What Can I Give My Cat for Pain Relief?
Cats are completely misunderstood when it comes to pain. Despite the fact that 90% of cats over 12 years of age have arthritis, their families rarely recognize they are suffering because, a majority of the time, they are not limping. Instead, they show changes in behavior that are oftentimes subtle.
Ways to Tell if Your Cat is Showing Signs of Pain
Below are several important warning signs your cat may be in pain:
- Not jumping like they used to
- Missing when they jump
- Changes in activity level
- Increased time spent resting
- Stopping on the stairs instead of walking all the way up
- Having bowel movements outside/missing the litterbox
- Failing to groom
- Less social, more reclusive
- Change in posture, sitting crouched
- Objects to being handled
- Irritable, aggressive
- Decreased appetite
- Rarely limping…
Diagnosing Cat Pain
Unfortunately, arthritis is an overlooked problem in cats because they exhibit changes in behavior and are not usually limping until things are very serious. In fact, over 50% of cats aged 6 or older have been diagnosed with this condition. One study demonstrated over 90% of cats over 12 years old have evidence of osteoarthritis on radiographs, and a majority of pet owners and their veterinarians remain unaware there is a problem. Because cats often hide their pain at the vet (by slinking around on the floor), it may take a gentle veterinary exam, an observant pet parent, and radiographs to find it.
Are human medications safe for pets?
Results vary from causing gastrointestinal issues to kidney failure and death, so this is not recommended, and we will walk through why.
Can You Give a Cat Aspirin?
No. Cats cannot eliminate it from their system for many days, and can cause serious issues if given.
Can you give a cat baby aspirin?
Even 81-mg aspirin for babies is toxic and can lead to gastrointestinal or liver, and kidney problems in animals. Aspirin is usually low for cats as it is very slow to be removed and can cause toxic reactions in the body.
Can I give my cat Ibuprofen/Advil?
No. It can cause serious kidney and gastrointestinal issues.
Can I give my cat acetopminophen or Tylenol?
No. It can cause life-threatening anemia, and liver damage which can be fatal.
What Can I Give My Cat for Pain? What are safe medications to Give Your Cat?
Prescription Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatories for Cats
Anti-inflammatories: There has always been a concern about kidney function and liver damage with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, so your pet’s bloodwork on NSAIDs is a must. One study showed long-term use of Meloxidyl did not worsen kidney function at a low dose or every other day dosing. Onsior is another alternative you can discuss with your veterinarian but generally, it is used for a short period.
One study was done in cats over 7 years of age that received Meloxidyl long-term. The requirements were that the cats had to be on the medication for over 6 months. There were two groups: one with detectable early renal disease and one without.
Cats enrolled in the study had their blood work and urinalysis monitored as well as body weight and condition. They compared the progression of renal disease in the group to another cohort of cats that were not taking NSAIDs and were in a similar phase of renal disease and age and served as a control.
The median treatment was 467 days in the group of cats with kidney disease and 327 days in the control group. There was no worsening of serum creatinine concentration or urinalysis results when the group receiving meloxidyl was compared to the control group. In fact, there was less progression of renal disease in the group with renal disease than the control group!
One of the conclusions was that long-term meloxicam therapy may slow the progression of early renal disease, however, more studies need to be done to understand this.
The study suggested a maintenance dose of 0.02 mg/kg daily. If your cat does well, perhaps this dose every other day would be beneficial.
This is an exciting study for cats that are suffering from arthritis and pain, and their owners don't know what to do to make them comfortable.
There are no long-term studies on other NSAIDs in cats, so other than a few days for something like surgery or trauma. I would wait to see if it is safe long term as arthritis is a chronic condition.
Other Medications for Cats in Pain
Tramadol: has a bitter taste, difficult to administer but has been shown to be helpful in some cases
Gabapentin: better for calming, not a stand-alone pain medication and is used in the case of chronic pain
Adequan: an injectable protein that lines and lubricates the joints, decreases inflammation in the joints and is generally safe
What is the name of a cat painkiller?
