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Cat Pain Management


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Relieving pain does more than keep your cat comfortable and happy; it can also help her heal and improve her overall health. Research has shown that untreated pain delays healing from injury and surgery, weakens the immune system, and has other unwanted health effects unrelated to the disease that is causing the discomfort.

"Do not give over the counter drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to your cat if you think she is in pain. They are extremely toxic to cats and can be fatal at even very small doses."


Signs of Pain in Cats

Sometimes diagnosing pain is easy. Cats that have been recently injured, undergone surgery or diagnosed with a disease that is known be painful (e.g., pancreatitis) are hurting and should be treated accordingly. However, cats are very good at hiding their discomfort, so chronic, mild to moderate pain often goes undiagnosed.

Signs of pain in cats can include:

  • Crying out, howling or other atypical vocalizations
  • Hiding more than normal
  • A loss of normal self-grooming behavior and an unkempt appearance
  • Limping
  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box
  • Restlessness
  • Shying away or becoming tense when approached or petted
  • Hissing, scratching or biting
  • Withdrawal from the family or conversely, seeking more attention than normal
  • Loss of appetite and/or a reluctance to chew and swallow
  • Unwillingness to move
  • Reluctance to take deep breaths
  • A grimace, sometimes with drawn back ears, dilated pupils, and a vacant look in the eyes
  • A hunched back
  • Licking, biting or scratching at a particular location on the body

Veterinary Pain Relief

Metacam Injection

If you think your cat is in pain, take her to the veterinarian. She may have an underlying condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated, and doing so should also make her more comfortable. Short term pain relief may be necessary while the body heals. On the other hand, chronic conditions that can be managed but not cured may require life-long treatment to relieve suffering.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically used for pain relief in dogs, but they tend to cause lots of side-effects in cats. Metacam injections have been approved to treat short-term postoperative pain in cats, but some veterinarians still prescribe the liquid form to help manage chronic pain.

Opioids are used frequently to relieve feline pain. Buprenorphine, which is usually given by injection, can also be given orally. It is absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth.

Drugs aren't the only treatment option, however. Depending on your cat's condition, you might want to consider:

  • Supplements like glucosamine or Duralactin
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture/pressure
  • Cold laser therapy

Pain Management At Home

Do not give over the counter drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to your cat if you think she is in pain. They are extremely toxic to cats and can be fatal at even very small doses. If your veterinarian has prescribed a pain reliever for your cat, make sure to follow the instructions written on the label closely. Increasing the amount you give can be dangerous.

If your cat is still suffering despite the best efforts of your regular veterinarian, ask to be referred to a specialist in feline pain management.


The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


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