Abstract Background Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are an important tool in the management of canine osteoarthritis, with the most recent introduction into the category being grapiprant, a piprant that selectively targets the EP4 prostaglandin receptor. To date there have been no efficacy studies comparing grapiprant with other NSAIDs. A randomized, two-sequence, assessor-blinded study involving two separate experiments was undertaken to measure the potency and persistence of acute pain control over 24 h resulting from a single oral dose of either firocoxib (Previcox®) or grapiprant (Galliprant®) in an acute arthritis model. Results Force-plate derived lameness ratios (0, no force recorded on the plate; 1, normal force) for the untreated group remained at 0 for most post-arthritis induction (PAI) assessments in both experiments. Throughout Experiment 1, mean PAI lameness ratios of the firocoxib-treated group remained at or above 0.80. In the grapiprant-treated group, ratios were 0 at 5 and 7 h PAI (7 and 9 h post-treatment), and 0.16 at 10 h PAI (12 h post-treatment). For lameness ratios, relative to the firocoxib group, the control and grapiprant group ratios were significantly lower at each PAI assessment (p ≤ 0.026 and p < 0.001, respectively), except at 1.5 h PAI at which acute pain was still not installed in untreated control dogs. In Experiment 2 the mean lameness ratios for the control group were 0 at 3, 5 and 7 h PAI, and in the grapiprant group at 5, 7 and 10 h PAI (i.e., 19, 21, and 24 h post-treatment). In the firocoxib group the lowest mean lameness ratio of 0.36 occurred at 3 h PAI (i.e. 17 h post-treatment). Except at 1.5 and 3 h PAI (i.e. 15.5 and 17 h post-treatment), due to the needed time for pain to install in the untreated control dogs, the lameness ratio differences between the firocoxib and both the control and grapiprant groups were significant at all assessments (p ≤ 0.033 for both groups). No significant differences were detected between the grapiprant and control groups in either experiment. Conclusions Firocoxib treatment prior to induction of arthritis in dogs resulted in a high level of analgesia from the first post-treatment assessment at 1.5 h through 24 h post-treatment. The reduction in lameness provided by firocoxib was consistently superior to that provided by grapiprant, which was not significantly different from untreated controls.