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Cat Pain Management - The Best Approach To Pain In Cats

How will I know if my cat is in pain?

Oftentimes if cats are in pain, they'll vocalize when you go to pet them. A lot of times, they stop grooming, and their hair coat gets really oily. Sometimes they'll hide and are reduced in their activity. Cats, as we know, tend to climb up on things and jump, so you'll see a reduction in that. Some cats will vomit as well. Cats vomit for a variety of reasons, but severe pain may cause an uptick in that as well. They're good at hiding their symptoms, but they will often show you subtle signs. Cats do like to hide things. So it's not till things are advanced that we see them show pain.


Dr. Ashly LaRoche
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing pain in your cat?

Cats hide things, and sometimes it's advanced by the time you see them. It's always recommended, if there are any subtle changes in the kitty cat, to just have them examined. I'd rather examine them too soon than too late.

How will a veterinarian know if my cat is in pain?

Typically through a physical exam. We can get a vocalization. We can also sometimes look at their coat and their movements around the room, like if they're avoiding jumping and things like this. And then, especially if we do blood work, for instance, on a kitty cat and everything's normal, that might point us in the direction of the cause of pain, like arthritis.

What are some possible conditions that can cause cat pain, and what are some of the pain treatments?

Arthritis is a big one. Kitty cats jump a lot, so they tend to be hard on their joints over the course of years. They do get some arthritis, and it's usually pretty advanced by the time we notice it. Injury, of course. We see a lot of kitty cats that fight with each other outside that come in with bite wounds and things like that. Inflammation in general. Cats tend to have a very reactive immune system and can develop inflammation pretty quickly, and it tends to be painful in a lot of cats. Then, of course, cancer. There are other diseases like chronic pancreatitis, which are basically an intestinal disease that can cause pain in cats too.

What types of pain medications might a veterinarian prescribe for my cat?

Sometimes we will give a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory injection or a very short course of pills. Cats have a unique metabolism, and they can't tolerate nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories for very long, so it's very short term. We use a lot of opioids in cats because they tolerate those really well. Buprenorphine is one that we use a lot, which is administered orally-mucosal. They're coming out with a patch now that will last several days, so that would be nice when it gets here. Then sometimes, we use Tramadol, which is another type of opioid that we can administer transdermally. Cats will tolerate some transdermal types of medications. They're not all consistent as far as absorption transdermally goes, so what works for one cat may not work for another one, but we do use those a lot. By transdermal, I mean we'll rub it on the skin, like the hairless area of the skin in the ear. We also use a lot of Gabapentin for cats because they tolerate it so well.

What is the most important consideration when it comes to cat pain management?

Trying to get it diagnosed early. Cats tend to let things go, they hide things, and diseases, pain, and arthritis get so advanced that sometimes it's more difficult to treat. So trying to catch them early is really important for a cat.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Pain Management - FAQs

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Dr. Ashly LaRoche
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How do I know what medication is safe to give my cat?

There really aren't any over-the-counter medications that I would say are safe for kitty cats. Typically it's going to be prescribed by a veterinarian, which would be safe because we're basing a prescription on an exam, which we always do.

Can I give my cat NSAIDs?

You can give your kitty NSAIDs as long as a veterinarian prescribes them. Cats have a unique metabolism and cannot tolerate NSAIDs for very long without having damage done to their kidneys. Usually, they're prescribed or given by us, and it's a very short course, no more than three days.

They're formulated differently from the NSAIDs that people have. They're completely different non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for cats. So it's not just a little smaller piece of what a human would get. It's a totally different thing, made specifically with cats in mind, considering their unique metabolism because cat delivery systems can be challenging.

Can I give my cat human pain medication?

No, it's not recommended. The exception is Gabapentin, but we use a formulation that's specifically made for cats.

What are the alternatives for pain medication in cats?

At home, there's maybe not a whole lot of things. We have alternative methods like K-laser, which is light therapy we can use to treat the inflamed tissue or the inflamed joints. There's acupuncture pressure point massage. There are some of those types of things that can be used in a cat and a dog as well.

Are there any all-natural painkillers for cats?

Not that I'm aware of and would feel would be safe to recommend.

Can I use CBD oil for my cat?

At least in dogs, the studies that are out there, and there aren't too many, do not show that it's efficacious for pain in that species. I think there are even fewer studies out there for cats. In dogs, it can cause liver enzyme elevation, and it's possible that something like that could happen in a cat too. Since we don't know, it's probably best not to use it.

How do I know if I need to bring my cat to the vet to get pain medication?

If you notice any behavior changes in your kitty cat, you notice that your kitty cat's limping, not jumping, cries when you pet it, is hiding from you, we probably need to at least have an exam to figure out what's going on with your cat, whether it's in pain or has something else going on. It's a good indication to have them looked at.

What is the best way to give my cat pain medication?

By mouth is the most consistent way to get pain medication into the cat as far as absorption and things like that go. But we do, of course, do some injections in the hospital. There's transdermal, which means you rub it on the skin, and it gets absorbed through the skin, but there is a little more variability with that type of medication delivery. Just as a warning, when it's transdermal, you need to wear gloves when you're putting it on your cat because you'll get some too, and you don't need it. The kitty does.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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