Buprenorphine is an opioid and can treat severe chronic pain. It is generally administered by injection. However, oral administration is possible.
This medication is often used during and after surgery.
What painkillers are safe for cats?
Solensia is a cutting-edge antibody therapy that targets and decreases chemicals involved in the pain response. So far, the results reported by pet owners have been excellent, with few side effects, and it is given as a monthly injection by your veterinarian. Many cat owners will rejoice that they do not need to give medication every day! If it helps, you can do injections every 4-8 weeks.
Home Remedies for Cats in Pain: Natural Pain Relief for Cats Solutions
How can I ease my cat's pain?
Did you know that over 50% of cats are considered obese? Since the number one risk factor for cats with arthritis is obesity and being overweight, we should definitely make sure we are keeping our cats at a healthy weight.
- helps maintain a healthy weight
- avoid carbohydrates and especially a kibble diet which is not species-appropriate and encourages an inflammatory state in the body
Heat/ice, laser therapy, and chiropractic are all useful treatments for Cat Pain. In some cases, the services are even delivered to you personally. The same can also be done in your house and in your cat room.
Can diet affect my cat's pain and arthritis?
Yes. Cats at a healthy weight are less likely to be arthritic. Also, antioxidants help the body clean up inflammation.
Holistic Vet Blend is a premix supplement designed to make your own minimally processed cat food and does not have carbohydrates that contribute to inflammation.
What therapies are safe for cats to do at home?
Ways to keep your pet comfortable naturally include:
- Assisi Loop: a magnetic therapy that you can do at home
- Cold Laser: light therapy that relieves pain
- Moist heat/Cool pack if your cat will allow you
- Massage, physical therapy
- Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, green-lipped mussel, CBD
You may find that your cat needs a prescription to get comfortable initially, and you can try one of the natural therapies to keep them comfortable longer term.
What about acupuncture for my cat?
Cats do surprisingly well with the needles which are tiny and many cats will sit quietly in their carrier with the needles in.
Can my cat receive chiropractic treatment for arthritis pain?
Absolutely! Ask your veterinarian for a referral for a chiropractor or veterinarian that is experienced in treating pets with orthopedic issues, especially the back. Cats are not humans and there are programs of study to address how treatment should be tailored for cats.
Can I give my cat a homeopathic remedy for pain relief?
Yes! There are two main remedies that I use for pain relief in cats that you can give your cat:
- Rhus Toxicondendron: This remedy works well when your cat is stiff and painful, but the symptoms improve with movement.
- Arnica: This remedy is for most cases of pain, especially when there is pain to the touch, or when there is injury or acute pain.
- A helpful combination remedy is T-Relief which is a homeopathic tablet that you can crush 1/2 tablet and dab on your cat's gums every 8-12 hours.
How do you give a homeopathic remedy for arthritis to your cat?
I take two pellets of 6X, 30x, or 6C and crush them between two spoons. Take the remedy on the spoon and gently open you pets mouth from the side and allow the remedy to contact the gums. The remedy does not taste bad, but most cats resent being given anything by mouth.
Can I add medication or homeopathic remedies to my pet's food?
No. Homeopathic remedies are less effective when added to food. Adding medication to your cat's food or water may discourage them from eating or drinking as they can easily develop an aversion to eating when things are added to their food or water. Instead, give them by mouth.
Tips to keep your pet comfortable at home:
- Accessible food and water bowls
- Steps to favorite resting spots and perches
- Low-sided litter boxes or use an under-the-bed box with sides cut to enter easily.
The #1 take-home from this article!
Cats are more likely to exhibit behavior changes instead of obvious limping. Your cat may not jump up on the counter as it used to, and you might attribute this to obedience and not inability or pain. Your cat may sleep more and interact with the family less; you might think it's part of "getting old." Also, they may not enjoy petting and seem more irritable, and you might think that is just being "old and cranky".
I'm hoping this blog post was helpful in making you more mindful of what to look for, and guiding you on what steps to take regarding pain relievers, to improve your cats quality of life, and well-being, and to keep them pain free.