Buprenex for cats is an opioid painkiller usually prescribed by veterinarians following a serious injury, surgery or for pets in chronic pain. Commonly know as Buprenorphine, it blocks receptors in the brain from registering pain, which doesn’t just stop your pet from hurting but also makes them feel less stressed and anxious. Cats can be given Buprenex by mouth or as injections, but either option is slow to release and works for a long time. It is vital to give the correct dose of this medicine, and buprenorphine should only ever be prescribed for your cat by a qualified animal physician.
What Is Buprenorphine Used For In Cats?
Buprenex has had many applications over the years. Currently it is primarily used for post operative pain, or short term injury pain, in cats. It can also play a role in managing long term pain, but this is less common.
Buprenex is very useful for cats that have had recent surgery, to reduce their post-operative pain. In particular because it takes effect very slowly and lasts a long time. It is still overwhelmingly used for this purpose, as compared to its use in chronic pain
Because it is relatively long acting, Buprenex has a possible role to play in the management of ongoing severe pain in cats. But, like all opioids, it has the potential to create dependence.
Short-term use for postoperative cats shouldn’t have time to create this issue, but long-term administration for chronic pain could. Withdrawal is one of the nastier side effects of opiates, and vets will try and limit your cat’s exposure to prevent this from becoming a problem.
Prescribing Buprenex for Cats
Buprenorphine should only be given when prescribed by a vet. Technically, it is only approved for human use by the FDA, but vets are allowed to use it for animals under the ‘animal medicinal drug use clarification act’.
This is actually often the case for pain medications. Opioids block pain receptors in cats in exactly the same way as in humans.
The part of the brain that registers pain was one of the first to develop and is comparatively basic. This means that this part of the brain is remarkably similar in all mammals. Sadly this is not the case for all medicines, and pain medication for humans should stay that way until a vet indicates otherwise.
How To Give Buprenorphine to Cats
When vets look at how to administer Buprenex for cats, they have a couple of options. It can be provided as a tablet to be taken orally or as an injection, with the injection being the most common for postoperative cats.
Injecting allows the medication to get into the bloodstream as fast as possible. And means if the cat is sick, it won’t lose the benefits of pain relief. Your vet may give you Buprenex oral to take home for your cat, if they are discharged after an operation but still need pain relief.
As with any medication it’s very important that you follow the exact dosage guidelines given by your vet. If you’re in any doubt about how much or how often you should give the medication, contact your vet for advice.
Concentrations may vary between products, so this is not a decision you should make yourself. Never give your pet buprenorphine that was prescribed for another animal (or a human), as the variation in dosage could be dangerous, or even fatal, to your cat.
Buprenorphine Dosage For Cats
Your vet will assess the exact dosage of Buprenex for your cat based on a number of factors. Although therapeutic in the correct doses, Buprenex is incredibly strong and the threshold for an overdose is very narrow.
Buprenex may be used to cope with the traumatic pain involved with surgery, or possibly the chronic pain induced by a disease like cancer.
In these two situations the dosages will need to be different. A cat will need to take less in the case of chronic pain as it may be on the medication for longer.
Dosages will also differ greatly depending on the weight of the cat and their general health.
Lack of FDA Approval
Since the FDA has not approved Buprenex for use on animals, they don’t provide information for dosing cats. DEFRA, in the UK, does provide some information on buprenorphine dosage for cats: the typical dose is 10 to 20 micrograms per kg body weight.
It is up to your vet to decide exactly how much Buprenex your cat will receive. For your animal’s safety, you should not attempt to decide a dose yourself.
Buprenex is so potent in fact that in a comparative test between cats given morphine and Buprenex, the Buprenex cats were given a 10th what the morphine cats were given and still had significantly better pain scores at a number of intervals.
Side Effects of Buprenex for Cats
Before getting too worried about the possible side effects of Buprenex in cats, it is worth reminding ourselves that all medicines have side effects. Especially powerful drugs like strong painkillers.
The most common Buprenex side effects in cats are similar to those of most other painkillers.
The most likely thing you will notice is sleepiness. But nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and general stomach upset are also possible.
This shouldn’t really put us off this medication as these are the main potential side effects of many pain drugs in use today.
One of the main reasons Buprenex is so widely used is that compared to other pain medications it causes relatively few of these side effects.
Like any opioid, buprenorphine can lead to dependency – where animals become unwell if the drug is then stopped. This illness is called ‘withdrawal’ and is unpleasant, and potentially dangerous, for your cat. We don’t know the long term health implications of Buprenex for cats. For these reasons, vets are cautious about prescribing buprenorphine, or any opioid, in the long term.
