Welcome to our complete guide to Metacam for rabbits.
Are you concerned about potential Metacam side effects in rabbits? Unsure of the proper Metacam for rabbits dosage?
In this guide, find all the answers to questions you forgot to ask the vet!
We all love our rabbits, and it can be difficult to see them in pain.
Despite all our love and care, sometimes painful conditions are inevitable in our pets.
It can be difficult to know when your rabbit is in enough pain to seek treatment. But when we have concerns, it’s important to speak to a vet immediately.
A licensed veterinarian can determine the level of pain your animal is experiencing, and provide treatment recommendations.
One common recommendation is to use Metacam, a prescription strength anti-inflammatory drug. We will shine a spotlight on this drug in the guide below.
What Is Metacam For Rabbits?
Metacam is the brand name for the drug meloxicam.
Meloxicam is a prescription strength non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication that’s used to treat pain, inflammation, stiffness and more.
Metacam is primarily marketed for use in dogs, but the drug has some applications in other animals including cats and rabbits.
We will look at the potential rabbit Metacam uses, for all our bunny-owning readers!
A Brief History Of Metacam
Metacam was developed by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, a German biomedical company that develops pharmaceuticals for both human and animals.
In the United States, Metacam has been approved for use in dogs since 2003. The drug is also approved for limited use in cats.
Metacam is not officially FDA-approved for use in rabbits. However, it is still used as an off-label treatment option in some situations.
Metacam As An “Off-Label” Treatment In Rabbits
Metacam is not officially licensed or regulated for use in rabbits. Yet, it’s a relatively common treatment option anyway!
This is an interesting phenomenon, but it’s nothing to worry about.
Very few medications are officially licensed for use in rabbits. There are a variety of reasons for this, but one major factor is that rabbits simply aren’t as commonly kept as pets, when compared to dogs or cats.
Thus, many manufacturers focus on developing medications for use in dogs and cats. There are significant costs involved with getting a drug licensed for use in another species, so many manufacturers don’t bother getting their products licensed for rabbit applications.
This leads many veterinarians to prescribe Metacam as an “off-label” treatment. This essentially means that they prescribe the medication for a use that it’s not officially meant to treat – or in this case, for an animal that the drug is not officially meant for.
Off-label use of medications is legal, and many rabbit-savvy vets use the practice frequently.
However, if you go to a vet that is not experienced in the treatment of rabbits, he or she may be hesitant to prescribe off-label medications. This is one of the many reasons we recommend finding a knowledgeable vet in your area that has ample experience with bunnies.
What Is Metacam Used For In Rabbits?
Metacam is an NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It’s used to treat pain, inflammation, stiffness, arthritis, and other related conditions.
In rabbits, the drug is mostly used to treat severe pain caused by injury or osteoarthritis. It’s also used to treat rear limb weakness and paralysis, which is relatively common in rabbits.
Since Metacam is not officially approved for use in rabbits, its use is mostly reserved for conditions where the rabbit is in moderate to severe pain.
What Form Does Metacam For Bunnies Come In?
Metacam is not formulated specifically for rabbits. The official applications for Metacam are for use in dogs and cats.
Metacam is available as a suspension liquid that is administered orally via the use of a dropper bottle or syringe.
In rabbits, the drug will be applied orally. There is no official Metacam oral dose for rabbits, so you will have to follow the instructions of your veterinarian.
How Does Metacam Work?
Meloxicam, the generic name for Metacam, works by reducing hormones that can cause inflammation and pain the body. It is part of the NSAID class of drugs.
For perspective, other NSAIDs for humans include aspirin and ibuprofen.“
However, Metacam is a prescription-strength NSAID, so its use is not to be taken lightly. It has the potential for serious side effects, and should only be administered under the care of a licensed veterinarian.
Is Metacam OTC Or Prescription Only?
Meloxicam or Metacam is prescription only in the United States. You will need to get a prescription through a qualified veterinarian to obtain the drug.
Metacam is not officially approved for use in rabbits.
Because of this, few clinical studies have been conducted on its use in bunnies.
Metacam should only be taken under the care of a licensed veterinarian. In addition, the vet you see should be familiar with health issues specific to rabbits. Not all veterinarians will be familiar with proper care guidelines for bunnies.
