Managing Cat Arthritis Pain with Codeine

Cat arthritis is a bone and joint disease; the joints are inflamed and incapacitate the cat to perform regular movements such as jumping, running, standing up or even walking. Arthritis cannot be treated, but being a painful condition, pain medication is administered. Codeine is a strong pain medication that also has sedative effects.

What Is Codeine

Codeine is an opium derivative and is a powerful analgesic. Codeine is made out of poppy seeds and may also act as a sedative.

Codeine is addictive, just like morphine and the other drugs form the same class of narcotic agonists: fentanyl, meperidine or oxymorphone.

Codeine has been used in veterinary medicine mainly in dogs but may be used for cats also. However, cats may be sensitive to opiates and it is used with caution.

Cats with arthritis are given codeine for mild and moderate pain. Ideally, the pain should be managed with milder pain killers. Codeine should be a last resort medication, due to the addictive nature of the drug and the many side effects that it may have in cats.

Codeine is a prescription drug and shouldn’t be taken without a prescription.

Presently, codeine is not approved for use in pets by the FDA.


Codeine should be given in doses of 0.2 to 0.5 mg per pound of body weight 3 times per day to manage pain in felines.

Typically, for cats with arthritis, the treatment is continuous. The treatment should be discontinued if there are any side effects.

Make sure you follow your vet’s dosage recommendations and never administer codeine without consulting the vet first.

Codeine is available as tablets of 15, 30 or 60 mg, but may be found in injection form containing 30 or 60 mg codeine.

Codeine Side Effects

Codeine is a pain killer that may have numerous side effects. Being an opiate, codeine is highly addictive.

A prolonged use of codeine may cause depression in addition to:

  • Constipation
  • Respiratory problems
  • Allergic reactions such as rashes
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Urinary retention

Consult your vet if any of the above mentioned problems occur or if you notice any upsetting symptoms.

Codeine Contraindications

Codeine shouldn’t be prescribed to pets with a heart condition or respiratory diseases.

Cats with brain tumors, increased cranial pressure or a head trauma should not get codeine.

Pets with kidney or liver problems should get different types of pain medication.

Cats with prostate problems and urinary retention should also avoid codeine.

Codeine may interact with other depression medication such as Phenobarbital. Mention to your vet any drugs that your cat receives, to be able to prevent any unwanted interactions with codeine.

Other Uses of Codeine

Codeine is also employed to manage muscle pain or back pain. Codeine may be prescribed post surgery, but vets typically opt for other pain killers with fewer side effects.

Codeine may be used to alleviate symptoms such as cough or severe diarrhea.