up the next day, November 5th at 8:20 am almost in a panic with a very sick Sadie, only to find that the vet hadn’t even made it into the office yet.
I should have trusted my gut
When I got a call later that morning after the vet had finally made it in and ran Sadie’s bloodwork, I expected it to be bad, but given how nonchalant everyone had been about the whole situation, including the vet herself, I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was. The vet told me that Sadie’s bloodwork was off the charts and that she was in kidney failure and had been for a while. I was furious, scared, and beside myself with guilt. I had naively believed that my vet wouldn’t prescribe a drug without warning me that it could seriously harm my dog. And telling me to give her an antacid to “prevent any tummy troubles” is NOT what I consider a warning. I also naively believed that IF the symptoms Sadie was having were really that bad, the vet or the vet tech would have wanted to get Sadie back in right away, instead of me calling twice, being dismissed and rescheduled, and the situation treated like no big deal.
The vet basically told me there was nothing they could do and almost seemed to want permission to just go ahead and kill Sadie. After having Sadie in their care for an hour, they hadn’t even attempted to help her. Maybe they already knew that any negative reaction to Previcox was basically a death sentence, so when I called them after she started having symptoms, they just put me off, hoping Sadie would die at home or at least convince me she didn’t need treatment for so long that I would blame myself and not them when the inevitable happened. Neither scenario seems implausible considering how they handled things from start to finish. I told the vet to do whatever she could to try to save Sadie and that I did not want to lose her. I also inquired if taking her to the local vet teaching hospital would be a better option since I thought maybe they had some advanced treatment my vet didn’t know about, have access to, or use. The vet didn’t think there was anything they could do, either. Aside from putting her on an IV and possibly a kidney transplant, Sadie’s outlook was grim.
When I started looking online about Previcox and the side effects, I was horrified at all the deaths attributed to it with Sadie’s exact symptoms. Despite the slim chance of her recovering, but refusing to give up on her, I began searching for anything that would help her kidneys. I found a company and product online that looked very promising, but the owner took so long to return my call and e-mail, that it was too late. Sadie died the next day, November 6, 2013. And it was all my fault. Looking back, I made so many mistakes, and let Sadie down so badly as her guardian, it’s embarrassing.
It would be a few years later when a couple of my other dogs were given and attempted to be given the NSAID Deramaxx, that I realized how indiscriminately NSAIDs are being prescribed despite how potentially dangerous they are. When I was handed the bottle of Deramaxx, I didn’t get a warning of any kind about it from the first vet even though I found several deaths online from it when I did a check. When the 2nd vet, about 6 months later wanted to give it to my labrador after her pretty serious lipoma surgery that I detailed here, http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/lipoma-surgery/, I said no. She was unphased when I told her I’d already lost one dog to a drug (Previcox) in the NSAID family and I wasn’t going to risk losing another one. She told me how she had patients doing well on it. I DIDN’T CARE.
After that 2nd incident with Deramaxx, I decided in addition to just telling Sadie’s story in comment sections here and there and to people I met, I needed to start this blog. It would be my platform to make sure everyone I can possibly reach knows the truth about NSAIDs. I believe most owners don’t know about the risks or they wouldn’t take them.
The truth about NSAIDs
As awful as the entire experience was and reliving it every time I tell Sadie’s story is, I will continue to for the rest of my life, or as long as Previcox (firocoxib) is still on the market and still injuring and killing dogs. My anger and loathing of the drug companies only intensified after learning that the human version of Previcox, which went by the name Vioxx, was pulled from the market after killing people.
Despite thousands of dog deaths over the years, I believe Previcox and other NSAIDs like Rimadyl, Metacam, and Deramaxx are still being marketed and sold for animal use because the manufacturers of these deadly NSAIDs and the vets who are prescribing them face no legal or financial repercussions from these drugs killing innocent dogs. Apparently, the loss of animals’ lives means nothing. When I called Merial to file the claim on Sadie’s death, the lady I talked to could not have been any colder or cared any less about the situation as I cried through the interview.
I refuse to believe that these vets don’t know about the dangers of the NSAIDs they are prescribing. The sad part is that the vets who know about Sadie’s death have shown no concern about her death at all, including asking any questions about it. I can’t even describe how upsetting it is to have lost a dog in such an awful way and the person who you are or have been entrusting your pets’ health with is so dismissive of pretty significant information. When did veterinarians become so indifferent and money focused instead of patient focused? I wrote about several bad experiences I’ve had since Sadie’s death with conventional vets here, The truth about veterinarians
In the midst of Sadie’s ordeal, when I googled Previcox’s side effects, I was shocked to find articles warning about the dangers of NSAIDs and first-hand accounts from distraught owners who lost dogs going as far back as 2006. Here’s one from September 2006, https://web.archive.org/web/20091225180258/http://www.k911.biz:80/Petsafety/WhyIsFidoDead_PrescriptionDrugsKillingPets.htm that cites “The FDA has released information concerning NSAIDS…..to 22,000 cases of illness in dogs, almost 3,000 of which were fatal.” I shudder to think what that number is now. When I looked, I couldn’t even find a number. I’m sure there is no way to even get an exact number because, in order to get one, the incidents have to be reported through the right channels. How many deaths or injuries were never reported because the vet denied the NSAID was the cause, or the owner just swallowed the pain and guilt without reporting it to anyone? Regardless what that number is though, it is of no consolation when it happens to your dog.
