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Is Buprenex (Buprenorphine) Safe for Cats?

Administering Buprenex (Buprenorphine) to cats
Did You Know?

As per the analysis from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the pain relieving effect of Buprenorphine is 30-50 times stronger than morphine.

Buprenorphine is an opioid medication, commonly used as an analgesic. It is a strong painkiller that is formulated to alleviate severe pain. While the medication is approved for human use only, it is given to cats in an extra-label manner. It is often administered to manage arthritis and post-operative pain in cats. However, is this extra-label use of buprenorphine in cats a safety concern? The following Buzzle article elaborates more on the safety aspect of Buprenex in cats:

Can Buprenex (Buprenorphine) be Given to Cats?
Buprenex is a relatively safe opioid in cats. So, although an off-label drug, Buprenorphine has a relatively high safety index, which means it can be given to cats under veterinary supervision. However, experiences have been mixed as far as usage of the medication in cats is concerned. Quite a few cat owners have found the medication to be an effective pain reliever with no or minimal side effects. Sedation is reported as one of the most common side effects as the drug affects the central nervous system. The drug-induced sedation produces deep relaxation, which allows the cat to comfortably rest.

Some cat owners, however, had negative experiences from using this medication. There have been reports of cats showing signs of severe lethargy and appetite loss. As a pet owner, it can be quite frustrating to see your pet not responding to your calls, days after administering the medication. Cases of cats developing hyper-salivation and drowsiness have also been observed, which may indicate that the medication is not given in appropriate doses. High doses can also cause lack of coordination, vocalization, and low body temperature in cats.

How to Give Buprenorphine?
Buprenorphine should never be given orally as stomach acids rapidly destroy the medication. However, the oral cavity in cats has a higher pH level, which facilitates absorption of buprenorphine when injected through the gum. This has to be done by a veterinarian only, who will use a syringe to administer the drug between the cheek and the gum. The medication can also be applied or rubbed on the cat’s gums. Buprenorphine is available in 1-mL ampoules, which is administered in doses of 0.10 ml every 12 hours.

Cats who are hypersensitive or allergic to this opioid are likely to suffer from fatal reactions that are typically marked by severe breathing problems. Also, Buprenex can cause some serious side effects, if the cat is suffering from the following medical conditions:

  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver problems
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Addison’s disease
  • Altered cardiac function

In all these situations, the veterinarian is unlikely to prescribe the medication, as it puts the cat’s health at great risk.

As far as your pet is concerned, there are no easy answers to whether buprenorphine will relieve pain or cause negative reaction. As Buprenex is a human formulation, there is no guarantee that the medication will work for your pet. The high safety index associated with Buprenex use does not imply that the medication will provide relief to your pet. It only suggests the increased success rate of the opioid therapy.

All in all, though the opioid not approved for animal use, is found to be effective in relieving pain in cats, you need to talk to your vet, discuss your pet’s healthcare needs, and then let the vet decide whether it would be feasible to give buprenorphine to your cat.

Updated: May 21, 2018 — 1:01 am

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