Meloxicam is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), similar to ibuprofen and aspirin for people. In dogs and cats it is used in a wide variety of conditions; commonly as pain relief in acute or chronic musculoskeletal disorders and is very beneficial in the long term control of arthritis. It is also used as post operative pain relief after routine neutering and other soft tissue surgery. It is available in injectable forms used in the veterinary hospital as well as oral suspensions or tablets that can be given daily at home. Meloxicam is available under several brand names such as Metacam, Meloxidyl and Loxicom. If your pet requires long term meloxicam as pain relief then your vet will need to monitor them at regular intervals, possibly including blood tests. Products containing meloxicam are prescription only medications meaning you will only be able to buy them if they are prescribed by a vet.
Mechanism of action
Meloxicam acts as an analgesic (pain killer) and reduces inflammation by blocking the production of inflammatory mediators called prostaglandins. It does this by inhibiting an enzyme involved in their production called cyclo-oxygenase (COX). Not all prostaglandins are harmful to the body. Cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2) is the enzyme involved in production of the harmful or pathogenic inflammatory prostaglandins but cyclo-oxygenase 1 (COX-1) enzymes produce prostaglandins that are involved in protection of the gut and aiding kidney function. These are also referred to as physiological prostaglandins.
Modern NSAID's aim to be “COX-2 selective” meaning that they inhibit only the production of the harmful prostaglandins and although they inhibit COX-2 to a greater degree, some COX-1 inhibition still occurs and this is mainly what causes the possible side effects of NSAIDs such as meloxicam. Potential side effects include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood in the stools and very rarely liver disease or renal failure. These signs will generally occur within the first week and will generally resolve once treatment is stopped.
Meloxicam is safe to use in animals over 6 weeks of age but should not be used in pregnant or lactating animals or animals with pre-existing gastrointestinal, kidney or liver disease.