Buprenorphine for Cats

If your cat has suffered from a severe trauma, injury, or a painful surgery, buprenorphine can help him to cope with the pain while his body recovers. This medicine is roughly 30 times more powerful at relieving pain than morphine. It is not often used for cats, and is typically reserved only for cases in which other medical conditions will preclude the use of morphine and other pain relievers, or if the pet is in an extreme amount of pain.

Buprenorphine Overview

Buprenorphine is an example of a synthetic opiate drug. Opiates, like morphine, bind to the opiate receptors in your pet's brain and release chemical compounds which suppress pain and increase feelings of euphoria and happiness. It's important to note that a medicine like buprenorphine is not effective at treating the source of your pet's pain at all; rather, it is useful only in masking the pain so that your pet can continue to live a relatively normal and healthy life while his body recovers.

Because buprenorphine is only available for humans and only as the brand name formulation Buprenex, it's important also that you realize the dangers of this medicine. Though the drug has only been recommended for standard human use, vets can still prescribe it legally for pets. However, you'll have to visit a specially certified vet in order to get a prescription for this medicine, as the potential for human misuse and abuse is high.

Using Buprenorphine for Your Pet

Buprenorphine is typically provided to a cat in very small doses and dependent upon the animal's weight, overall health, age, and the specific source of pain that it is designed to treat. It can either be given as an oral medicine, which is generally preferred, or as a direct injection to the site of the pain. The effects of the medicine generally take effect within roughly fifteen minutes and last for up to 8 hours at a time, so repeat injections and administrations throughout the day are oftentimes necessary in extreme cases.

Side Effects and Risks of Buprenorphine

Although buprenorphine is addictive for humans, it is generally safe for pet use. Avoid giving it to your cat if your pet suffers from kidney or thyroid issues. It's also important to notify your vet of any other medical conditions that your pet is suffering from, or of any other medicines that you're providing your pet, before you begin to give him this medicine, as it may react negatively in some cases.

The most commonly seen side effects of buprenorphine in cats include the following:

  • Indigestion or other stomach problems
  • Sedation
  • Weakness
  • Slowed breathing

Overdoses are rare due to the careful controls placed on the manufacturers and administrators of the medicine. However, if you suspect that your pet is suffering form any type of adverse reaction, take him to the vet immediately. Prompt treatment of an allergic reaction to the medicine is necessary in order to protect his health.