To avoid your cat suffering withdrawal, it is essential that you give them this medicine exactly as directed by your vet. Stopping the medicine too quickly can be dangerous to them.
Buprenorphine blocks other opioids from having an effect. Its slow release, long term effects mean that other opioids can’t bind properly to receptors in the nervous system. So if a cat on Buprenex needs further pain relief this can be difficult to administer. This can cause a problem medically as some other opioids are the go-to quick relief for pain.
Your vet will take this into account when choosing between buprenorphine, and other pain killers.
And interaction with Buprenex is not limited to other opioids. Buprenex is metabolized in your cat’s liver, so any drug processed in a similar way may interact dangerously.
Liver failure becomes a risk factor when numerous medications are being processed at once. This type of organ failure is especially dangerous when your cat is taking medication as she will be unable to regulate the drug levels in her bloodstream. For this reason and many others, it’s definitely worth making sure your vet knows if your cat is receiving any medications before it goes in for surgery.
Buprenex might interact with home remedies. So if your cat has this drug, don’t give them any additional pain killers. This includes any natural or homeopathic remedies or supplements.
Remember, if it has a chemical effect on the body, it counts as a drug. And any drug can interact with any other – it’s your vet’s job to know which drugs are safe together.
So keep your vet informed about everything you plan to give to your cat while they are taking buprenorphine.
Is Buprenorphine Safe For Cats?
Buprenorphine is widely used for post-operative pain in cats. Provided the guidelines for calculating safe doses are followed, the risk of toxicity is low. But all cats vary and it is worth being aware of the signs of overdose, just in case.
Buprenex for Cats With Kittens
Tests involving lactating rats have shown Buprenex can potentially make its way into the milk of a medicated animal. That is to say, mothers given buprenorphine could pass the drug to their babies when they feed them.
Scientists have not repeated these tests with other animals, but they should still be cause for concern.
The concentration found in the rats’ milk was greater than in their blood. So the babies were at risk of getting a higher dose than their Mom.
If your cat needs an operation and is feeding kittens, do discuss this with your vet before using Buprenex.
Can Buprenex For Cats Be Overdosed?
The dark side of opioid pain medications is the potential for an overdose. Unfortunately, the comparative strength of Buprenex does lead to more risk. So what are the dangers when an animal takes too much Buprenex? And what can we do about it?
One of the more frightening effects of too much Buprenex is breathing problems.
Opioids like buprenorphine can cause ‘respiratory depression’. This means the urge to breathe is reduced, resulting in a shallower, slower breathing. This leads to a lack of oxygen in the body and brain.
In the most severe cases breathing may stop altogether.
Signs of Buprenorphine Overdose
Spotting an overdose is key – overdose is treatable if spotted in time! Fortunately a number of symptoms can tip us off to a cat suffering from a Buprenex overdose. Signs that your cat has had too much buprenorphine include:
- dilated (very wide) pupils
- extreme drowsiness
- loss of consciousness
More mildly affected cats may be uncoordinated, sick, and may salivate excessively. Every cat will react differently so it pays to be vigilant. The further along your cat goes, the lower the chance of a full recovery.
Treating Buprenorphine Overdose In Cats
If your vet suspects a buprenorphine overdose, they will monitor your cat’s blood pressure and heart rate. They may give them a reversal agent (an antidote) such as Naloxone. Your vet’s aim will be to make sure your cat keeps supplying plenty of oxygen to his body and brain while he recovers.
Don’t worry too much! This is highly unlikely to happen to your cat. Due to stringent regulations and strict guidelines, Buprenex overdoses are exceptionally rare.
In the absence of FDA ratings, vets have compiled their own from existing studies, and also drawn on the guidelines of other countries. Regulations are in place that mean the average person can’t just go and buy Buprenex for their cat. This cuts the potential for harm immensely.
Kevin Allen says
Our cat broke the socket of his right femur clean off. Not hit by a car or anything. Vet thinks it may be from a jump. 10 days til surgery and she sent me home with Buprenex for cats oral. Not fun to administer under the tongue, but he acts like nothing is wrong and wants to do everything he was doing before. Confinement is his punishment. 3 foot by 3 foot crate with just enough room for food, litter box and bed. Medicine is working great for him.
My 17 year old male cat had had extreme bouts of pancreatitis over the past 8 years. This time he is just not rallying. The Buprenex seems to be helping with his pain and in making him much more comfortable. It is buying me more time to see if he rallies this time or if it is just that time in life to have to say goodbye to my very very loved friend.
