Meloxicam is a well-tolerated drug that can help with pain management and is being studied as a possible treatment for certain types of cancer.
Meloxicam for Dogs: Anti-inflammatory and Pain Reliever
Meloxicam is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is usually given as a subcutaneous (SC) injection at the veterinary hospital or orally (PO) at home as a liquid suspension.
Meloxicam has pain relieving, anti-inflammatory, and fever-reducing properties. It is most often used for treating pain, inflammation, and osteoarthritis and may be used for controlling post-operative pain.
It is not currently used for treating cancer itself but is more commonly used for adjunct pain control for painful types of cancer, such as osteosarcoma.
Brand Names of Meloxicam
For veterinary use in the United States, meloxicam is available under the brand name Metacam®.
How Meloxicam Works
Meloxicam works by inhibiting the production of cyclooxygenase (COX). COX is an enzyme in the body that is responsible for converting arachidonic acid to prostaglandins (PG). By inhibiting COX, meloxicam also inhibits the formation of prostaglandins. This helps to reduce inflammation.
COX is present in three forms:
- COX-1 – best known for its role in protecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and in kidney and platelet function, COX-1 allows for normal functioning of the body.
- COX-2 – more often implicated in inflammation and cancer, COX-2 is produced by exposure to certain substances in response to inflammatory processes or products.
- COX-3 – more recently discovered to be present in the brain, COX-3 appears most related to COX-1, but its function is not yet known.
Over-expression of both COX-1 and COX-2 has been associated with many types of cancers.1
Though further research is needed, some small studies have investigated meloxicam as a potential treatment for some cancers in dogs, including osteosarcoma,2,3 mammary carcinoma,3 lymphoma,3 transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder,4 and prostate adenocarcinoma.4
Meloxicam is COX-2 preferential, meaning that while it can block both COX-1 and COX-2, it prefers COX-2. By blocking this enzyme, meloxicam reduces inflammation and pain.5
When to Not Use Meloxicam in Dogs
Meloxicam should not be used in dogs with gastrointestinal ulcers or in dogs already receiving steroids.
It should also not be used at the same time as other anti-inflammatory medications, as there is increased risk for side effects.
Meloxicam should be used with caution in dogs who have:
- Bleeding disorders
- Impaired liver function
- Impaired heart function
- Impaired kidney function
How to Give Meloxicam to Dogs
Meloxicam is sometimes given as a one-time subcutaneous (under the skin) injection at the veterinary hospital, especially after a painful procedure.
Depending upon where you live, tablets, chewables, and even pastes may be available.
Often the easiest form for home use is a liquid suspension given orally every 24 hours.
It is recommended to give meloxicam with food in order to prevent stomach upset.
What If I Miss a Dose?
If you miss a dose of meloxicam, you may skip it until the next time your dog is due, or you may give it when you remember and adjust your dosing time – just be sure not to give it to your dog more than once every 24 hours.
If you are unsure what to do, contact your veterinary team.
Storage and Handling
When using the liquid suspension at home, remember to shake well before each use and measure carefully using the dosing syringe provided.
The liquid may be honey-flavored and should be stored well out of the reach of children and other animals to prevent an accidental overdose.
Meloxicam Side Effects
Meloxicam is considered a relatively safe drug. Gastrointestinal issues, especially vomiting, diarrhea, and inappetence, are the most common side effects noted.
If you see side effects, you should stop giving the drug immediately and contact your veterinary team.
Side effects involving the kidneys are rare and may not be noticeable by owners. These side effects are rare in dogs with normal kidney function. Dogs with hypotension, hypovolemia, sodium depletion, or undergoing inhalant anesthesia are at higher risk for kidney toxicity.5
It is recommended to do bloodwork to get baseline kidney and liver values before starting meloxicam, and ideally repeat within 2 weeks of starting the medication. If no side effects are noted and meloxicam is used over the long term, kidney and liver function should be monitored periodically.
- Allaj V, Guo C, Nie D. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, prostaglandins, and cancer. Cell & Bioscience. 2013;3(1). doi:10.1186/2045-3701-3-8.
- Wolfesberger B, Walter I, Hoelzl C, Thalhammer JG, Egerbacher M. Antineoplastic effect of the cyclooxygenase inhibitor meloxicam on canine osteosarcoma cells. Research in Veterinary Science. 2006;80(3):308-316. doi:10.1016/j.rvsc.2005.07.013.
- Knottenbelt C, Chambers G, Gault E, Argyle DJ. The in vitro effects of piroxicam and meloxicam on canine cell lines. Journal of Small Animal Practice. 2006;47(1):14-20. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2006.00006.x.
- Packeiser E-M, Hewicker-Trautwein M, Thiemeyer H, et al. Characterization of six canine prostate adenocarcinoma and three transitional cell carcinoma cell lines derived from primary tumor tissues as well as metastasis. PLOS ONE. 2020;15(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0230272.
- Plumb DC. Meloxicam. In: Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook. Wiley-Blackwell; 2018.
Metacam® is a registered trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim
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