Colchicine

(for veterinary information only)

BRAND NAME: COLCHICINUM, ARTEX, COLCHILY, CHOLCHICQUIM,
                           COLGOUT, GOUTICHINE, GOUTNIL, REUGOT,
                           TICOLCIN, TOLCHICINE

AVAILABLE IN  
0.5 mg TABLETS,
0.6 mg TABLETS 

BACKGROUND

Cell division, a process more scientifically known as “mitosis,” requires microscopic protein fibers, acting like structural cables, to pull dividing cells apart. These cables are called “mitotic spindles” and colchicine interferes with their formation. The ability of colchicines to interfere with this sort of structural protein formation has led to its use in scarring diseases such as hepatic cirrhosis, and abnormal protein depositions such as amyloidosis. Colchicine is widely used in human medicine against gout though it is not clear exactly why it helps. In gout, colchicine appears to reduce inflammation associated with urate crystal accumulation.

HOW THIS MEDICATION IS USED

In veterinary medicine, is generally used once a day. Common diseases in pets that commonly involve colchicines treatment are:

  • Shar pei Recurrent Fever Syndrome (also called “Swollen Hocks Syndrome”)
    This condition is named for the fevers and accompanying ankle swelling but the part of the syndrome that is actually harmful is the deposition of abnormal protein called “Amyloid” in the kidney. Renal amyloidosis leads to protein loss in urine, including numerous blood proteins that keep one alive. It has been recommended that colchicines treatment begin as soon as this condition is diagnosed. The risk of amyloid development is the same regardless of how many fever episodes occur.
     
  • Hepatic Cirrhosis
    In this condition, the normal cells of the liver die and are replaced by scar tissue. This leads to a small, hard, shrunken, ineffective liver. As a general rule, once scarring has occurred, the damage is permanent but colchicines seems to have some ability to reverse scarring in addition to preventing its formation.

Veterinary experience with colchicine is limited to dogs.

SIDE EFFECTS

Because of colchicine’s ability to interfere with cell division, it should not be used in animals for breeding. It not only is harmful to unborn young but will also reduce sperm production.

The chief side effect is nausea. Often a low dose is started to see if the patient tolerates the drug and if no problems occur with vomiting, diarrhea, or appetite loss then the dose is raised to a more therapeutic level.

Also, because of colchicine’s ability to interfere with cell division, there has been some concern about bone marrow toxicity. Since many dogs, particularly shar peis, are on this drug for years on end, it is prudent to consider periodic blood testing to check the white and red blood cell counts.

The use of colchicines may cause a urine dip stick to falsely read positive for blood. The use of colchicine can also increase the alkaline phosphatase level as read on a blood chemistry panel.

Colchicine can deplete the body of vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) in some cases. Check with your veterinarian to see if supplementation, either oral or injectable, is a recommended for your pet.

INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER DRUGS

Concurrent use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are felt to increase colchicine’s bone marrow effects. This should be kept in mind particularly for Shar peis with Recurrent Fever Syndrome as this type of anti-inflammatory drug might readily be used to reduce a fever. Similarly other drugs that have bone marrow side effects (particularly chemotherapy agents) may increase the potential for bone marrow issues.

CONCERNS AND CAUTIONS

Colchicine tablets should be kept away from light exposure.

Colchicine cannot be used in pregnancy and is probably best not used in animals intended for breeding.

Page last updated: 8/6/2011