Pain Relief for Your Cat: Dangerous Medications to Avoid

Cat pain relief is notoriously difficult. Because pain meds routinely given to people and dogs can be toxic to cats, pet parents are left wondering, "what are the safest and most effective pain meds for cats?"

First, pet parents need to be aware of the dangers associated with many pain meds, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), that are found around the typical home. Examples of NSAIDs include: aspirin and ibuprofen for people, and carprofen, etodolac, and deracoxib for cats. Cats are extremely sensitive to the side effects of NSAIDs, so this class of medication needs to be used with extreme caution (if at all) and always under the close supervision of a veterinarian.

Why are NSAIDs Dangerous for Cats?

NSAIDs work by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase that is responsible for producing prostaglandins. Prostaglandins promote inflammation, fever, and pain but also play a myriad of other roles in the body, including the maintenance of adequate blood flow to the kidneys, the production of a layer of mucus that protects the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract from stomach acid, and the formation of normal blood clots.

Cats are roughly two to five times more sensitive to NSAIDs than dogs are. Because of this:

  • Feline doses of these drugs are greatly reduced from those that are routinely used in other species
  • The medications are given to cats for a short period of time only
  • Dosing intervals (the time that lapses between each dose) are much longer for cats than typically seen with people or dogs
  • NSAIDs are generally only used for cats when safer forms of pain relief aren’t sufficient

When these guidelines are not followed, and sometimes even if they are, cats can develop vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, kidney and liver dysfunction or failure, bleeding disorders, and may die regardless of treatment.

For the complete slideshow on Are Pain Meds Safe for Cats?, visit petMD!

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