Meloxicam (Metacam) For Dogs: Dosage, Side Effects, And Alternatives.

Key Takeaway: Meloxicam (Metacam®, Maxicam®, Mobic®) is used to treat pain and inflammation in dogs. Meloxicam must be prescribed by a vet. It is available as a liquid or as tablets. Meloxicam is approved by the FDA for treating osteoarthritis in dogs, and may also be used off-label for post-surgery pain and other kinds of pain. Side effects can be serious—it’s important to follow the advice of a vet.

Meloxicam (Metacam) For Dogs: Dosage, Side Effects, And Alternatives.

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Meloxicam (also known as Metacam, Maxicam, or Mobic) is a drug used to treat pain and inflammation. In dogs it is commonly used to treat osteoarthritis, and is FDA approved for this indication. It is not as widely used as carprofen, but is regarded to be as safe and highly effective.

Meloxicam is an NSAID or non-steroidal anti inflammatory, meaning it works primarily by blocking in the inflammation pathway in the body, which also relieves pain.

NSAIDs are also antipyretics, meaning they decrease fevers. Meloxicam is not approved for this in dogs, but it can be used off-label for injury or trauma related pain and inflammation. If the pain is due to a wound that is being treated for infection, the anti-fever abilities of meloxicam may be helpful.

Can I Get Meloxicam Without a Prescription?

No.

Meloxicam is prescription only in the United States. To get meloxicam from your dog, you will need a prescription from a licensed veterinarian.

Meloxicam is a very potent drug, meaning it’s easy to accidentally give too much. Overdose side effects can be quite serious. For this reason, it is not advisable to take meloxicam prescribed for another animal or human and use it with your dog. It is also not lawful.

How is Meloxicam Given?

Meloxicam for dogs is available as an oral suspension (liquid).

Depending on the age and weight of your dog, your veterinarian may prescribe human tablets. These are widely available, are more cost-effective, and can be split as needed to achieve appropriate doses.

How Does Meloxicam Work?

Meloxicam blocks COX (cyclooxygenase) enzymes, preventing the body from making molecules called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are part of the process the body uses to cause inflammation. This leads to pain and stiffness in arthritic conditions. By blocking inflammation, a dog’s stiff, painful joints are eased, allowing better range of motion without pain.

What is Meloxicam Used For?

The FDA has approved meloxicam for osteoarthritis in dogs.

Like many other drugs, meloxicam has been studied for use for things that are not FDA approved, including post-surgery pain. It may also be used for other kinds of pain, depending on your veterinarian’s experience, preference, and professional judgment. These sorts of uses can include pain from wounds or injuries and fever control.

Is Meloxicam Safe?

Like all NSAIDs, meloxicam has risks.

Meloxicam is one of the safer NSAIDs, meaning it is less likely than some of the others (especially over the counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen or aspirin) to cause life-threatening side effects. In studies, meloxicam has been shown to be one of the safest NSAID’s available in the United States.

That doesn’t make it 100% safe or a good idea for every dog.

The FDA states:

Due to their pain-relieving, fever-reducing, and anti-inflammatory properties, NSAIDs have many benefits for animals and can lead to improved quality of life, but they can cause side effects. As a group, NSAIDs may affect the kidneys, liver, and stomach and intestines. Veterinary NSAIDs have not been studied in dogs, cats, horses, and pigs that are pregnant, nursing, or intended for breeding.

And:

Most side effects in animals are mild, but some can be serious and require medical care, especially if the drug is not used according to the directions on the label. Serious side effects include bleeding ulcers and perforations (holes) in the stomach and intestines, kidney and liver problems, and even death in some cases. Veterinarians and owners should discuss the benefits and risks of an NSAID before deciding to use it.

The key is to discuss the risks with your vet. Your vet should discuss these risks in the context of your dog’s health and health history, and explain why NSAID therapy is or isn’t a good idea for your dog.

What Are The Side Effects of Meloxicam?

All NSAIDs come with serious risks of side effects, and meloxicam is no exception.

Side effects of NSAIDs, including meloxicam, include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Ulcers
  • Diarrhea and soft stools
  • Blood in stools
  • Low appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Kidney failure
  • Itching

Just like in humans, these side effects do not mean the drug should be completely avoided. Instead, it’s important to work with your vet to use meloxicam safely. Here are some key things to do to keep your dog safe on meloxicam:

  • Talk to your vet about what to look for to ensure serious side effects are caught early. If your beloved pet stops eating or is losing weight, has ongoing diarrhea, or any of the other side effects above, contact your vet and remind them the dog is on meloxicam. Ask if what you’re seeing could be due to the drug, and cooperate with your vet in checking to see if the drug needs to be stopped or changed.
  • Use the drug for the shortest time possible as per your vet’s directions. The longer a dog is on a drug like meloxicam, the more likely it causes harm.
  • Use the lowest dose possible — especially if your dog is going to be on meloxicam for a long time. NSAIDs are generally not good drugs to be on for a very long time, no matter if you’re a dog or a human. If your dog has osteoarthritis and is using meloxicam for long term pain relief, be sure to ask your vet if you can start at a very low dose and slowly work up to find the lowest possible dose that gets your dog the mobility they need to restore quality of life. Any more than that adds risk with no benefit!

