Why Can't My Kitty Have a Painkiller?

When you get a bad headache, there’s always the option to take a mild painkiller. If you break a bone or experience much more severe pain, there are analgesics for that. Ultimately, there are ways to dull any feelings of discomfort however extreme.

But when it comes to your cat, the same luxuries do not exist. It’s not a good idea to administer the same pain medications or treatments to your cat.

When it is discovered that a cat is in serious pain — extremely painful arthritis for example — euthanization is often considered one of the most humane treatments. Keep in mind, this only happens when the animal is in serious pain, treatments do exist for minor pain, depending on the source of the problem.

At first, that seems a bit over-the-top, putting down an animal that is experiencing constant pain. Why not just find a way to dull it?

Unfortunately, there are no long-term analgesics for cats. For that matter, many types of medicine are not good for animals in the long-term. Corticosteroids, anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, opioids, and many other medications cause severe side effects in animals, particularly cats. Opioids tend to be detrimental because they send cats into a frenzy, except for Buprenorphine HCL, which is considered relatively safe.

There just aren’t that many options available for treating pain in cats.

Why Are These Medications so Harmful for Cats?


Cats do not have the same inner-body systems as humans. More specifically, their metabolic systems are not capable of breaking down or metabolizing certain drugs in the same way that our bodies do. This can lead to one of two scenarios, either the chemicals become completely toxic — which leads to the terrible side effects — or they just do not produce the same effects as they do in humans. At best, the cats are essentially taking a placebo that does nothing for them.

So, what happens when your cat or animal needs a painkiller? Are there any alternatives?

Currently, the answer is that there are no major treatments or mainstream solutions. Vets deal with pain in cats the same way they always have. If the animal cannot live comfortably, then it may be time to consider euthanization.

But veterinarians and researchers are beginning to explore something called low-dose NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Eagle-eyed readers may have recognized that same type of medication as one mentioned in the intro. The key, however, is the “low-dose” moniker.

Low-dose NSAIDs are used over extended intervals, only the analgesic properties are released in bursts. Other, similar drugs are being explored to improve the quality of life in pets, as well. For instance, Gabapentin — a seizure medication — is often used to relieve pain in the nerves, muscles and bones. Another medication called Amitriptyline — an antidepressant for humans — may be used to help with nerve pain in cats and certain animals.

For now, however, we all have to understand that there are truly no safe, suitable medications for cats when it comes to relieving their pain and discomfort. So, even though what the veterinarian is proposing seems harsh, it may be the best option, however unfortunate.

Managing pain, in general, in cats or humans, is no small feat. We all want our loved ones to be happy, healthy and comfortable.