Cat Owners: Share your Metacam Experiences!

As a cat owner, do you have any experience with respect to your cat being given Metacam for arthritis, or for some other requirement for pain relief (i.e. post operative)? It appears to be a controversial drug with some variation from country to country, and vet to vet, regarding safe dosage, with some dissent from aggrieved cat owners who say that their cat was killed by either a single shot of Metacam or its long term use. I respect the views of these cat caretakers. They probably know more about the drug and its negative effects than some veterinarians.

Metacam is the trade name for meloxicam. It is an anti-inflammatory. It is recommended by a good number of vets for the relief of arthritic pain. It seems to have replaced the use of corticosteroids.

Arthritis in a cat

Arthritis in a cat. Picture by Annie Mole

It would appear that the higher maximum dosage allowed in an injection in the USA (0.3 mg/kg) compared to Canada (0.2 mg/kg) has resulted in more fatalities from its use in that country.

In America, there is (or was) a warning on the box:

Repeated use of meloxicam in cats has been associated with acute renal failure and death. Do not administer additional doses of injectable or oral meloxicam to cats.

The problem over its use concerns cases where a cat’s kidneys have been damaged by the drug resulting in renal failure and death. Despite the warning, some vets prescribe its use beyond the recommendations. It is an effective drug, perhaps the most effective for treatment of arthritis. Arthritis is probably on the increase as cat obesity is also on the increase.

Vets are aware that it needs to be used carefully. It seems that cats with existing kidney disease are at risk of being hurt by this drug. Vets will do a blood test and urinalysis to check for kidney function before prescribing it.

The problem is that there appears to be widespread differences of opinion by vets and cat owners on its use and safety. As to long term use, which is required for control of arthritic pain, using drops (an oral suspension) on food seems to be the safest and most effective way to administer it.

One vet, in order to address the injection dosage limit problem, decided to inject 0.1 mg/kg which is one third of the safe maximum in America.

Because of the controversy surrounding this drug for use on cats it may be wise to go the more traditional routes to treat cat arthritis:

  • Weight loss
  • Exercise
  • Glucosamine
  • Anti-inflammatory vitamin supplements

Should Metacam only be used as a last resort? No seems to be the response. It appears that it cannot be used on cats with any sort of kidney disease. However, even then, some vets administer it without problems.


My conclusion, having read about this on the internet and a book written by Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM (Your Cat), is that it is effective and generally safe but as is the case for all drugs there may be side effects and it may harm (rarely) some individual cats. The big question is, what is the risk? I don’t think we know the answer to that important question. I believe a cat owner needs information about risk (percentage of cats injured/killed). Pending some clarification It needs to be used with care.

Perhaps someone can clarify the current situation regarding its use.

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Cat Owners: Share your Metacam Experiences! — 11 Comments

  1. It sounds like a horrible last resort. Is there a way to test and see if your specific cat will react badly to it? That would be good. And then if it passes the test use it but only as a last resort to make your cat’s life liveable.

  2. My cat Ozzie has been prescribed this on a repeat prescription basis. I had no idea until now of the dangers.

    He was initially prescribed it because he had his cheek teeth removed due to Calichi Virus however his gums can still at times become inflammed especially when he is stressed.

    I give it to him at these times (to be honest this is rarely) and he takes it without any problems in fact he’s a good boy because he opens his mouth when he see’s the syringe so I think it must be palletable as he seems to like it.

    After reading this I will do a lot of research before I continue.

  3. Buprenorphine is said to be a safer drug. Read up on it. It is a powerful opiate available only by prescription. It is used by people but can be prescribed for cats but obviously under strict supervision of a vet.

  4. My beautiful friend and Bengal died a few days ago from this noxious drug (metacam). I wish I had done some research. He was prescribed it following a vicious dog attack. We were trying to save his hind leg. In the end he died from severely ulcerated stomach, and possibly renal function loss). We were never told of the risks and trusted the vet (new one as our vet clinic wasn’t open when we needed it). We saw several vets at this clinic and it was only after about 10 days that anything was mentioned like – does he have tarry stools? We feel absolutely devastated that we were forcing death down his throat. In the end he had a morphine injection and he died a couple of hours later. His heart just wouldn’t give up. It ws awful.

    • Bless you. I feel for you and your beautiful friend. Oh, I feel bad reading your comment. I can feel the pain. The best of luck. It takes time to get over these things. A long time.

  5. My 15 y.o. cat has had chronic otitis externa for several years. Removal of the canals was advised but we managed to let him keep his ears using homeopathic remedies focusing on his otitis. And during the past year laser turned out to be real effective for him.
    But he does have pain from time to time and now he also has two fused discs near his hips. So metacam was suggested to solve the pain both in his ears and his back.
    THe cat also showed high bloodpressure (was measured once, a few months ago and a bit of whitening in his eyes.. cataract due to diabetes prob.

    One side effect of the metacam / meloxicam -even when I give half of the prescribed dose- is that my cat goes into hiding, he wants to be alone in a very quiet corner, preferably under my couch, stays there for hours and comes out to drink a lot and urinate only once or twice per day..
    So I started alternating belladonna for good days with metacam for more painful days.
    Whenever I started metacam again he disappeared, physiacally and mentally… I am sure it’s not because of pain but a side effect.
    When he also started to vomit and have dark stool I quit the metacam completely and solely relied on belladonna increasing the belladonna on painful days. It works, he seems pain free, not scratching and a relaxed expression on his face.
    He is always visible now.. on a chair, on a rug… and purrs when you stroke his back.

    I don’t believe animals show placebo effects when it comes to homeopathic remedies, so I do believe it really works. Vets might try more homeopathy and alternatives like laser (which stopped an oral infection of bacteria that were resistant to antibiotics, but also makes the over-active tissues in the ear canal shrink)

    Maybe this will help some other cat owners when the medicine turns out to be worse than the disease

    • Thank you Jo for sharing your knowledge. I found your comment very interesting. It certainly may help other people as you say.

  6. I gave this drug to my now deceased cat Charlie because he was in pain from a tumour behind his eye. I believe that it damaged his kidneys and in effect hastened the moment at which I had to instruct the veterinarian to euthanise him. I regret making the decision to give him this drug but I felt I had no choice. The veterinarian did not check his kidney function before prescribing the drug. That I believe is a failure of the veterinarian’s procedures.

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