Interactions with other drugs are possible. Talk to your vet about any other medications (prescription and over-the-counter) that your pet is taking.
Metacam In Rabbits Treatment Protocol
Because Metacam is not an official treatment method for rabbits, there are no official treatment guidelines to follow.
Thus, it’s extremely important to consult with your veterinarian, and follow their recommendations closely.
Metacam Dosage For Rabbits
There is no official Metacam rabbit dose. Your vet will recommend a proper dosage level based on the condition being treated and your rabbit’s size.
Few studies have looked at proper dosage amounts in rabbits, but one reputable clinical trial concluded that “rabbits may require a dose exceeding 0.3 mg/kg given once daily to achieve optimal plasma levels of meloxicam over a 24-h interval.”
The Merck Veterinary Manual lists a recommended dosage of 1 mg/kg/day , while noting that this dose is significantly higher than the recommended dose in dogs and cats (on a per-kilogram basis).
Official guidelines and dosage amounts do exist for applications in dogs and cats. Vets may use these figures as a guideline to determine the proper dosage for your bunny.
Metacam For Rabbits Side Effects
Unfortunately, Metacam side effects in rabbits have not been sufficiently studied.
Because the drug is not marketed or officially licensed for use in rabbits, there have been very few studies that have looked at the potential short and long-term effects of the drug.
We can look to the observed side effects in other animals to get an idea of the potential issues bunnies may face.
In dogs, potential side effects include gastrointestinal issues, weight gain due to fluid retention, weight loss, diarrhea, black or bloody stools, behavioral changes, skin irritation, and more.
In cats, more serious side effects can occur, including renal failure and death. These side effects are typically observed with long-term use, which is why Metacam is not recommended for multi-dose use in cats.
There have been a few studies looking at the potential side effects of NSAIDs in rabbits. NSAIDs appear to be well tolerated in rabbits, both for short and long-term use.
One study that looked specifically at Metacam use in rabbits found a reduction in appetite upon oral administration of meloxicam after a surgery, but researchers concluded that the risk was minimal.
That same study concluded that “meloxicam has fewer gastrointestinal side effects than do other less specific NSAIDs.”
Your veterinarian will be able to discuss potential side effects with you. Keep in mind that while Metacam appears to be well tolerated in rabbits, side effects are always possible.
Warnings For Metacam In Rabbits
Metacam may be an effective treatment for your rabbit, but only your vet can make that determination.
It’s also very important that you chose a vet that has experience working with rabbits. Inexperienced vets may be hesitant to prescribe Metacam and other off-label medications, even if they may be the best options for your pet.
Metacam appears to be well tolerated in rabbits, but the lack of definitive clinical evidence is worth keeping in mind. Severe side effects have been observed at times, particularly in cats. Further research is needed.
Best Practice For Metacam Treatment
Metacam has no official treatment protocols in regards to rabbits, but that doesn’t mean pet owners can’t do everything they can to minimize the risk of complications.
To help improve the chances of a successful treatment regimen, it’s very important to:
- Provide a detailed list of any medications your pet is taking
- Provide your bunny’s full health history to your vet
- Discuss various treatment options
- Never exceed the dose your vet recommends
- Never alter the treatment regimen that is recommended, without first consulting your vet
- Report side effects to your vet
Lastly, we urge you to trust your vet’s expert opinions. Some vets may not wish to prescribe Metacam for rabbits due to its off-label status. If this is the case, respect their opinion and pursue other recommended treatment options.
If you follow these steps, your bunny will be back to health in no time!
Resources and Further Reading
Krempels, D. (2011). Hind Limb Paresis and Paralysis in Rabbits. University of Miami Biology Department.
Turner P., Chen HC., Taylor WM. (2006). Pharmacokinetics of meloxicam in rabbits after single and repeat oral dosing. Comp Med.
Khan, S., McLean, M. (2012). Toxicology of Frequently Encountered Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs in Dogs and Cats. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice.
Liles JH, Flecknell PA. (1992). The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the relief of pain in laboratory rodents and rabbits. Lab Anim.
Cooper CS., Metcalf-Pate KA., Barat CE., Cook JA., Scorpio DG. (2009). Comparison of side effects between buprenorphine and meloxicam used postoperatively in Dutch belted rabbits. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci.