By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is colchicine?

Colchicine (brand names: Colcrys®, Mitigare®, Gloperba®) is an anti-inflammatory used to treat amyloidosis and Shar-Pei fever. It has also been reportedly used to treat chronic scarring of the liver. In birds it has also been reportedly used to treat hyperuricemia. Its use in veterinary medicine is largely experimental and its effectiveness has not been well documented.

Its use in dogs and birds to treat amyloidosis, hepatic fibrosis, hyperuricemia, or Shar-Pei fever is ‘off label’ or ‘extra label’. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

How is colchicine given?

Colchicine is given by mouth in the form of a tablet or capsule. It may also be compounded into a liquid form. It may be given with or without food; however if your pet vomits when dosed on an empty stomach, give future doses with food. Measure liquid forms carefully.

Pregnant women should not handle this medication or should wear gloves if handling is necessary; do not crush or split tablets, or open capsules. Wash hands after giving this medication.

This medication should take effect within 1 to 2 hours; however, effects may not be visibly obvious and therefore laboratory tests may need to be done to evaluate this medication’s effectiveness.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

Give the missed dose as soon as you remember, and then wait the recommended amount of time between doses. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

Side effects may include mild nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in dogs. Serious side effects include lack of appetite, severe or persistent vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash, incoordination, severe tiredness, weakness, infections, bleeding, or bruising. Studies are limited in domestic animals, and the side effects are not well known, so please report any side effects to your veterinarian.

This moderate-acting medication should stop working in a few days, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Do not use colchicine in pets that are allergic to it or in pets with severe kidney, gastrointestinal, or heart disease. It should be used cautiously in pets that are old, weak, frail, pregnant or lactating, or that have mild kidney, gastrointestinal, or heart disease. Studies are limited, and there may be other risk factors that have not been documented.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with colchicine: amphotericin B, antineoplastics, azole antifungals, chloramphenicol, cyclosporine, digoxin, diltiazem, erythromycin, gemfibrozil, immunosuppressants, or verapamil.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this medication?

Your veterinarian may monitor a complete blood count and cobalamin levels, particularly when using this medication long-term. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working. Monitor your pet at home for serious side effects.

How do I store colchicine?

Store this medication at room temperature and keep it protected from light. Compounded formulations should be stored according to the label on the bottle.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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