Flurbiprofen pain creams are very dangerous to cats

It has been discovered that Flurbiprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in the form of pills and creams, but usually in pills, is highly toxic to the domestic cat.  The FDA has issued a warning about it.  This short posts is to spread the word.  The concerning aspect of this story is that it is another example of how creams put on a person’s skin can be dangerous to the domestic cat. There is at least one other example on this website concerning hormone creams. See other accidental ways to harm your cat.

Quoted from the FDA website:

FDA is alerting pet owners, veterinarians, health care providers and pharmacists that pets are at risk of illness and death when exposed to topical pain medications containing the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) flurbiprofen

Flurbiprofen pain creams are prescribed by general practitioners to help people alleviate pain in, for example, joints because the person may have arthritis. As I understand it, in this instance, cat owners reported using the cream on their neck and feet. From these locations the chemicals inside the cream managed to get inside the cats.

I can see how that can happen although at this time we don’t have specific details about that aspect of the story.

If you put a cream toxic to cats on your neck, when a cat cuddles up to you or you cuddle up to your cat some of the cream is likely to be transferred to the cat’s fur whereupon the cat will lick his fur and ingest the chemicals in the cream. It is highly likely that the cat will lick the area that has made contact with the person because this is part of normal cat behaviour. Cats either taste the scent from the person which has been deposited on the cat or they lick it off. In doing so they will lick off small quantities of what must be highly toxic chemicals in the cream. The alternative is that the cat simply licks the person’s skin. It is possible that the cream tastes nice to a cat. If that is the case it would particularly dangerous.

If the cat owner puts this cream on their feet, then once again a cat will often either lick a person’s feet or indulge in scent exchange which means the cat will roll over the person’s feet. The cat will then lick his fur and ingest the chemicals.

Apparently five cats became ill. Three households were involved and three of the cats died as a consequence. The cats suffered intestine and kidney damage typical of being poisoned by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents designed for people. They are particularly dangerous to cats.

The cream also contains a muscle relaxant called cyclobenzaprine. There are other ingredients, quite a long list in fact, which are used to treat neuropathic pain. It also contains anaesthetic agents: lidocaine and prilocaine. I think at the moment it is not clear which of these drugs killed the cats but is almost certainly the painkilling/anti-inflammatory element.

The moral of this story is (a) not to use anti-inflammatory creams if you are a cat owner and (b) why can’t the big pharma companies consider the effect on cats when they create and manufacture new drugs for people?

5 thoughts on “Flurbiprofen pain creams are very dangerous to cats”

  1. This is a tough situation, since many people rely on these pain relieving creams. But having the awareness of the danger can prevent cats from ingesting it directly or from their fur.

    I use a cream on my hands and feet for arthritis pain, called Voltaren. I will be more conscious of making sure I put socks on afterwards, and not handling her too soon after application. It does get absorbed into the skin, so I could wash my hands afterwards.

  2. If the pharmaceuticals cared about animals they wouldn’t use them for testing their products. I know in some countries things like the LD50 tests are still compulsory from a legal point of view, but the pharmaceuticals are so powerful they could petition governments to amend that legislation if they wanted to.

  3. There needs to be more awareness amongst cat owners as to how easily their pets can become poisoned by products we humans use.

    The pharmaceuticals are well aware of the effects of their products on animals, because they are their test subjects in the laboratory 🙁

    It might be common sense to many, but perhaps all medication (topical or tablet form) should carry a warning on the dosage label, to keep away from pets and children.


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