What About Pregnancy?

No. NSAIDs should never be used in pregnant dogs as they can seriously injure the developing pups.

What About Lactating/Nursing?

No. This should be avoided if at all possible. NSAIDs are not approved for use in dogs less than six months of age and they are excreted in the mother’s milk.

What If I Miss a Dose?

If you miss a dose of meloxicam with your dog and remember close to the time of the dose (i.e., if you’re giving a dose once daily and remember later in the afternoon that you forgot to give the medication), give the dose and continue dosing as usual.

If you miss a dose and it’s time for the next dose (i.e., you remember the next morning that you forgot to give the previous day’s dose), do not double up. Meloxicam is not a drug where you can safely give a catch-up dose. It will drastically increase the risk of side effects.

Meloxicam Dosage for Dogs

Because Meloxicam is a prescription medication, your vet will determine the dosage based off of your dog's specific circumstances. Meloxicam dosing can be fine-tuned for any dog by starting at a very low dose and working up slowly, using either the liquid or tablets. If meloxicam is being used for acute (short-term) pain, then it is appropriate to use a higher starting dose.

Be sure that you are aware of and comfortable with Meloxicam's side effects before giving it to your dog.

If meloxicam is being used for a chronic (long-term) condition, then it is much more important to use a low dose and work up slowly to find the minimum dose that improves your dog’s quality of life. Any more than that is unnecessary risk increase!

Generally, meloxicam is dosed at 0.045mg/lb once daily in the long term. The first dose may be given at twice this dose, or 0.09mg/lb. Talk to your veterinarian to get the correct directions for your dog.

Meloxicam Dosing Table

This table provides a general dosing guide for meloxicam in dogs, assuming the maintenance dose of 0.045mg/lb once daily.

Dog’s Weight (lb) Usual Dosage of Meloxicam per day (mg)
10 0.45
20 0.9
30 1.35
40 1.8
50 2.25
60 2.7
70 3.15
80 3.6
90 4.05
100 4.5

Meloxicam Cost

Meloxicam tablets cost around $0.50 per tablet.

The suspension is more expensive. It costs around $90-$100 per bottle.

Meloxicam Alternatives or Adjuncts

As mentioned, using NSAIDs for the short term is normally acceptably safe, even at higher does — but what do you do for a dog who will have osteoarthritis for several years and need relief every day? NSAIDs like meloxicam can lead to increased risks of serious and even fatal side effects the longer they are used.

This is where alternatives or adjuncts help. Different supplements or nutraceuticals can provide relief, allowing you to decrease the dose of an NSAID like meloxicam or in some cases stop using it. We’ll cover some of them here.

Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASUs)

ASUs are extracted from avocados and soybeans. They stimulate cartilage formation. Cartilage is a substance that helps cushion joints. It breaks down in arthritis, leading to joints hurting as they break down. ASUs help your dog’s body rebuild that cartilage.

Studies show that ASUs really do work in humans and dogs, helping beyond just rebuilding cartilage. ASUs actually block a specific pathway that arthritis uses to damage joints in dogs.

ASUs are natural products, extracted from avocado and soybeans, and are safe in dogs and humans at the recommended doses.

Boswellia serrata

Boswellia is a medicine that’s been used for hundreds of years to treat chronic joint pain and other ailments. Research shows that boswellia extract is anti-inflammatory and helps relieve pain. It has been tested in humans and dogs and is likely to help restore mobility by reducing pain. Dogs that use it are less stiff and more willing to stretch and move.

Boswellia is not known to cause serious side effects or health issues in humans or dogs.

CBD

CBD (cannabidiol), especially CBD oil, is one of the more promising treatments for joint pain in dogs to enter mainstream use in the United States in the past several years. This doesn’t mean it’s a new discovery, however — the plant that CBD comes from, hemp, has been used in veterinary medicine in the U.S. for over 100 years!

CBD is an extract from the hemp plant that is not psychoactive (it does not get your dog “high”) and does not cause the panic attacks seen with formulations that contain THC. THC is the part of the hemp plant that can get dogs “high” or cause them to panic.

Relievet’s CBD products specifically avoid this part of the plant and focus on the CBD to provide maximum benefit with minimum side effects.

Does CBD work for dogs? As an anti-inflammatory, calming medication for anxiety, pain reliever, and anti-itch medication, yes! Research has been done on all these indications and CBD was proven to help relieve symptoms, especially for osteoarthritis.

The wonderful thing about using CBD is that THC-free CBD products are associated with few and relatively harmless side effects that can be avoided if the dose is started low and increased slowly: Loose stools and tiredness.

Check out our CBD products here to explore the benefits to your pet. Using CBD to reduce or remove their need for an NSAID puts them in a position to enjoy a longer, happier life!

Recap

Meloxicam is a prescription-only non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug used to treat pain and inflammation in dogs. It is approved by the FDA for treating osteoarthritis and may be used off-label for post-surgery pain, wounds, and other kinds of pain. Side effects can be serious, so it is important to follow the dosage instructions from a veterinarian. Using natural pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory products like CBD can help reduce the long term risk of NSAIDs like meloxicam.

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