Buprenorphine is a strong opioid painkiller. It is designed for human use to treat acute and chronic pain. It produces euphoria or respiratory depression at low to moderate doses in humans. “Respiratory depression” is a warning.
VCA Animal Hospitals remind us that it is used “off label” when administered to companion animals. That means that it is not designed for cats and dogs but veterinarians use it as a painkiller sometimes to treat cats and dogs but with great caution. It is given as a liquid orally.
Alternative names (brand names) for Buprenorphine: Buprenex®, Simbadol®, Belbuca®, Vetergesic®, Buprenodale®, Sublocade®, Suboxone®, Subutex®, Temgesic®. Don’t you hate this fancy pharma names.
The question is: are the risks too high? When you read the VCA article you see a lot of risk factors. The drug should not be used on cats with a range of health issues such as heart disease, kidney disease et cetera. It should not be used on very young or very old or debilitated pets. It is 10 times more potent than morphine. It is all about the quantity. This must be very carefully controlled. For me the risk is too high. And I am a risk taker.
In signalling that warning, VCA are stating by implication that this is a dangerous painkiller. They don’t say it can kill a companion animal but they are hinting at the possibility.
This is relevant because I’ve just received a comment from a visitor who read an earlier article that I wrote about eight years ago on buprenorphine killing a dog.
This is what the visitor said about Buprenorphine being administered to her cat:
“I’m so sorry about your dog. My cat was not acting like herself so I took her to the emergency clinic. Her physical was fine but they said she had an ear infection that ruptured her ear drums. Said she was in so much pain so they gave her buprenorphine. Said it would sedate herand she’d be groggy for quite some time. She couldn’t hold her head up let alone stand. She couldn’t do anything but lay there. She didn’t sleep much though, her eyes were wide open. She looked like a zombie really. I spoke to that same clinic the next morning and expressed my concerns but they were brushed off with assurance that was normal. My cat was a year and four months old. She ended up dying later that day. I called the clinic and they were not only very unsympathetic but then claimed she must’ve had some neurological problems. My cat wasnt in pain before going to the clinic. Two days prior, she was playing, eating, being affectionate. She showed no signs of pain. I didn’t challenge the clinic with this medication because I wasn’t knowledgeable about it. I regret everything from that day. Don’t be afraid to challenge your vet if you feel something is wrong, even if you aren’t knowledgeable.”
She regrets everything and I would think that she is going through some mental torment. She might feel that she has let down her companion animal. I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself.
When we go to veterinarian we tend to allow ourselves to be in their hands. They know best. We have to rely on them. It helps, though, if we know a bit about cat health and treatments.
And I think that when it comes to painkillers for domestic cats we should ask questions. Buprenorphine is clearly a dangerous painkilling drug. It seems to me that it doesn’t take an awful lot to give an overdose which kills your cat.
Metacam is another one that can harm your cat. It can cause kidney damage as I recall. Avoid it. A very quick search on Google found the following: “Meloxicam has been associated with acute renal failure and death in cats”. It’s a different name. Why did they change the name? Did they change the name? Steer clear of it.
Personally, I will also steer clear of buprenorphine. In the comment you can see that the cat owner relied upon her veterinarian when they said that her cat was in a lot of pain. How does the vet know that? No veterinarian can know how much pain a cat is feeling. It’s guesswork.
This is a great problem because a cat owner wants their cat to be comfortable and not in pain. This lays them open to an agreement to administer a strong painkiller such as buprenorphine. The cat owner is in a weakened position when consulting with the veterinarian in the clinic at that moment.
And sadly, you can see that the vet defended their position in claiming that the cat “had some neurological problems”. That is, in my opinion, pure BS.
Beware of buprenorphine and other strong painkillers. Do some research before you concede to their use.
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