What Are Some Feline Pain Medications?

There are several treatment options when your cat is in pain.
There are several treatment options when your cat is in pain. (Image: cat image by Zbigniew Nowak from Fotolia.com)

When a pet, such as a cat, experiences pain because of illness or injury, it's natural for owners to seek out the most effective yet safest pain treatment. Fortunately for cat owners, there are several medicinal options that your veterinarian can prescribe to help ease your cat's pain. Like pain medication for humans, there are side effects to consider with each type of medication.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Agents

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, better known as NSAIDs, are a type of drug with which you may already be familiar. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, are also common for use in humans and work by blocking chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins deliver the messages to and from the brain that cause pain as well as swelling. NSAIDs prevent enzymes such as cyclooxygenase from formulatinng the prostaglandins, breaking the process through which the body experiences pain. According to veterinarian Ron Hines, prostaglandins also protect the stomach lining, aid in blood flow through the kidneys.

There are two types of NSAIDs, one type that block all prostaglandins and another, newer type which blocks only the pain messenger prostaglandins. Newer NSAIDs leave the prostaglandins that protect the stomach and kidneys free to operate as usual.

NSAIDs may be more dangerous to cats than other animals because a cat's liver contains less of the enzyme that breaks down the drug. However, most cats tolerate NSAIDs such as meloxicam and ketoprofen quite well. You can administer these medications in liquid or pill form, or your veterinarian can administer injectable NSAIDs for acute pain.

Pre-emptive Analgesia

The Manhattan Cat Specialists explain the pain-prevention measures they take before a cat undergoes a painful procedure or surgery. Pre-emptive analgesia is a term that refers to administering pain medication (analgesia) to your cat before the procedure to minimize pain during and after the surgery. This method is also used with human patients and became more popular in the 2000s.

Pre-emptive analgesics can include gases such as Iisoflurane or nitrous oxide (N2O). Your veterinarian can also administer injectable medications, including propofol, to your cat.

Fentanyl Patches

Fentanyl patches are a relatively new way to manage pain in cats. Veterinarian Arnold Plotnick describes fentanyl as a "synthetic opioid that is 75 to 100 times more potent than morphine." Unlike injectable or gaseous medications, your veterinarian can apply this drug topically via patch or gel. The patch allows your cat to slowly absorb the drug at a consistent rate rather than the fast and uncontrolled rate at which the drug works intravenously.

NMDA Receptor Antagonists

NMDA receptor antagonists are a type of pain medication that bind to the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor to block pain. NMDA receptor blockers include amantadine, which your vet will administer orally, and dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in products such as Robitussin.

Ketamine is a popular pain medication of this type. Your cat's doctor may administer this drug in combination with other drugs such as midazolam, diazepam or medetomidine via syringe. However, midazolam and medetomidine combinations may cause initial pain at the injection site. Veterinary professionals do not typically use this drug as the sole form of pain medication.

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