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Meloxicam Use in Dogs – Dosage and Potential Side Effects

By: Merliza Cabriles, D.V.M.
Meloxicam, a type of NSAID, is now widely used for acute and chronic conditions in dogs that are accompanied by pain, inflammation, and fever.

Meloxicam (brand names Metacam® Loxicom®, OroCAM®, Rheumocam) belongs to group of medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It has been approved by the FDA for use in dogs and could only be acquired with a veterinarian’s prescription. It belongs to the same class as NSAIDs for human use, such as Advil (ibuprofen), Celebrex (celecoxib), and aspirin. The human preparations are NOT safe for use in dogs, except for aspirin, which also has its issues and should be used only with the advice of a veterinarian. Since the medication is available in various forms and strengths– chewable tablet, oral suspension, trans-mucosal spray, and injection– your vet will determine how much meloxicam is safe for your dog.

The use of human NSAIDs in dogs is not recommended because of certain serious health issues that can develop. These include:

  • Development of stomach ulcers, or even rupture of the stomach
  • Deactivation of platelets which means there is a likelihood of bleeding
  • Decrease in blood supply to the kidney which can be dangerous to patients with pre-existing kidney problems

How does Meloxicam Work In Dogs?

The Animalista dog with heating pad on head

The action of meloxicam involves reducing the hormones in the dog’s body that cause pain and inflammation. The effect of meloxicam generally occurs within 1-2 hours, and significant improvement of symptoms should be observed. The maximum effect is often seen about 8 hours after administration.

When on a trial course, a dog’s response to meloxicam may take 3-4 days to show. But if there’s no response that can be observed within 10 days from start of administration, stop giving meloxicam and a different pain medication should be used instead. Before switching to a different NSAID, a 5-7 day rest period should be observed. However, when it’s switching from aspirin to another veterinary NSAID, the rest period should be 10-14 days because of its strong platelet-inactivating action. Between the corticosteroid prednisone and Meloxicam, allow at least 1 week of rest period.

Meloxicam is generally prescribed in dogs for the following conditions:

  • For pain relief
  • To relieve inflammation
  • For relief of fever 
  • For alleviation of symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and other muscle and bone disorders — A clinical trial on the effect and tolerance of Meloxicam in senior dogs with chronic osteoarthritis showed a significant reduction in the clinical symptoms of osteoarthritis after 4 weeks of therapy with the drug. There were minimal side effects.
  • For treatment of post-surgical pain

Meloxicam can be used for both chronic conditions and acute pain symptoms and inflammation.  

“How do I give Meloxicam to my pet?”

Meloxicam preparations are available as oral liquid, oral spay, chewable tablets, or injectable. Your veterinarian may prescribe a pill form which is for human use. In this case, the medication is prescribed ‘off label’ or ‘extra label’.

Just like other drugs that are prescribed for your pet, always remember to follow the instructions of your veterinarian regarding the dosage and administration. For the oral liquid, shake the bottle well before measuring out the dose.

Precautions to remember when giving Meloxicam to dogs

  • Give meloxicam with food to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal reactions. To prevent accidental overdosing, give the oral suspension mixed with food and never directly into your dog’s mouth.                                                                                                                                       
  • If you have several dogs in the household, never give meloxicam prescribed for one dog to another dog without consulting your veterinarian.
  • Meloxicam should never be used with dogs who have the following conditions:
    • Allergies to NSAIDs medications
    • Pre-existing liver, heart, or kidney problems
    • Vomiting or have bloody stools
    • Poor appetite
    • Dehydrated dogs
    • Dogs that are breeding, pregnant, or lactating
    • Puppies that are younger than 6 months old
    • Dogs with bleeding disorders
    • Dogs on diuretic therapy          

Potential side effects of Meloxicam In Dogs

The Animalista dog refusing to eat due to medication side effects

Meloxicam is relatively safe for dogs. The most common side effect of the medication is gastrointestinal upset, such as lack of appetite, vomiting, and soft stools. Serious adverse reactions are rare. Gastrointestinal upsets associated with meloxicam consumption, however, should be differentiated from digestive symptoms that are often triggered by a dog’s exposure to stressful conditions. Other potential side effects include the following:

  • Change in bowel movements — stool may appear black, tarry, or blood may be present in the stool
  • Change in behavior –there may be an increase or decrease in the dog’s activity level, seizure, displays of aggressive behavior, or incoordination.
  • Jaundice — yellowing of the skin, gums, or whites of the eyes
  • Skin irritation — scratching, redness, scabbing, crusting
  • Increase in water consumption and/or changes in the frequency of urination, urine color, or smell
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Unexplained weight loss

Similar to other medications, the risk of an allergy reaction is always present. Severe cases of allergy can lead to anaphylactic reactions which is serious and life-threatening. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include swelling, hives, or difficulty breathing.

If you notice any signs of adverse reaction, stop giving meloxicam to your dog and call your veterinarian immediately.

