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PETS JULY 20, 2023

Effective Cat Pain Meds: A Guide to Safe Usage

When it comes to cats, the attachment that pet owners develop is more akin to a familial bond than a simple animal-human relationship. Therefore, when signs of discomfort surface in your feline companion – apparent through symptoms like increased lethargy, signs of limping, or an abrupt unwillingness to leap or climb – it is natural to seek methods to alleviate their pain.


However, it is paramount to remember that reaching for human medications in your cabinet could potentially worsen your pet's condition, or worse, cause severe health issues.


Immediate Consultation with a Veterinary Expert


The first and foremost step to take before initiating any kind of treatment is to get in touch with a professional veterinarian. The underlying cause of your pet's discomfort might not be visible to the naked eye, and the expert guidance of a vet is required to diagnose and appropriately treat the condition.


Notably, many medications intended for humans can prove harmful to cats, and even common over-the-counter drugs can induce serious adverse reactions. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, often found in human medicine cabinets, can induce severe health complications in cats.


Acetaminophen, another widely used human medication found in products like Tylenol, can be lethal to cats as their bodies lack the appropriate enzymes to metabolize this drug safely.


cat in pain


NSAIDs Specifically Designed for Feline Consumption


Despite the potential hazards associated with NSAIDs, there are certain variations of these drugs that have been vetted for short-term use in cats and are often the first choice for treatment. As of the present date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not given its approval for any NSAIDs to be used for long-term pain management in cats.


One such feline-friendly NSAID is robenacoxib, which your vet may prescribe in either pill or injectable form. Additionally, Meloxicam, another NSAID typically administered after surgery, can be given orally or via injection. Both these drugs work by reducing the production of prostaglandins, substances that promote inflammation, pain, and fever in the body.


In certain cases, your vet may recommend aspirin, although it should be administered in strictly controlled doses and infrequently. At times, it's provided in liquid form. It is crucial to adhere to the instructions provided by the vet, as even slight overdosage can prove harmful.


It's vital to remember that cats only need a small amount, and excessive or frequent usage can potentially harm them. As a general rule, NSAIDs for cats should not be used for more than three consecutive days.


cats in the park


Variety of Pain Relief Alternatives


While NSAIDs are commonly utilized, they aren't the only forms of medication available for feline pain relief. More severe cases might require stronger alternatives:


  1. Opioids: These potent pain-relieving drugs, including codeine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, morphine, and tramadol, are usually reserved for severe pain or post-surgery care. They can also be used to manage chronic pain associated with long-term conditions such as arthritis or advanced stages of cancer. However, it's critically important to avoid combining codeine with acetaminophen as it can lead to toxic effects.

  2. Corticosteroids: Drugs in this category, including dexamethasone and prednisolone, can help manage pain caused by allergies or arthritis by primarily acting against inflammation. Corticosteroids work by reducing the body's immune response, thereby lessening inflammation and its associated pain.

  3. Gabapentin: Originally developed as an anti-seizure medication, gabapentin can also effectively manage pain in nerves, muscles, and bones in cats. Its mechanism involves reducing the release of certain neurotransmitters that transmit pain signals in the body.

  4. Amitriptyline: Commonly used as an antidepressant in humans, this drug can help manage nerve pain in cats. Amitriptyline works by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that help reduce pain sensation.

  5. Buprenorphine HCl: This opiate partial agonist, which doesn't fit into the categories mentioned above, is available in both injectable and oral forms. Its safety profile makes it a considerable choice for feline pain management. Buprenorphine binds to certain receptors in the brain that are responsible for reducing pain sensation.

  6. Hemp Seed Oil: This natural remedy is rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a perfect ratio of 3:1, maximizing their bioavailability. It also contains 21 amino acids essential for health. Products like Milly for Senior Pets combine hemp seed oil with turmeric to provide holistic support for aging pets, particularly with conditions such as arthritis and digestive issues.

Another such product, BUDDYPET Luna, offers a blend of fish oil and hemp seed oil, designed to enhance a cat's overall well-being. The fish oil works as an anti-inflammatory, while hemp seed oil provides antioxidant properties to reduce oxidative stress and slow down aging.