My cat has multiple myeloma (a type of cancer) that has become very painful. Our vet has prescribed buprenex to alleviate the pain. Now that we’ve figured out the dosage, it seems to be very effective. It isn’t going to cure him, but at least during his last months he won’t be in severe pain.
Using Buprenex on my 7 y/o male cat for a urinary infection. Seems to help the pain, although he’s not sleeping well on it. At times he seems restless and paranoid of the normal noises around the house.
Thanks, this is perfect info as my vetjust prescribed same for same reason. I’m supposed to give .3mg every 8hrs. He’s a BIG cat. But that’s still seems like a lot (that’s the dose recommendation for *humans*) so I might try much less first (half) and see how he is doing.
And what you said about sleep sounds right – if I’ve been prescribed opioids or codeine-based (I.e. Vicodin) pain killers I simply can’t sleep. So expect it’s no different for cats. ?
Thank you for posting your experience. My cat is taking buprenex after surgery for cancer and he is not sleeping well and when he does he is having extreme twitching. He’s also afraid of every noise in the house, very unlike his normal character. I came online searching to see if this is common.
My cat is doing the same and not eating scared at any noise
I won’t be giving him any more
Our 15 year old cat is having the same reaction!! We thought there was something seriously wrong. He is up all night, pacing. Seems paranoid and is afraid of regular house noises. He’s hiding under the bed, not normal behavior for him.
Anita just yesterday my cat has started doing the same thing along with his tail twitching and the skin on his back rippleing. Has your cat gotten any better over the last 5 days?
my cat has had dental surgery and the vet has prescribed Temgesic 200 microgram sublingual tablets – Half tablet every Eight hours. This seems like a massive dose but I dont know the conversion from Buprenorphine to temgesic. Can anyone help please?
juliana ackil says
I rescued a seven week old kitten, had been thrown out of car.Looks like broken leg .She is I a lot of pain, what would the dose be for her?
Heather Henson says
. 5 is the usual dose, oral. Every 8 hours. It’s slow acting so wait a couple hours and if it sends to be in pain, (not happy playing) maybe use another dose.. 5. And then wait 8 hours. A kitten is tiny depending, so if it’s 5 pounds or less,. 5 should be ok. Wait 6-8 hours for another dose
My cat just had dental surgery and the vet gave me Buprenex to give her orally…. in her cheek. It works great for her and so far she has had no problems with it. She had surgery 3 days ago and she is doing great.
Harley Annie Luck says
I’ve got a little wild one. An escape artist. I think she works out as well. Plus, she’s always convinced Ima drug her food. I’ve given a lotta cats a lotta medicines. I don’t think Ima be able to dose her with the Buprenex OR the Clavamox or…well, anything ever again after the first ridiculous attempt. I’m still uncertain exactly how to administer the Buprenex anyway. Mucous membranes….hmm.
She needs these meds.
I need to give them to her.
But she’s SMARTER THAN ME!
I’m not sure what to do.
(And my other cat is going to need them both too. I can tell he’s got the same issue.)
Any tips? Tricks? ANYTHING?
(My vet and her staff are ummmn,…not the most helpful bunch.)
My cat just had dental surgery and our vet gave us Buprenex gel that you just squirt the tiny amount on the inside of her ear and it absorbs that way. Maybe you could ask your vet about that option. Good luck!
Try dissolving the medication with a tiny bit of water then mixing with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream see if they will lap it up if not get a small turkey baster or syringe with kut the needle and squirter it directly into their mouth make sure it gets down the throat
Garry Christiansen says
I’m Responding to an old thread so I don’t know if you will see this. I’m wondering how your cats made out with the buprenex as I’ve just been prescribed this for my soon to be 18 yr old cat with brain inflammation. Thank you.
my cat was treated for UTI and as given buprenex injection and has not slept since, is paranoid of his surroundings, scared, tail between legs Vet said rare side effect/reaction and all that can be done is wait for the drug to leave his system NICE It is no fun to see your pet go through this self inflicted problem and told you can do nothing but watch and wait VERY
UNFAIR MAYBE THIS TYPE OF PAIN KILLER IS BEING OVER PRESCRIBED SOMETHING NOT SO STRONG SHOULD BE TRIED FIRS OR A LOWER DOSE TO ENSURE TOLERENCE.
Shelly Gould says
I agree, this drug is dangerous for use in cats. Do your research before using.
vickie hocking says
My cat needed an enema and an emergency vet clinic that I’d never used before gave my 17 year old male cat Buprenorphine on Saturday, today is Tuesday and my poor sweet boy hasn’t slept a wink. I would never give an animal this drug!! I’m praying he comes out of this. How long can he go without sleep?? Anyone??
