Pain Management

Pain Management in Cats

Pharmacokinetic data developed in other species cannot be safely extrapolated to the cat. Feline deficiency of glucuronidation pathways results in slow metabolism of several NSAIDs, which prolongs the duration of effect and may lead to drug accumulation and toxicity.

Meloxicam, a COX2 selective NSAID, has demonstrated clinical efficacy for chronic pain, musculoskeletal pain, and routine soft tissue surgery with few side effects. Based on clinical experience, Lascelles of NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine, now recommends oral meloxicam doses for cats that are less than previously reported in the literature (0.1 mg/kg PO on day 1 followed by 0.05 mg/kg PO daily for 4-6 days, then 0.025 mg/kg daily for 10 days, then lowest effective dose).1

Five days of oral treatment with meloxicam or ketoprofen for cats with painful locomotor disorders provided similar analgesia2, but meloxicam drops were more palatable than ketoprofen tablets. Appropriately flavored preparations in a convenient dosage form are easier for owners to administer and allow for accurate dosing.

According to Robertson and Taylor3, opioids have an unjustified reputation for causing mania in cats, but with refinements in dosing they are now used successfully in this species. The mu-opioid agonists are generally considered the best analgesics. Morphine (0.1–0.3 mg/kg) is effective in a clinical setting. Oxymorphone and hydromorphone (0.05–0.1 mg/kg) are widely used in the USA. These opioids are more potent (up to 10 times), and longer acting than morphine in cats. Buprenorphine (0.01–0.02 mg/kg), a partial mu-agonist, is the most popular opioid used in small animal practice in the UK, other parts of Europe, Australia and South Africa. In clinical studies it has produced better analgesia than several other opioids and appears to be highly suitable for perioperative pain management in cats.

Amitriptyline (starting dose 2.5 mg/kg PO, once daily) has been used to treat feline interstitial cystitis with few side effects, and there are anecdotal reports of its use for cancer and neuropathic pain management.

Some of the less conventional analgesics including the tricyclic anti-depressants and gabapentin may prove to play a useful role in chronic pain management, but controlled clinical trials are needed to establish the best doses for maximum efficacy. Other less traditional analgesics such as ketamine and local anesthetics are also used for clinical pain management. The transmucosal, transdermal and epidural routes offer novel methods for administration of analgesic drugs and have considerable potential for improving techniques in feline pain management.

1, accessed Nov 2004

2J Small Anim Pract 2001 Dec;42(12):587-93
The abstract of this article can be viewed online. Go to PubMed:
In the search box, enter the following PMID: 11791773

3Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery; 6(5), Oct 2004: 321-333

Meloxicam for Analgesia in Dogs

A clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of  meloxicam in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis. A scoring system assessed specific lameness, general stiffness, painful rise, exercise intolerance, and behavior, and demonstrated significant reductions in clinical signs of osteoarthritis following 4 weeks of drug therapy. Side effects were minimal in extent and duration. The findings of this investigation suggest that the efficacy, tolerance, and formulation of meloxicam oral suspension make it well suited for the treatment of chronic osteoarthritis in the dog.

Can Vet J 2000 Apr;41(4):296-300


is a potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic which can be used for the management of surgical pain or chronic pain. The drug should not be given to animals with GI ulceration, impaired renal or hepatic function, or coagulation disorders. Ketoprofen should not be used preoperatively when noncompressible bleeding may be a problem. Occasional vomiting has been reported. When an NSAID or other drug that is potentially irritating to the GI tract is needed, topical preparations offer an excellent alternative. Pharmaceutical Research, Vol. 13, No. 1, 1996 reports (in humans) “a topical formulation of ketoprofen has been developed for the temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscle and joints and to minimize gastrointestinal side effects after oral administration.”P