The majority of canine NSAID pain medications come in pill form. Some dogs have no problems taking pills, but some dogs are almost impossible to “pill” no matter what trick you have up your sleeve. Luckily, there is a liquid pain medication available for these types of dogs.
Metacam for Dog Pain
Rimadyl (carprofen) is the token NSAID for dogs with arthritis or to manage surgical pain. It can be difficult to divide a pill until it’s small enough to give to particularly tiny dogs, however, making dosing difficult in toy breeds. Metacam (meloxicam) is a liquid NSAID acceptable for treating osteoarthritis and post-surgical pain. It also reduces fevers which many canine NSAIDs don’t do.
Is Metacam Safe for Dogs?
Metacam is a very safe NSAID with minimal side effects in healthy dogs. Even though it effectively reduces the inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis, it should be used with caution in geriatric dogs. The liver and kidneys of older dogs have a harder time metabolizing daily doses of medications, so many vets are cautious with the types of NSAIDs they prescribe to geriatric patients. Before your dog is cleared for daily Metacam use, a full examination, blood panel, and urinalysis have to be run to ensure their organs are working well enough to tolerate the drug every day.
Stomach ulcers are a concern with NSAIDs, including Metacam. If your dog doesn’t have a history of stomach ulcers or other digestive disorders, it’s very unlikely they will develop an ulcer. However, if they have had an ulcer or other type of bleeding problem in their GI tract, NSAIDs need to be used more conservatively. The liver sometimes produces an enzyme that reduces the protective mucosal layer of the stomach and intestines, exposing the sensitive stomach lining to the harsh stomach acids. The risk of ulcers decreases when the medication is given with food or your dog is on the lowest effective dose possible. The chances of an ulcer developing with short term use is very low.
Metacam’s safety has not been evaluated in dogs with bleeding disorders like von Willebrand’s disease.
Metacam Side Effects in Dogs
Loose stools and diarrhea are the most common side effect reported with Metacam. Stomach upset generally resolves on its own once your dog’s body gets used to the medication or if you make sure your dog’s stomach is full before they get their dose. If it doesn’t go away after a few days, check in with your vet to evaluate whether your dog equires an office visit, a decrease in dosage/frequency, or lab work.
Loose stools, diarrhea, and vomiting become concerning when blood is present. Blood indicates there is a bleed in the GI tract somewhere. If their stools become tinged with blood or they’re black and tarry in appearance, it’s possible an ulcer is present. Other signs of an ulcer are blood in the vomit, lack of appetite, and abdominal pain. Ulcers are very serious when they’re left untreated. If the ulcer completely eats through the stomach lining, the contents of the stomach spill into the abdominal cavity and create a very dangerous infection. Any changes in your dog’s appetite or stools should be brought up to the vet.
It’s important to keep dogs hydrated when they’re on daily Metacam. Hydration reduces the stress placed on the kidneys and decreases the risk of kidney damage. Any change in your dog’s drinking habits is concerning, regardless of whether it’s an increase or a decrease. Report any changes to your vet right away. A change in hydration will also change the frequency of your dog’s urination. If your dog is drinking a lot but their urine is still dark and pungent in smell, they need bloodwork and a urinalysis done to see how the Metacam is affecting the kidneys.
Metacam Dosage for Dogs
Metacam is manufactured in both liquid and injectable forms. The injectable form is only available if your dog is hospitalized because it has to be administered by a vet. The oral suspension is the kind sent home with your dog. If it’s for daily use, you’ll purchase the entire bottle.
Metacam is typically given to dogs under 10 pounds because of its dosing accuracy. The suspension comes with a dropper that’s specific to the medication. Dogs less than five pounds get one drop for each pound of body weight. Dogs between five and 10 pounds can be dosed with the dropper or the measuring syringe that comes in the package. Your vet will calculate the dosage for you.
Dogs getting Metacam for short-term use are sent home with pre-dosed syringes for easy administration. Per the manufacturer, Metacam should never be placed directly on the tongue of dogs under five pounds to prevent potential overdosing.
Metacam is suitable for dogs of all sizes, but since it has to be purchased by the bottle, there are more affordable options for larger dogs. If you have a small dog that needs long-term pain management, Metacam is an easily administered option to discuss with your vet.