When I presented the information I’d found online to my vet, she feigned ignorance and replied with “I have patients doing very well on it” and “Well, Sadie WAS 13 1/2 years old”. It made me wonder if she would have cared more if Sadie had been younger. Unfortunately, I’d read plenty of stories about perfectly healthy much younger dogs that Previcox (firocoxib) had killed after only a few doses or less. My vet’s attitude about it all just added more disgust to the already awful situation.
The heartbreaking stories are all different but the same
If you need more convincing about the dangers of Previcox, here are some links to articles and stories that I first found in 2013 (and that are still being contributed to) when I first looked up the side effects. There is also one on Deramaxx I found in 2016 when one of my other rescues was prescribed it. I didn’t realize it was an NSAID until I got home and did a google search on it. Since Sadie’s death, I now google every drug a vet sends me home with before giving it to any of my animals. I encourage every pet owner to do the same.
There are also at least two Facebook pages dedicated to just Previcox, and it killing dogs. I was a member of one of the groups at one time but eventually left. It was too heartbreaking reading one story after another, that while different, was the same. The same NSAID, the same symptoms, the same slow death, followed by immense owner guilt.
I recommend anyone who is on the fence of ever giving their dog an NSAID, to first read some of the stories of those people who would give anything to take back that one mistake that cost them their best friend. Just google “<the name of the NSAID> killed my dog” and see how many stories come up under every single NSAID I mentioned in this post. It should be required reading for vets who prescribe them to read those heartbreaking stories. Unfortunately, something tells me that it probably wouldn’t matter to most of them. Not when they make good money from those drugs, probably don’t know about or care about the risks, or they may feel the risk is too low to be concerned about. Maybe it is a combination of all of them, along with the fact that they have no other options in their bag of conventional medicine tricks. Fortunately for us and our dogs, there are several safer options.
Golden Paste. This turmeric, fresh ground pepper, and coconut or olive oil mixture has proven quite effective in reducing inflammation in lots of people and pets. There is a Facebook page about it as well as a website with all the details that you can read up on here: http://turmericlife.com.au/turmeric-recipes-golden-paste/
I actually used this paste last year on my dogs because Abby, my lab, had suddenly developed a lipoma and I’d hoped the golden paste would help stop it from growing or decrease it. The batch is quite large, so I gave it to my other two seniors, who were already getting a preventative supplement and not showing any signs of arthritis or other joint issues, so I can’t personally give my opinion on how well it worked for my dogs. I do know there are people on the FB page that swear by it for themselves and their pets. If making the paste is too much work for you, here is a product that I have not used, but researched enough that I’d feel comfortable trying if the need arose with any of my dogs, http://amzn.to/2tMbei4
T-Relief Arthritis Pain Relief Mobility. This was formerly known as Zeel by Heel, Inc. before another company bought them out and came out with this supposedly equivalent product: http://amzn.to/2uK54wf
Dr. Martin Goldstein recommends Zeel in his book, ‘The Nature of Animal Healing’, for arthritis. In her book, ‘The Royal Treatment’, Dr. Barbara Royal says “A recent German trial showed that the homotoxicology agent Zeel worked as well as the (NSAID) Carprofen for arthritis of the knee…”
Crystal Star Inflama Relief. I used this on Abby after her lipoma surgery and it worked well for stopping some panting and discomfort she had and a slight limp she developed which could have been related to her surgery. Just 2-3 doses each on the panting/discomfort and the limp and that’s all she needed. http://amzn.to/2sq6hYE
Acupuncture. This is recommended by vets in my holistic pet treatment books and I have read about many happy pet owners who used it to help their arthritic dogs. I actually have one vet in my extended area that does do acupuncture, so I’d called him before taking Sadie to my regular vet, but he was out of the office and was booked until the following week. I didn’t want Sadie to have to wait that long for treatment so I went the more conventional route to help her sooner, unfortunately.
Of course, these are just a few possible alternative treatment options. I didn’t want to warn you about how dangerous NSAIDS are and not give you at least a few alternatives to consider. What works for some does not work for all though, and natural remedies do sometimes take longer to start showing improvement in pets than dangerous conventional pharmaceutical drugs. However, not risking your pets’ life is worth the time and effort to find a safer way to treat arthritis or other pain related issues. Dr. Goldstein even says in his book, which I reference often and reviewed here, http://savingcatsdogsandcash.com/pet-care-reference-books-reviewed/ that sometimes homeopathy can address internal imbalances as a side bonus. It seems that with their long lists of varied ingredients, one never knows how the body will respond to them, sometimes bringing added positive health changes. That’s just another great reason to choose alternative treatments over dangerous NSAIDs.
If you want to see pictures of all my rescue animals and their antics and get little tips and tricks I share, like my FB page, https://www.facebook.com/savingscatsanddogswhilesavingcash/