Is it Safe to Give Metacam to Dogs?

Yes, it is safe to give Metacam to dogs.

Metacam, which is a brand name for meloxicam, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication for dogs. This medication requires a veterinary prescription, and when used as prescribed and directed by a veterinarian, it is generally safe.

While the brand Metacam is formulated specifically for dogs, other forms of meloxicam are FDA-approved for humans and sometimes used off-label in dogs. This drug was first developed by Boehringer Ingelheim, and today it is one of the most frequently prescribed medications for dogs. 

Metacam is an NSAID that belongs to the oxicam class of drugs.  It works by blocking the COX enzyme, which prevents the formation of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemical compounds that play a key role in the development of inflammation.

More precisely, meloxicam is COX-selective and has a stronger affinity for COX-2 than COX-1. This is good news because COX-2 selective NSAIDS help block the formation of prostaglandins responsible for swelling, heat, pain, and fever, which are associated with inflammation. 

Meanwhile, they do not primarily affect the prostaglandins responsible for beneficial processes like kidney perfusion, blood clotting cascade, and GI tract mucous secretions, which help to protect against ulcers.   

What is the Drug Metacam Used for in Dogs?

Is it Safe to Give Metacam to Dogs

In dogs, Metacam is used to alleviate pain, control inflammation, and reduce fever. Metacam is a commonly prescribed treatment for dogs with stiffness and lameness because of musculoskeletal pain associated with osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia, as well as pain associated with surgery.  

Metacam for Osteoarthritis in Dogs. Canine osteoarthritis is one of the most common conditions in dogs. Almost every dog will develop some form and level of arthritis at a certain point in its life. Metacam is commonly prescribed for dogs with arthritis because it manages both of its main aspects, pain, and inflammation. 

Dr. Lisa Steinberg says, “Arthritis is seen commonly in my practice, and many dogs will show symptoms of this condition starting at middle age, which is around 7 years old. I find NSAID use, such as Metacam, as a huge factor in preserving a good quality of life in so many dogs”. 

Metacam for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs. Hip dysplasia is a common issue, especially among certain dog breeds. It occurs when the hip socket and head of the femur (the thigh bone) do not grow proportionally, leading to unnecessary movement, friction, and a high risk of joint dislocation. Once again, Metacam can help with both pain and inflammation associated with this condition. 

Metacam for Post-Surgery Pain in Dogs. Pain management in post-surgery patients is of paramount importance. Inadequate pain relief can prolong the healing period and have adverse effects on the dog’s overall welfare. Because of its safety, efficacy, and convenience (once-daily dosing), Metacam is often given to dogs after surgical procedures. 

Mobility - Green Lipped Mussel Joint Powder
  • This bacon popcorn flavored Honest Paws Joint Powder uses a blend of ingredients that focus on all-encompassing joint health and support.
  • It works to maintain joint mobility, improve cartilage development, and enhance overall bone and joint health.
  • Green lipped mussel extract contains a nutrient-rich blend of natural proteins, minerals and omega fatty acids.

What are the Side Effects of Dogs Taking Metacam?

The most common side effects of Metacam include gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, loose stool, and loss of appetite or, in simple words, telltale signs of stomach upset. 

Some less common but more serious side effects include: 

  • Increased thirst 
  • Increased urination 
  • Bloody stools or tarry stools
  • Blood in the vomit 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Open sores in the mouth 
  • Excessive itchiness
  • Tremors and seizures 
  • Weight gain secondary to fluid retention
  • Unusual weakness and lethargy 
  • Yellowing of the eyes and/or skin
  • Pale gums, yellow gums.  

If your dog is experiencing any of these side effects, discontinue using Meloxicam and call your veterinarian immediately for further instructions. 

Dr. Lisa Steinberg notes, “I stress to owners how important it is to monitor for side effects at home. Gastric ulcers, which can cause anorexia and vomiting blood, as well as diarrhea or acute kidney failure, are more common issues that I have seen with this medication, and they can be life-threatening”. 

It is worth mentioning that Metacam may trigger an allergic reaction in some highly sensitive dogs. Such reactions manifest with facial swelling, rashes and hives, and difficulty breathing. 

Because of the increased risk of side effects, Metacam should be used cautiously in the following scenarios:

  • Geriatric, weak, frail, and dehydrated dogs 
  • Dogs with oral, gastric, or esophageal ulcers or a history of ulcers
  • Dogs with pre-existing heart conditions 
  • Dogs with bleeding disorders. 

Additionally, Metacam is contraindicated and should not be used with the following: 

  • Dogs with known hypersensitivity to NSAIDs 
  • Dogs on meds that have established drug interactions with NSAIDs
  • Puppies less than six months of age 
  • Breeding, pregnant, and lactating dogs 
  • Dogs with pre-existing or increased risk of developing liver or kidney disease. 

Metacam Dosage for Dogs

Metacam Meloxicam for Dogs

The generally recommended Metacam dosage for dogs is 0.09 mg/lb of body weight (0.2 mg per kg) on the first day of treatment. After that, the daily recommended maintenance dose is 0.045 mg/lb (0.1 mg/kg).

If you forget to give your dog its daily dose of Metacam, call your veterinarian for instructions. In this situation, there are generally two options, giving the dose later than normal or skipping the missed dose if your veterinarian feels it’s too late to give it the same day. 

