Voltaren is a common over the counter medication to provide people relief from joint and muscle pain. Commonly, it is sold in a gel form, allowing targeted topic relief. Although this medication is fantastic for those athletically inclined, as well as those who just slightly overdid themselves in the garden over the weekend, Voltaren can have the complete opposite effect in animals.
Voltaren, the brand name of the drug diclofenac, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID). NSAIDs work to reduce pain, decrease fever, prevent blood clots, and decrease inflammation. There are many NSAIDs used in both human and veterinary medicine. However, they all have slightly different properties that can make some more toxic than other at lower doses. At toxic doses, these drugs can cause gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney injury.
Dogs (and cats) can be mischievous. A tube of Voltaren lying around can appear to be a toy, or better yet, food! Your average 30 g tube of Voltaren contains 10 mg of diclofenac per gram of gel, which is 300 mg of diclofenac per 30 g tube! 100 g tubes of Voltaren are also available, which equates to 1000 mg of active diclofenac.
When looking at toxic doses, we describe them as the amount of drug per kilogram bodyweight. This translates to milligram per kilogram, or mg/kg. At doses of 2 mg/kg, we begin to see gastrointestinal ulcers, and at doses of 4 mg/kg, we begin to see kidney injury. To put this into perspective, the average Golden Retriever would need to consume 60 mg of diclofenac, which would be 6 g of gel, to see gastrointestinal ulcers. This is only 1/5 of a 30 g tube! Animals that consume enough Voltaren require hospitalization for gastrointestinal protectants, monitoring of kidney parameters, and IV fluid therapy among other things. Depending on how much is consumed, the prognosis can be quite grim.
It’s important to realize the effects that common over the counter medication can have on your furry companions. Ensure that all Voltaren gel, as well as all medications in general, is safely stored away from your pets.
Written by Dr. Justine Antunes, DVM