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What’s this medication? Meloxicam

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Author: Dr Michelle Gray 

Meloxicam (brand name Metacam) is a commonly used medication in veterinary medicine- it might be dispensed after your pet has had surgery, or if you have an old dog with stiff joints, or perhaps if your cat has been out fighting and been injured. But what is it? How does it work? What side effects can it have? How should it be given? When should you stop giving it? Can it be given long-term? If you have been wondering these things, then read on.

What is meloxicam?

Meloxicam is a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. This means it is in the same family of drugs as the human medication ibuprofen. Meloxicam has, however, been tested and approved for use in cats and dogs whereas ibuprofen is not safe for our pets.

How does meloxicam work?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories work by blocking the production of inflammatory molecules called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins contribute to the pain and fever and redness/ swelling that occur with inflammation. By reducing or stopping the production of prostaglandins, meloxicam helps to relieve pain, fever, and the other symptoms of inflammation.

What side effects can meloxicam have?

Not all prostaglandins in the body are involved in inflammation- there are some that help maintain the health of the gut wall, and some that help regulate blood flow to the kidney. Possible side effects of meloxicam therefore include gastrointestinal upsets (loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhoea) and kidney damage. These side effects are uncommon when meloxicam is given at the recommended dose rate and frequency.

How should meloxicam be given?

As with all medications, meloxicam should be given as directed by the prescribing veterinarian. It comes in liquid and tablet forms that are given orally, and as an injection that can be given by veterinarians. The oral forms should be given with food or just after eating, as this reduces the risk of side effects. Meloxicam is only dosed once daily.

When should you stop giving meloxicam?

It is best to give the complete course of meloxicam as prescribed even if your pet does not seem painful any more. It could be the meloxicam that is making your pet feel good, and it is always better to give pain-relief for too long versus stopping too early. However, it is important to contact a veterinarian if you notice any possible side effects. Do not continue giving meloxicam if your pet goes off their food, has vomiting or diarrhoea, or starts drinking/ urinating more than normal.

Can meloxicam be given long-term?

For some chronic conditions (like arthritis) meloxicam can be used indefinitely. In these cases, your veterinarian may adjust the dose to the lowest effective level. Pets on long-term meloxicam also need regular check-ups (at least every 6 months) +/- blood tests to monitor for side effects.

Disclaimer: The information and advice in this post is general in nature. It is not intended as a substitute for tailored health care advice from your regular veterinarian.