Buprenex for Cats: Common Applications, Side Effects, and Dosing

ElleVet Cat Happy Eating

Buprenex, a brand name of Buprenorphine, is prescribed by veterinarians to relieve or significantly reduce pain in dogs and cats. Buprenex is an opioid-based medication acknowledged on the stronger, more powerful end of the opioid painkiller spectrum. For reference, Buprenorphine (Buprenex) is thought to be about 30x stronger than Morphine. 

Opioid medications have been used in human medicine for centuries, and they have become somewhat notorious in our society. We know the potential dangers and side effects they can bring, so what exactly are these drugs (like Buprenex) used for in our pets, more specifically, our cats? 

Table of Contents

  1. Common Applications
  2. Side Effects
  3. Dosing

What is Buprenex Used for in Cats? 

With powerful opioid medications, your veterinarian will usually only prescribe them in situations that present moderate to severe pain. Meaning, if your cat has just come out of surgery, has been subject to a severe accident like a broken leg, or is suffering from some kind of overwhelming pain, opioid medications like Buprenex are given to try and relieve the pain. Essentially, opioid medications block or significantly reduce pain signals sent by the nervous system to the brain. Once the pain is controlled, this can promote calmness and rest, both advantageous in terms of recovery. 

Common Applications in Cats: 

  • Post-Operative Pain 
  • Short-term, Acute Pain 
  • Chronic Pain

Opioids like Buprenex can be very beneficial and comforting for cats coming out of surgery. For this reason, veterinarians, much like human doctors, will mainly use opioid medications for post-operative pain. Buprenex can be used for chronic pain, but it is less common to deploy a strong opioid medication unless the chronic pain is deemed unbearable and other treatments have not seemed to work. The reason being it is not preferred to subject someone (feline or human) to constant opioid intake. In time, overuse of opioids can have adverse effects on our cat’s bodies and even cause dependency. 

Side Effects 

Mostly all medications will include side effects; that is just reality. And while opioid medications can be somewhat intimidating, Buprenex comes with relatively mild side effects. 

Common Side Effects: 

  • Lethargy/Sleepiness
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea 
  • Dependency 

If you’ve ever given your cat a painkiller or have taken painkillers yourself, you’ll notice these side effects are pretty much uniform when it comes to these kinds of medications. These side effects are often mild and even expected, yes, but that doesn’t mean opioid medications like Buprenex should be taken lightly. It is essential to closely monitor your cat during Buprenex use and inform your veterinarian if you think your cat is reacting negatively or showing signs of severe side effects

It has become somewhat common knowledge at this point (sadly), but opioid medications have the potential to cause dependency and addiction. While it is less common in pets, it can still happen. Eventually, if taken consistently enough, your cats’ body and brain will become accustomed to the drug and start thinking it needs the opioid medication to survive, even if their injury or pain has subsided. If you stop Buprenex administration abruptly and notice your cat is acting “off” and is showing signs of being sick, it may be due to withdrawal symptoms. This is something to be aware of before starting an opioid medication like Buprenex. 

To end side effects on a positive note, Buprenex is widely used and accepted in veterinary medicine and has been for some time. If the drug was thought unsafe or ineffective, this would not be the case. Risks come with every medication, but you shouldn’t let these potential side effects get in the way of helping your cat

Administration & Dosing 

Buprenex, like many animal medications, is used “off-label.” Meaning, dosing amounts, and structure can differ on a case-by-case basis. And with Buprenex being such an immensely powerful medication (remember, 30x stronger than Morphine), dosing can be even more individualized. Your veterinarian will assess your cats’ current pain, weight, and other factors that will determine their exact recommendations. As always, it is important to closely follow your veterinarian’s instructions while monitoring your cat closely. The dosing amounts and frequency will likely differ immensely from what is listed on the bottle!

Buprenex is given orally, usually once a day, in liquid form. Veterinarians and some cat owners recommend inserting the liquid in your cat’s cheek or under their tongue. Injections are also available, but this will have to be performed by a veterinary professional. Once the drug is administered, you should see it taking effect within 2 hours. 

Should I Try Buprenex for My Cat?

Buprenex is a powerful medication but used correctly under the proper guidance; it is unquestionably effective in regards to reducing pain and promoting comfort. If your cat has endured an injury or is heading into surgery, educate yourself on opioid medications like Bupenex. Talk with your veterinarian and figure out the right approach for you and your feline friend!

The ElleVet Team
[email protected]