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Ask the Vet: What are the Side Effects of Metacam for Dogs?

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Many dog owners wonder about the side effects of metacam for dogs. If your dog is prescribed this medication, you may be concerned about the risks associated with giving this medication. Getting better acquainted with this drug and its mode of action can therefore come handy so to know what to expect and what to watch for. Not all dogs develop side effects, but for those who do, it's important to report them to the vet immediately. Following is some information about Metacam and the side effects of Metacam for dogs provided by veterinarian Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic.

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What are the side effects of metacam for dogs?

The Use of Metacam for Dogs

Meloxicam is a NSAID primarily made for humans. NSAIDs are a group of drugs shortened for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Although meloxicam drug is made for humans, it is also prescribed for animals to reduce the inflammation and pain associated with musculoskeletal disorders and the stiffness that comes along.

Meloxicam is sold under different names: Meloxicam, Metacam, Mobic, Eloxioral or Loxicom, and it comes in oral forms (tablet or liquid) or as an injectable drug.

Meloxicam is approved for the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs in 2003 by the FDA. Osteoarthritis is a common name for many different degenerative processes of the joints. This drug is also used for different non-degenerative, but still painful and inflammatory bone, joint and muscle disorders.

One of the indications includes postoperative pain, as this drug prevents the formation of new inflammations, prevents pain and manages possible complications.

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How Does Metacam for Dogs Work?

Metacam for dogs works by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), one of the limiting enzymes in the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are molecules made at the sites of infection or wound, and they control inflammation among many other roles. Therefore, metacam works by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis in the inflammatory cells.

This drug is not an opioid and doesn’t have narcotic properties, but, it should be dosed carefully as it may show toxic side effects if overdosed. The dose of the drug differs depending on the dog’s weight and the condition being treated. Consult with you your vet for exact dosing directions.

What are the Side Effects of Metacam for Dogs?

side effects of Metacam for dogs

Side effects of Metacam for dogs. Keep an eye for vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and tar-like stools.

Like any drug, there are possible side effects while using this medication. The whole NSAID drug group is known to cause different gastrointestinal problems. Meloxicam is COX-2 selective, so it would be expected for this drug to have less GI toxicity than other nonselective NSAIDs.

The most common side effects include gastrointestinal problems such as upset bowels or stomach. As already mentioned, prostaglandins are also a valuable source of protection for intestinal wall mucosa, so NSAID drugs work directly by damaging the mucosa and indirectly by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis.

Selective inhibitors of the COX-2 enzyme spare COX-1 in the gastric mucosa and, hence, do not inhibit the production of mucosal prostaglandins. COX-2-selective inhibitors have been associated with a significant reduction in gastroduodenal damage compared to traditional NSAIDs.

"COX-2-selective inhibitors are associated with a significant reduction in gastroduodenal damage compared with traditional NSAIDs. Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) are probably the best agents for healing and prevention of NSAID-induced ulcers."~Ballinger A, Smith G

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Consult with your vet if you notice side effects from Metacam

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What Symptoms Should Dog Owners Watch for?

Not uncommon, but very serious symptoms are the following: increased urination with possible changes in color and smell of the urine, increased thirst, anorexia, fatigue, and changes in behavior including depression, lethargy, aggression, uncoordinated movements or even loss of consciousness.

Rarer side effects like jaundice are caused by liver toxicity, while kidney toxicity is also a possibility.

It is relatively easy to overdose your dog with Meloxicam; the most usual scenario is overstepping the dosage prescribed by a vet because the animal is in discomfort.

Toxic levels of a drug such as Meloxicam will lead to a variety of symptoms including, but not limited to:

• Vomiting and diarrhea
Dark stool resembling tar - this is the most common symptom of a toxic overdose in dogs, and a sign of intestinal bleeding, possible due to ulcer
• Jaundice (yellow gums or whites of the eye)
• Pale gums
• Seizures

Any of the above-mentioned symptoms can lead to a fatal outcome if not treated immediately, so if you suspect an overdose you should treat it as an emergency and go to a veterinary clinic at once.

" Adverse reactions may include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, dark or tarry stools, increased water consumption, increased urination, pale gums due to anemia, yellowing of gums, skin or white of the eye due to jaundice, lethargy, incoordination, seizure, or behavioral changes."~Metacam product insert

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What Dogs Should Not Take Metacam?

Meloxicam should not be used in the last month of pregnancy or in lactating animals. Also, it is not advised for use in animals with any kind of heart, liver, or kidney disease or animals with bleeding disorders.

This drug has not been evaluated for use in animals younger than 6 weeks of age so it should not be used. Meloxicam should not be given with any other NSAIDs, including Carprofen (Rimadyl), Firocoxib (Previcox), Etodolac (Etogesic), Deracoxib (Deramaxx), Aspirin.

What Studies on Metacam Say

Different case studies have shown a significant reduction in clinical signs in different joint pain conditions during the 4 weeks trial. Side effects were as expected and minimal during this period. The findings of this investigation suggest that the efficacy, tolerance, and formulation of meloxicam oral suspension make it well suited for the treatment of chronic osteoarthritis in the dog.

Disclaimer: Not all dogs even if they are suffering from osteoarthritis should take Meloxicam. The decision should be made by your veterinarian based on the medical history, age, sex, the health status of the animal as well as allergy status and the overall health of the immune system. It is important to tell your vet if the dog is taking some other medication because meloxicam may interact with other drugs which can lead to serious side effects and even anaphylactic shock.


  • Clinical efficacy and tolerance of meloxicam in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis. P A Doig, K A Purbrick, J E Hare, and D B McKeown, Can Vet J. 2000 Apr; 41(4): 296–30
  • COX-2 inhibitors vs. NSAIDs in gastrointestinal damage and prevention. Ballinger A1, Smith G. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2001 Jan;2(1):31-40

About the Author 

Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic is a veterinarian in Belgrade, capital city of Serbia. She received her B.S from University of Belgrade in 2012, and her master’s degree from Veterinary University, Belgrade


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