Few things are as frustrating to a loving cat owner as knowing your pet is in pain and not knowing what to do about it. Veterinarians use a number of drugs to provide pain relief for cats, but none of these drugs should be obtained or used without your vet's direct supervision.
Aspirin is an all-purpose pain reliever commonly used to treat arthritic conditions. It's also used as a fever reducer, but should be used sparingly for this purpose.
Concerns: Aspirin inhibits the blood's ability to clot. Cats don't metabolize this drug very quickly, so there is a risk of causing an overdose if you give too much. Additionally, aspirin can cause stomach upset and aggravate ulcers. It should never be used in combination with cartilage supplements or other NSAIDS.
A Fentanyl patch can be extremely useful for controlling post-surgical pain, eliminating the need for oral medications. It's also useful for controlling pain in cats receiving cancer treatments.
Concerns: The biggest concern with Fentanyl patch use is that it can slow down a cat's respiratory system with too high a dosage, so you need to watch for signs of lethargy and weakness. There's also the possibility of nausea, as well as skin irritation at the contact site. The patch may also cause a toxic reaction if your cat happens to swallow it.
A type of catabolic steroid, Prednisone is an anti-inflammatory drug useful for treating joint pain as well as uncomfortable skin irritation in cats.
Concerns: Prolonged use of Prednisone, while necessary, inhibits the body's own hormone production, and this can lead to atrophy of the adrenal glands. Additionally, the drug causes salt retention, leading to excessive thirst and urination in felines. This medication should not be administered to cats suffering from diabetes and shouldn't be used in combination with drugs classed as NSAIDS.
Tramadol is an opiate agonist, and is relatively safe to use for pain relief for cats as well as dogs. It effectively blocks pain receptors in the brain.
Concerns: Tramadol can cause a number of side-effects, most of them not life threatening. Watch for constipation, upset stomach and a lowered heart rate. Constriction of the pupils could be an early sign of an overdose, and seizures could follow. Tramadol also should not be used in combination with flea, tick and mite preventatives using Amitraz as the active ingredient.
Alternative Pain Relief for Felines
If you prefer to avoid pharmaceuticals, there are a number of alternative treatments you can try to relieve your cat's discomfort.
- Magnetic therapy: The theory behind the use of magnets to treat pain is that the magnets actually deliver a charge to the blood stream that increases healing oxygen flow. This therapy is usually delivered through the use of specially fitted magnetic collars.
- Feline acupuncture: Acupuncture is a long standing practice in Asian medicine that is still struggling to gain wide-range acceptance in the west. The procedure involves the placement of extremely small pins along certain meridian lines in the patient's body to help restore the proper flow of energy known as "Chi". Pain relief may be accomplished with a single session, but repeat sessions may be called for in cases of chronic pain.
- Natural/Homeopathic remedies: Herbal remedies for pets are on the upswing. There are products touted as safe for felines that contain such diverse ingredients as honey bee sting to yucca to chamomile. Be aware that many of these remedies do not provide immediate relief and require repeated doses to build up in your cat's system to the point where they can be effective.
- Moist heat therapy: Just as many of us turn to our heating pad for pain relief, our cats can benefit from the same therapy. You can wrap a slightly damp towel around your heating pad cover, set the control on low and place it in your cat's bed for him to lay on. For greater convenience, you can even opt for a therapeutic cat bed with heat and massage controls.
- Massage therapy: Gentle body massage increases oxygen flow through the blood and muscle tissues. It also stimulates the production of your cat's own pain-relieving endorphins.
A Word About Home Pain Relief
Resist the urge to give your cat one of your own over-the-counter pain relievers to help him feel better. The problem is that cats are extremely sensitive to many drugs, even some of the drugs that dogs can take. Before you decide to medicate your cat, give your vet a call to find out if the medication you want to use is safe for felines, and what the correct dosage would be for your cat's weight..