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Health & Wellness

Learn more about buprenorphine, a medication that treats cat pain

Don’t be surprised if your cat’s sleepy while taking the medication.

Whether you're researching ways to ease your cat's pain or your pet is already taking pain medicine and you want to learn more, you came to the right place.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about buprenorphine, a pain medication for cats, and how it might affect your feline friend. 

What’s buprenorphine for cats? 

Buprenorphine is an opioid medication in the same family as morphine, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. It’s used to treat pain and cause sleepiness in cats. 

Your cat may be prescribed buprenorphine for many conditions that cause pain, including cystitis (bladder inflammation), pancreatitis, arthritis and other ailments. 

Vets administer the medication as part of a sedation or anesthesia protocol to relax cats during a procedure or to treat pain at the hospital. Felines that are recovering from surgery are sometimes given buprenorphine, too — the medicine can be combined with other drugs or be administered by itself. 

Buprenorphine must be prescribed, administered and dispensed by a vet, Dr. Singler says. It’s a controlled substance and is typically given at the vet’s office, but they may send pet parents home with doses if needed.

Does buprenorphine cause side effects in cats? 

The most common side effect of buprenorphine is sedation (aka being super chill or sleepy). If given as an injection, there can be pain or stinging at the site.

Some rarer side effects include changes in behavior, increased heart rate and body temperature, vomiting and decreased breathing rate. 

If you ever feel the side effects are worrying, make sure to reach out to your vet to discuss further. 

RELATED: Was your cat prescribed Clavamox? Here’s what you should know

How to administer buprenorphine to cats

Buprenorphine is typically given as an injection by a vet. “There’s also now a transdermal solution that gets absorbed through the skin that your veterinarian may apply at the time of surgery to provide pain relief for up to 4 days,” Dr. Singler adds. 

The medicine can also be squirted into the side of a cat's mouth and absorbed through their mouth tissue — a technique often used when administering the medication at home.

Buprenorphine dosage for cats

Only your vet can determine the right buprenorphine dosage for your cat, as it’s based on their weight, how painful their condition is and their sensitivity to the medication. This controlled substance shouldn’t be used by anyone but your cat, either.

“It’s also important to read all instructions on the label carefully and double-check the dose you’re going to give before giving it,” Dr. Singler warns. Cats usually take a very small amount of the medication. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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