Meloxicam is a common drug used to treat pain and inflammation in dogs, but like most prescription drugs, meloxicam does have some risks. Fortunately, most dogs tolerate the drug well, and it helps reduce their pain and inflammation.
What is Meloxicam?
Meloxicam is an NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, in the oxicam class. It is a selective COX-2 inhibitor, meaning it does not affect COX-1. Cyclooxygenase, or COX, is a family of enzymes called isozymes. Both COX-1 and COX-2 produce prostaglandins, which are lipids in the cells of the body that have hormone-like effects and promote pain and inflammation. COX-1 and COX-2 are found in different cells of the body. Evidence shows that inhibiting COX-2 but not COX-1 may reduce the GI side effects typically associated with non-selective COX inhibiting NSAIDs.
Meloxicam is available in tablets for human use, but the doses of those tablets are far too high for use in dogs (with the possible exception of giant dog breeds). Veterinary meloxicam is typically found in a flavored suspension with a special oral syringe for accurate dosing. The oral suspension is available in two strengths: 0.5 mg/mL and 1.5 mg/mL. It's important that you use the proper strength for your dog to avoid overdosage.
Brand names of veterinary meloxicam include Metacam, Meloxidyl, and Loxicom. Other generic veterinary forms may be available. Never give your dog human meloxicam without specific dosing instructions from your veterinarian.
Uses for Meloxicam for Dogs
Metacam is sometimes used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis. It is often used to reduce pain and inflammation in order to promote healing and recovery after surgery or injury.
Meloxicam is typically administered to dogs as a once-daily dose of 0.1 mg/kg (0.045 mg per pound). The initial dose may be doubled at the vet's discretion. Fortunately, meloxicam solutions for dogs will typically come with a syringe for dosing according to the dog's body weight.
Shake the solution well, then draw up the dose for your dog's weight (or the dose your vet recommends) into the provided syringe. The solution can be put directly into the dog's mouth or added to food. When adding meloxicam to dog food or treats, make sure your dog eats the entire portion of food to ensure adequate dosing. Giving this drug with food may decrease the chances of gastrointestinal upset.
Side Effects of Meloxicam for Dogs
The potential side effects of meloxicam are essentially the same side effects of other NSAIDs.
Signs of Negative Meloxicam Effects in Dogs
- Vomiting (possibly with blood)
- Diarrhea (possibly with blood)
- Decreased appetite
- Gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding
- Black, tarry stools (digested blood in stool)
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Prolonged or unexplained bleeding (abnormal clotting)
- Central nervous system issues (uncommon)
If side effects occur in your dog while giving meloxicam, stop the medication and contact your veterinarian right away. Bring your dog to a veterinarian immediately if you notice profuse bleeding, extreme lethargy, sudden collapse, or other serious signs of illness.
Considerations Before Giving Dogs Meloxicam
Your veterinarian might recommend general labs tests to assess your dog's organ functions and overall health before prescribing meloxicam. These tests could reveal underlying liver or kidney issues that could be made worse by meloxicam therapy.
Some medications should not be taken at the same time as meloxicam. Other NSAIDs (such as aspirin, carprofen, meloxicam, deracoxib, and others) should be stopped before starting meloxicam unless your vet recommends otherwise. Using multiple NSAIDs at the same time increases the risks of side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, GI ulceration or bleeding, liver or kidney damage, and abnormal bleeding. The same adverse effects may occur from steroids (such as prednisone and cortisone) along with meloxicam. If your dog is on NSAIDs or steroids, your vet will recommend a wash-out period of up to a week before starting your dog on meloxicam
Dogs on long-term meloxicam treatment will need to be routinely monitored. Monitoring typically includes blood tests every three to six months to make sure there is no damage to the organs. It is also important to bring your dog for routine physical examinations as recommended by your veterinarian. This will allow your vet to look for meloxicam-related damage as well as underlying conditions that can be made worse by continued meloxicam use.
Talk to your vet if you don't think meloxicam is working well to relieve your dog's pain and inflammation. You might be able to consider other treatment options.
Radi, Zaher A. “Pathophysiology of Cyclooxygenase Inhibition in Animal Models.” Toxicologic Pathology, vol. 37, no. 1, 2009, pp. 34–46.
Plumb's Veterinary Drug Handbook, 7th Edition. Donald C. Plumb, Pharm.D.