With a high concentration of DHA and EPA, Luna caters to cats of all ages. Its anti-inflammatory effects are particularly helpful for senior cats struggling with chronic issues like osteoarthritis and kidney disease.


hemp seed oil


Considerations Before Administering Medications


Before administering any medication to your pet, thoroughly reading the label and discussing the specifics with your vet is crucial. You should have a clear understanding of the correct dosage, frequency, and duration of treatment for your pet. Additionally, understanding potential side effects and warning signs indicating any complications is vital.


Unless your vet has prescribed a specific combination of drugs, it is generally unadvisable to put your pet on multiple medications simultaneously.


Non-Medical Methods to Alleviate Cat Pain


In certain situations, a blend of non-medical approaches may be beneficial to manage your cat's discomfort:


  • Weight loss: Reducing your cat's weight can limit stress on the body and decrease the production of inflammatory hormones by fatty tissues.

  • Reorganizing your home: Making minor adjustments to your cat’s living space can simplify navigation, especially if the cat is suffering from mobility issues. Keep food, water, heated beds, and low-sided litter boxes at the same level of your home and provide ramps to assist the cat in reaching its favorite spots.

  • Acupuncture: By stimulating nerves and enhancing blood circulation, acupuncture releases natural pain-relieving endorphins and alleviates muscle spasms.

  • Therapeutic laser treatment: A non-invasive technique that reduces inflammation and pain, and promotes healing.

  • Physical rehabilitation: This can help maintain the strength of muscles and joints and improve the cat's coordination.

  • Researching therapies: Newer treatment methods like stem cell treatments, platelet-rich plasma, nerve growth factor inhibitors, and cannabidiol (CBD) are being investigated for their efficacy in treating pain.

  • Attention and interaction: Spending quality time with your cat and including them in daily activities that they can comfortably participate in can also contribute to their well-being.


Even though some NSAIDs are generally deemed safe for cats, they can sometimes lead to damage to vital organs such as the kidneys, liver, heart, stomach, or intestines.


Owners should be vigilant for signs of adverse reactions, such as a lack of energy, loss of appetite, changes in drinking or urination habits, vomiting, diarrhea, dark feces, or yellowing of the skin, eyes, or gums. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary if you notice any of these symptoms in your pet.


Usually, it's advisable to administer medication either during or immediately after your cat's meal to reduce the chances of stomach upset. Vets often suggest wet food over dry food to maintain hydration. In case your cat refuses to eat, refrain from administering medication until you have consulted with your vet.


In conclusion

Pain management in animals, particularly in cats, can be a complex task, requiring astute observation and continuous communication with your veterinarian. By staying attuned to your cat’s behavior and maintaining open lines of communication with your vet, you can considerably enhance the quality of life of your feline companion.


Pain management is an essential aspect of animal welfare, and all efforts should be made to ensure your pet lives a comfortable and pain-free life.


Which painkiller is best for cats?

The "best" painkiller for a cat depends on the nature and severity of the pain, as well as the cat's overall health. Some commonly prescribed pain meds for cats are NSAIDs like robenacoxib and meloxicam. Other medications, like opioids or corticosteroids, may be used for more severe pain. Always consult with a vet before administering any medication to your cat.

How can I ease my cat's pain?

Pain management in cats involves a multifaceted approach. Prescription pain meds from a vet are usually a critical component. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as weight loss, diet modification, environmental changes, and other non-drug therapies like acupuncture or laser treatment may be beneficial. Involving a vet in developing a comprehensive pain management plan is essential.

What human pain meds can you give a cat?

Human pain medications, including common NSAIDs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, should not be given to cats. They can cause serious harm, including liver damage, kidney failure, or even death. Only use medications specifically prescribed for your cat by a veterinarian.

Can cats have paracetamol for pain?

No, cats should not be given paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen in some regions) for pain. It is highly toxic to cats and can be fatal. Pain management in cats should always be supervised by a veterinarian.