My 7 lb Lilly Girl has a good bit of arthritis and needs short small steps to get upon the couch. NO surgery – and this article seems to always say this drug is helpful post-op. On just one dose, she went to the closest closed-in space she could find (never saw her sleep in the bottom hole of her little cat condo.) ONE DOSE, and she virtually did not get up to do anything for 24 hours. I’m always cautious about giving an opioid. We tried one more day giving her only a single drop on my finger. Same result. Discontinued buprenorphine in favor of full-spectrum hemp oil. Much better results.
My 13 yr old cat was just diagnosed with an abscess on her brain secondary due to an inner ear infection that was missed in several vet visits. She was rushed to ICU of our local veterinary hospital and an MRI confirmed everything. She is recovering with potent antibiotics, but still suffers from severe headaches until the inflamation and infection subsides. I questioned my vet about this liquid gold and she gave me tons of information about it’s use. I administer my cat’s dose at 0.2 ml every 12 hours orally under her tongue. We are reducing the dose now to 0.15 and so far, she’s doing well. One thing I noticed about opiods from another cat that received her meds in pill form to treat pain was she (the other cat) suffered from something called Sundown syndrome. She trembled uncontrollably at dusk until full darkness. My present kitty recuperating on liquid form has only experienced slightly more restless sleep (dreaming intensely) in the evening/night v.s. daytime. Just an FYI in case others notice anxiety in their cats at sundown. As I’m lowering the dose under my vet’s reccomendation, the symptoms are also subsiding. She’s been home since the 26th and this is her best evening so far.
“Adverse reaction” in 17-yr old otherwise healthy cat after dental extractions. Advise checking with your vet re: overnight emergency access before using this. RIP Vera, sweetest of cats.
“Finding out the hard way” my cat was given .71 ML for post op on a minor treatment He died 2 days later from overdose. Doseage was suppose to be in mg. not ml. No FDA approval for this for animals , nor doseage so vets figure it out on their own. Someone doesn’t know how to calculate properly and my pet paid the consequences.
I just had my kitten spayed. Was given buprenex. Every twelve hours. Gave her dosage to her tonight and she is drooling. The vet has her on .15mg/ml. In a syringe. Haven’t slept any just to make sure she is ok. If she’s still drooling in the morning I’m calling the vet. She’s only six months old. Just checked her and still drooling. Had to put some water on a spoon and put it in her mouth. Hope the vet isn’t crazy to think I’ll pay for a vet visit.
Maureen Crooker says
My Max is 11 had dental surgery. The vial are .0.5ml. Please double check with vet.he weighs 16 pnds.
Linda La France says
My 18 year old cat has severe arthritis and was unable to walk well. Our vet suggested brupenex, and she has been taking it daily for about a month. She is able to get around much better, can even jump up on the coffee table! No side effects at all so far, so I am very happy she has something to make her feel better.
Hello, I am about to give my kitty Buprenex and have read a lot of bad side effects. Since you did not experience any, I am just wondering what your dosage is, how many times a day and what weight is your cat. Thanks for any help you can give me.
My cat was given this by our vet for chronic inflammation of her bladder. The reason why I brought her into the vet was because I noticed she wasn’t eating or drinking as often as normal -which can be an indicator of pain. Well now she wont touch water or food at all, is totally paranoid and seems more uncomfortable than before. I regret agreeing to her getting the shot and can’t wait for it to leave her system. Her nose is dry because she has been avoiding water and she hasn’t moved from the same spot in days. I am really upset that I let them inject her with this drug. At least before she was eating and drinking a little bid. I know opioids are dehydrating and constipating too. 🙁 Hope my kitty can get the nourishment she needs when she comes down from this pain killer.
Judy Starrett says
Does buprenex work best on cheek or under tongue???
I am at he emergency vet with my cat now because I think she was given too much of this medication at my regular vet today. I left her at the vet for bloodwork and urinalysis as a follow up for an infection she just finished antibiotics for. Her kidney values had increased. They did an ultrasound and foind that her kidneys and pancreas were inflamed. They gave here this medication, they told me, because the condition showing on the ultrasound would be painful, even though she hadn’t been showing signs of being in pain. I left her there for the day at their recommendation to give her IV fluids for her kidney infection. When I got her home, her back legs were limp and she couldn’t walk. She could only drag herself. After a little while, I also noticed that her pupils were fully dilated. After a little reading, I found out that these are signs of overdose. I took her right back to the regular vet, but he denied that an overdose could be her problem. He and his tech minimized her leg weakness. I dont know the dose that she was given, but Im sure whatever it was, it was too much for her. Since she wasnt getting better in about an hour, I decided to be safe and take her to an emergency. clinic to.be looked at.
