Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid drug that is about 30 times more potent than morphine. Opioids bind opioid receptors in the brain and decrease pain while increasing feelings of happiness. Using buprenorphine in cats is a normal and relatively safe treatment plan, but it’s important to be aware of the pharmacokinetics, side effects, and risks involved with the use of buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine for Cats
When veterinarians prescribe buprenorphine for their feline patients, it is given in very small doses dependent on the cat’s weight, overall health, and age. The drug can be given by oral or buccal route–which is preferred–or injected. It may be necessary for the drug to be dosed more than once a day if the feline’s pain is particularly severe. However, buprenorphine has the ability to improve a cat’s attitude and appetite significantly.
Buprenorphine Pharmacokinetics in Cats
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist and is an appropriate prescription for cats experiencing moderate pain. Some studies show that buprenorphine exhibits superior analgesia to its other opioid counterparts, including oxymorphone and morphine. The drug is absorbed well and lasts about six hours after oral buccal administration. It’s onset of action is about 45 minutes.
Buprenorphine Side Effects and Risks in Cats
The most common side effects of buprenorphine in cats are indigestion or stomach problems, sedation, weakness, and slowed breathing. If prescribed too much of the drug, buprenorphine can repress the respiratory system, causing unconsciousness, coma, or death.
Buprenorphine is a controlled substance that has a potential for abuse and addiction in humans, therefore it must be prescribed carefully to avoid abuse. If you suspect that a pet owner is abusing the drugs prescribed for their pet, contact the proper authorities or medical personnel immediately.
Convenient Options for Administering Buprenorphine to Cats
Buprenorphine is often supplied to veterinarians commercially in sterile glass ampules. These ampules require the veterinarian to use a filtered needle when dispensing buprenorphine into oral syringes for a buccal treatment route. This process can be cumbersome to the veterinary staff. The buprenorphine is not flavored, making it difficult for cats to keep down.
Now, veterinarian compounding pharmacies have made buprenorphine more palatable to the feline patient and easier for the veterinarian staff to administer. Veterinarians can prescribe buprenorphine to a compounding pharmacy, and the pharmacy will provide buprenorphine in a convenient, pre-metered dosing device. This allows veterinarians to order exactly the right dose for their patients’ size, age, and level of health – limiting the risk of an overdose.
Compounding also allows for the medication to be flavored to the cat’s desired taste – chicken and liver are our most popular flavors.
Buprenorphine is a very potent opioid medication that is often useful in treating cats with moderate pain. It has a long mechanism of action in comparison to other opioid medications and can provide significant pain relief. Although side effects tend to be mild, they do exist and one must use care when prescribing buprenorphine to feline patients.
Be aware of the benefits and risks of using buprenorphine in cats with moderate pain. If you have any questions about correct dosage or flavoring, contact EPC to speak with one of our educated and experienced veterinary compounding pharmacists or our on-staff veterinarian. You can also click here to learn more about the best options for pain relief in cats.
Keywords: Buprenorphine, buccal