It is important to be extra mindful regarding the accuracy of dosing. Dr. Lisa Steinberg accents that “It is so important to dose your dog properly, as inaccuracy often leads to the worst side effects”. 

An overdose can cause serious problems, and underdosing may not help your dog. In case of accidental overdosing, call your veterinarian or an Animal Poison Control Helpline as soon as possible. 

How Quickly does Metacam Work in Dogs?

Metacam is a fast-acting medication and usually takes between one and two hours to start working. After this timeframe, there should be a visible improvement in your dog’s condition. 

In more chronic conditions, such as severe arthritis, it may take a few days for your dog to seem more comfortable with increased mobility. If your dog is not responding to Metacam as expected, call your veterinarian. 

Metacam for Dogs Usage Guidelines

As previously mentioned, meloxicam is available in different forms, including oral suspensions, oral sprays, and chewable tablets. Meloxicam manufactured for humans in the form of pills (brand name Mobic and Mobicox) is sometimes used in dogs. Your veterinarian may also administer an injectable form of Meloxicam at the veterinary hospital. 

The Metacam oral suspension is most frequently used because it is convenient and often palatable for dogs. The oral suspension is available in two strengths (0.5 mg/ml and 1.5 mg/ml). 

Directions for how to measure and administer the dose of Metacam solution to your dog are on the included client information insert, but if you have any questions, it’s important to ask your vet for help. 

In general, when measuring a dosage for your dog’s body weight, you can go down to the nearest 5-pound increment. The measuring syringe fits on the bottle and is simple to use.  It is important to shake the bottle well before measuring. 

You can ask your vet if it should be given in food or directly by mouth based on your dog’s size, which is an important issue with safety.

Additionally, a word or two about storage: Metacam needs to be kept at room temperature and away from heat, light, and moisture. Exposure to such elements affects its efficacy. Also, make sure the medication is out-of-reach for children and pets (call a physician or vet respectively in case of accidental ingestion).   

Finally, always tell your veterinarian if the pet is already receiving certain medications. Drug interactions are possible in dogs on:

  • Other NSAIDs (Carprofen/Rimadyl, Deracoxib/Deramaxx, Firocoxib/Previcox, Grapipant/Galliprant, Aspirin) 
  • Corticosteroids (, Dexamethasone)
  • Certain antibiotics (Gentamicin, Amikacin)
  • Antifungals (Fluconazole)
  • Anticoagulants (Heparin, Warfarin)
  • Diuretics (Furosemide)
  • Immunosuppressants (Cyclosporine, Methotrexate)
  • ACE Inhibitors (Enalapril, Benazepril) 

Metacam Alternatives for Dogs

Metacam Alternatives for Dogs

If Metacam is contraindicated for your dog, do not worry. Dr. Lisa Steinberg says, “It’s important to know that if your dog does not tolerate Metacam well, there are many alternatives to try, so don’t give up.” 

Here is a short review of some of the most popular Metacam alternatives for dogs. 

Other NSAIDs for Dogs. Instead of Meloxicam, you can use other members of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs family, such as Carprofen (Rimadyl/Novox), Deracoxib (Deramaxx), and Firocoxib (Previcox). Keep in mind that human NSAIDs (Aleve, Aspirin, Ibuprofen) can be toxic to dogs.  

Opioids for Dogs. Your veterinarian may prescribe opioids such as Butorphanol or opioid-like synthetic versions (Tramadol). Opioids are controlled substances, and you need to discuss their pros and cons with your trusted veterinarian. 

Gabapentin for Dogs. Gabapentin is another off-label drug and, in veterinary medicine, is commonly used to relieve pain, especially of nerve-related origin. Gabapentin can be helpful alone or in conjunction with other pain medications.

If you prefer natural and holistic remedies, there are several options you can try. When dealing with pain and canine osteoarthritis, acupuncture is generally well tolerated by dogs and can help.   

Additionally, keeping your dog at a healthy body weight and trying other modes of physical therapy, such as hydrotherapy and massage, can be highly beneficial and safe. Your veterinarian may offer recommendations for glucosamine supplements or recommend an injectable polysulfated glycosaminoglycan. 

Here are some other options worth considering. 

CBD Oil for Dogs. Cannabidiol is often advertised as an efficient way of managing pain and inflammation. CBD has natural anti-inflammatory features and changes the way the brain responds to pain. 

You should use the Honest Paws CBD oil and edibles. They are highly palatable, enriched with condition-specific ingredients, and made of organic, full-spectrum hemp. 

Green Lipped Mussels (GLM). Green Lipped Mussels are another homeopathic option for dogs with osteoarthritis. Rich in omega fatty acids and anti-inflammatory properties, they will help on various levels. 

We suggest using the Honest Paws Mobility GLM Powder. In addition to Green Lipped Mussels, the powder contains other joint-friendly ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin, Boswellia serrata, hyaluronic acid, and MSM. 

Whether you prefer Metacam or some of its mainstream or natural alternatives, make sure you talk with your vet before starting to treat your dog. Please, keep in mind that the information in this article is educational and should not be used as a substitute for veterinary consultation. 

author avatar
Ivana Crnec, DVM OneVet
Ivana Crnec got her veterinary degree at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola. She then continued her education at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia, where she specialized in domestic carnivores.