Thank you for this great and informative article regarding pain management in felines, buprenex in particular. It is a much needed and too long overlooked issue. In brief, my biopsy-proven autoimmune type feline stomatitis and faucitis, IBD kitty has been on buprenex on and off for 10 years, in addition to fentanyl patches postoperatively, codeine paste, and a trial of gabapentin. For the most part, I treat him holistically/homeopathically for the past 8 years, but there are times when we have had to do buprenex. Dependence and withdrawal have always been of particular concern to me, and issues I questioned repeatedly to numerous vets. I am so glad that it is being acknowledging as a real and serious matter to an already difficult job of finding adequate and safe pain management for feline chronic pain patients. To add insult to injury, if one has a cat who has a disease in which stress is an exacerbating factor, withdrawal then gains an added danger. However, I have found that the benefit outweighs the issues at hand IF it is used properly, only when necessary, and absolutely must be tapered when it is time to stop the medication. I have employed various herbals, homeopathic remedies, and other holistic modalities to shorten the duration an opiate is needed as well as the instances it is needed at all during flares. If I can help anybody, please reach out. Elated to see someone taking action with feline pain management!
Winnie maldonado says
Our much loved kitty has injection site sarcoma and is nearing the end. She was put on low dose.1ml . We give it to her at night and she’s functioning well, all things considered during the day. She started eating and drinking again and rests most of the day in all her favorite places. We know she is on borrowed time as the cancer is much advanced but she’s very present and comfortable and enjoying love and cuddles. This pain med is giving her quality of life as she gets closer to her passing and I believe will help her finish well on her own terms.
Danielle Jaussaud says
My cat had dental cleaning under anesthesia with two teeth removed last Friday. The vert gave her an injection of Buprenex that was intended to control pain for 3 days. Coming home on Friday, she acted like she was hungry but couldn’t eat anything. She seemed repulsed by food. It is now Tuesday and she hasn’t eaten in 5 days. She is acting restless and won’t come in the house to sleep in the places she usually enjoys sleeping in, but she purrs when petted and wants affection. Is it safe to wait until the drug leaves her system and she is able to eat again? I had another cat who had the same loss of appetite after surgery and started eating again after one week of complete fasting.
Renate Winter says
My cat has a sprained paw and now been on buprenorphine.0.3 m. She weighs 8.75 lbs. She hasn’t moved in 2 days. Not peeing or pooping. Wines if I try to pick her up. She’s been on it for 3 days. Last dose at 10 a.m. and it is now almost 10 p.m.
Not giving her any tonight. When will this be out of her system. Very worried.She is now doing some twitching. I did give her her prednisolone at a lower dose than usual just awhile ago.So worried!!!!
My kitty was diagnosed with cancer in April 2021, and put on buprenorphine .1ml every 12 hours. She tolerated it well the first couple of doses, so I kept her on it. She is STILL doing well and still on it, and it’s August 2022!! Not normally given this long-term, but I’m in constant vet contact and she hasn’t shown any type of reaction whatsoever! She seems to be doing better than ever, except down some weight. Just wanted to let owners know that it can safely be given long-term, in the cheek area (mucous membrane) and I am thrilled with the way it helps her.
Sylvie Ferns-beukelman says
Reading every article to see if I need to taper this drug, (and vet closed for 4days. ) 13yr old cat waiting for biopsy results on oral tumour ? Squamous cell. During surgery vet extracted all her teeth. I have been giving .01 ml to my 4lb girl q12 for 10days and am now concerned that she is still hiding not wanting contact and wondering if this is illness or the buprenorphine. Want to try stopping it before seeing vet in 5days. Thank you for this forum.
I’ve had buprenex prescribed for my kitties multiple times and it seems to work, but I’m very confused about dosages. One vet recommends amounts of just a couple of drops (.03-.05ML) that comes in 1ML syringes. Another prescribed .5ML (10 times as much) that came in 3ML syringes. Both labels say .3mg/mL, one “oral/injection” and the other “oral Susp” so I don’t know if that’s the same or not. Expiration dates are also wildly different. One expires later this year, while the more recent one shows an expiration date of 2001. This seems unreasonably confusing and leaves me scared for my kitty.