Analgesics are drugs used to relieve pain. There are many classes of
painkillers. All must be used with caution in cats. Even though human
analgesics are common household items, they should not be given to cats.
Demerol, morphine, codeine, and other narcotics are subject to federal
regulation and cannot be bought without a prescription. The effect of these
drugs on cats is highly unpredictable. Morphine, in a dose appropriate for a
small dog, produces apprehension, excitability, and drooling in the cat. When
this minimum dose is exceeded, the cat may convulse and die. Fentanyl, usually
incorporated into a patch placed on the skin, is a pain medication used in cats.
Again, never use this without veterinary guidance, as there can be severe side
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Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is one of a class of drugs called
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Buffered or enteric-coated
aspirin is a safe analgesic for home veterinary use in dogs, but it must be
administered with extreme care to cats. Small doses of aspirin given to cats
can produce loss of appetite, depression, and vomiting. One aspirin tablet a
day for three or four days is sufficient to cause salivation, dehydration, vomiting, and a
staggering gait. Severe disturbances in the acid-base balance may ensue. The
bone marrow and liver may show signs of toxicity. Gastrointestinal bleeding is
Be aware of this potential toxicity and use aspirin only under veterinary
supervision. The recommended dosage for cats is 5 mg per pound (.45 kg) of body
weight every 48 to 72 hours. One adult aspirin tablet (324 mg) is eight times
the recommended dosage for an 8-pound (3.6 kg) cat. A baby aspirin given every
three days is a typical safe cat dose. It should only be given with food and
not on an empty stomach. At the first signs of toxicity, the drug should be
Meloxicam is a relatively safe NSAID for use in cats, but is currently
approved in the United States only for injectable use. This should also be used
only after consultation with your veterinarian.
Other NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and other
aspirin substitutes, used for treating aches and pains in humans, are toxic to
cats. Furthermore, these drugs are not as well tolerated as aspirin. Their
absorption patterns are highly unpredictable in small animals. This makes these
drugs unsuitable for use in cats.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is another analgesic that must never be given to
cats. A cat given even a child’s dose of Tylenol can develop fatal hemolytic anemia and liver failure.
Butazolidin (phenylbutazone) is an analgesic prescribed for horses, dogs,
and other animals. When used as recommended in these animals, it may be safe
and effective. When used in cats, it produces toxicity much like that of
aspirin and acetaminophen. In addition, phenylbutazone causes kidney failure. It is therefore
not recommended for use in cats.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"