Potential Drug Interactions With Meloxicam

Caution should be observed when Meloxicam is used in conjunction with the following medications:

  • Certain antibiotics
  • Anesthetics
  • Anticoagulants
  • Diuretics
  • Antifungals
  • Immunosuppressive drugs

Meloxicam should NEVER be used simultaneously with

  • Other types of NSAIDs medications, such as Carprofen (Rimadyl), Firocoxib (Previcox), Etodolac (Etogesic), Deracoxib (Deramaxx), Aspirin.
  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, and triamcinolone.

Be sure to inform your veterinarian about any medications, supplements, herbal therapies, or alternative treatments that your pet is taking.

Why your dog needs to be closely monitored while on Meloxicam

The possibility that potential side effects can occur makes it vital for close monitoring of pets that are on meloxicam. Veterinarians usually perform blood testing before and after starting the use of the medication. The main purpose of these tests is to monitor the dog’s liver and kidney function and detect symptoms that may indicate the presence of gastrointestinal ulceration. 

Dogs that need long-term use of meloxicam should undergo a complete physical examination and blood screening to determine the presence of any issue, such as kidney or liver disease or dysfunction, that might contraindicate the use of the medication or any other type of NSAID.

Meloxicam Dosage and Administration

The Animalista medication bottle with dropper

To prevent the development of negative side effects, the lowest effective dose of Meloxicam should be given for the shortest duration.

The initial dose of meloxicam is 0.09-0.1 mg/lb or 0.2 mg/kg body weight. This is given ONCE on the first day of treatment only. The maintenance dose is given from second day of treatment onwards at a dose of 0.045-0.05mg/lb 0.1 mg /kg body weight once daily at 24-hour intervals.

Oral Suspension (0.5 mg/mL strength)

For dogs under 1 lb (0.45 kg), the medication should be administered using the pre-calibrated dropper bottle. Give 2 drops for each pound of body weight (5 drops for each kilogram of body weight). To prevent overdosing, place the drops on the dog’s food and not directly into his mouth. Even when it’s added to food, be sure that the correct dose is given before the food is offered to the dog. Take note that the syringe that comes with the Meloxicam Oral Suspension (0.5 mg/mL) CANNOT be used to administer medication to dogs that are less than 1 lb (0.45 kg) in weight. Instead, the dropper bottle should be used.

For dogs weighing between 1-10 lbs, the daily maintenance dose is given using the measuring syringe that comes with the product. It has been calibrated to release the daily maintenance dose in pounds. When computing how much medication is appropriate for your dog, round off his weight to the nearest 1-pound increment. You can also use the dropper bottle for the purpose — 2 drops for each pound of the dog’s body weight (5 drops for each kg body weight).

Oral Suspension (1.5 mg/mL strength)

If your dog has been prescribed with the 1.5 mg/mL strength meloxicam oral suspension, the product comes with a syringe for dispensing. However, you cannot use the syringe for dogs weighing less than 5 lbs (2.3 kg). For these dogs, you should use a dropper bottle — 1 drop for each pound of body weight (2 drops for each kilogram of body weight). The medicine should be dropped directly into the dog’s food.

For dogs that are weighing between 5-10 pounds, give the oral suspension using the measuring syringe that comes with the product. The syringe has been calibrated to dispense the daily maintenance dose (o.o5 mg/lb or 0.1 mg/kg). To determine how much of the medicine your dog should be given, round down your pet’s weight to the nearest 5-pound increment.

For dogs that weigh over 10 pounds (4.5 kg), the syringe is designed to dispense the daily maintenance dose (o.o5 mg/lb or 0.1 mg/kg). To find out how much of the oral suspension should be given to your dog, round down your dogs weight to the nearest 5-pound increment. On the other hand, if you’re using the dropper bottle to give the medication to your pet, give 1 drop for each pound of body weight (2 drops for each kg of body weight).

Meloxicam Chewable Tablets

Chewable tablets are available in 1.0 mg, 2.5 mg, 7.5 mg, and 15 mg preparations. The 1.0 mg meloxicam chewable tablet is formulated as a maintenance dose for a 10-kilogram dog, while the 2.5 mg tablet is for a dog weighing 25 kilograms.

Meloxicam Trans-Mucosal Spray

Due to the size of the pump that comes with the product, smaller dogs cannot be accurately dosed. Thus, the trans-mucosal spray is not recommended for use in dogs that are weighing less than 5.5 pounds (2 kilograms). The spray is given at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg (0.045 mg/lb) once daily. Be sure to follow the instructions given by your veterinarian regarding the dose and administration.

As to the question “how much meloxicam for 60 lb dog?”

For ease of administration, give 1 tablet of meloxicam (7.5 mg strength) for the initial dose.

For the maintenance dose, give half a tablet of meloxicam (7.5 mg strength) at 24-hour intervals.

Considering that there are several preparations of Meloxicam, your vet can advise you on which type is best for your pet’s problem. During the course of the treatment, your veterinarian may deem it necessary to adjust the drug’s dosage based on the response of your dog. The ultimate goal is to give the lowest dose possible while still providing relief from symptoms.

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By: Merliza Cabriles, D.V.M.

Contributing Professional

The Animalista professional contributors are comprised of licensed Veterinarians and certified Veterinary Technicians who have been vetted by our team and have either authored or reviewed this content for accuracy. 

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