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Metacam
by Alison Campbell

Metacam is the brand name for the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) meloxicam. It also has good analgesic properties. It is in the same class of drugs as ibuprofen (Advil, Neurofen) and aspirin. Much research has been done to develop a safe NSAID for use with animals, as very few of the ones sold for humans are suitable and were found to cause (often) severe side effects such as stomach ulceration and platelet deficiency. In the mid-90s the development of NSAIDs that were more selective in their effects in the body made them safer for use with animals. Metacam is one of these more selective drugs and has a good record for effectiveness and safety for both short-term and long-term use. It is, however, only licensed for dogs.

Metacam is a prescription only medication and comes in a liquid form. This liquid can be kept at room temperature (but below 25ºC) and should be used within six months of opening. Always shake the bottle vigorously before use. The human form of meloxicam is many times more concentrated and should not be used as a substitute for a veterinary prescription. The dose is one drop once every 24 hours.

Indications for use
Metacam can be used whenever there is a need to reduce pain or inflammation, with the exception of any situation where bleeding is likely. The following are a selection of scenarios where the use of Metacam would usually be appropriate:

  • Post operatively (from 24 hours after surgery)
  • Palliative treatment for facial abscess (along with antibiotics)
  • After a fall/injury resulting in a strain, sprain or minor bony injury
  • Where there is potentially painful soft tissue swelling and inflammation
  • In chronic arthritic conditions (note – most hind leg degeneration in rats is not arthritis)

Metacam can be used as either a short or long-term medication. Where it is used for more than just a few days regular (monthly) check-ups with the vet are recommended to help avoid potential problems.

Contra-indications
Because of the way it is broken down within the body, and its side effects (see below) Metacam should be avoided in rats with suspected liver, kidney or heart disease. Where its use is indicated in rats with any of these conditions it should only be used with care and under veterinary supervision.

It should not be used in dehydrated animals because of the effect of reducing blood supply to the kidneys (which is already reduced when dehydrated). This could tip a susceptible rat into kidney failure.

Avoid during pregnancy and the rapid growth phase of kittens.

Metacam should not be administered at the same time as steroids or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aminoglycoside antibiotics (eg Amikacin or Gentamycin) or anti-coagulants.

It should also be avoided for any rat who already has a clotting disorder.

Where treatment with Metacom is started after treatment with steroids or other NSAIDs a period of at least 24 hours should be left between the two (longer for long acting steroids).

Side effects
These include:

  • Loss of appetite, diarrhoea, gastrointestinal bleeding (seen in black faeces).
  • Extended clotting times.
  • Reduced kidney perfusion (blood supply).
  • Enlarged liver, lethargy.

The serious side effects are very rare, but some rats are more vulnerable (the very young, the very old and those who are having steroids or other NSAIDs). Increased dosing (more frequently or in larger amounts than recommended)also increase the risk.

Metacam is a safe and extremely useful drug when used as prescribed and with care.

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