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Safe Pain Medications for Cats

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Your cat is more than a pet -- she’s part of the family. You don’t want to see her in pain. When you notice your furry friend sleeping more, limping, or suddenly unwilling to leap off the sofa, you want to make her feel better. But don’t open your medicine cabinet looking to help her. You may do more harm than good.

Call the Vet

Talk to your vet before doing anything. He’ll want to find out what’s causing your pet’s discomfort. There may be something going on that needs treatment beyond pain relief.

Many medications people use can make animals very sick. That includes common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen.

Acetaminophen -- which is not an NSAID, but is a common medication found in products like Tylenol -- can be fatal for felines. Their bodies can’t safely break it down.

NSAIDs for Cats

NSAIDS are usually the first line of defense. The FDA hasn’t approved any NSAIDs for long-term pain management, but certain ones are cleared for short-term use in cats. Your vet may prescribe the pill robenacoxib. Meloxicam is another NSAID that’s injected, usually after surgery.

Your vet might also suggest aspirin, but in small doses. Sometimes it’s given in liquid form. Make sure you give the medication exactly as recommended. Cats only need a little bit, and too much or too often can harm them. Don’t assume you know the right amount.

Other Options

Although NSAIDs are common, there are other types of medication, too:

  • Opioids. These include codeine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, and morphine, and are used for severe discomfort. They’re often given after surgery or for chronic conditions like arthritis or advanced stages of cancer. Make sure not to give your pet codeine in combination with acetaminophen.
  • Corticosteroids. These drugsrelieve pain from allergies or arthritis. They include dexamethasone and prednisolone.
  • Gabapentin. This seizure medication helps treat pain in nerves, muscles, and bones.
  • Amitriptyline.An antidepressant in humans, it can help with nerve pain in cats.

Be Aware

Before giving your pet any medication, read the label closely and talk to your vet. Make sure you understand exactly how much to give your pet, how often, and for how long. Talk to your vet about side effects and warning signs that something is wrong. Unless the doctor prescribes it, don’t put her on multiple meds at the same time.

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