pain relief for cats

Cat Pain Management

Get the Cat Medicine You Need From a Local Vet

Cats can be exceptionally good at hiding pain, so it can be difficult to know when they are sore or uncomfortable. Most cats do not want to showcase their pain because they are both a predator species and prey animals. As veterinarians, we want to help you understand how to tell if your cat may be experiencing pain; this can help ensure their best quality of life.

Be sure to schedule an appointment with a local veterinarian if your cat is exhibiting different behaviors, from limping to hiding. Your vet can help you determine if your cat is in pain and go over treatment options.

Signs Your Cat Is in Pain

Cats often hide when they are in pain. Rather than being seen around the house, your cat may hide in the bed or underneath the couch. Cats also rarely vocalize, usually choosing to shut down and stay quiet while avoiding normal situations. If your cat normally greets you at the door but is now nowhere to be found, it can be a sign that he or she is sick or hurting. 

A major clue that your cat is in pain is when he or she is not doing normal activities. Another clue is if your cat is limping to avoid putting weight on a certain part of the body. Your cat might even avoid jumping up on things, even if that is typical for him or her.

These types of behaviors typically indicate that your cat has back or limb pain. It can be difficult to determine when your cat is experiencing pain, but there are certain circumstances when veterinarians expect a cat to be in pain - such as after having surgery or dental extractions.

Treating Pain in Cats 

It’s always best to get the pain under control before something actually causes a prolonged pain response. Doing so prevents pain windup, which makes pain harder to control when it occurs. Instead, your veterinarian will often start with preemptive pain management in a hospital situation, such as before or during the surgical procedure. He or she will be more successful at managing your cat's pain by doing this. Different pain medication options in cats include liquid forms, tablets to go home, and even fluid injectables. You may be sent home with pain medication in addition to it being given in the veterinary hospital. 

There are a variety of indications that your cat may be in pain or under stress, such as shaking, trembling, or panting—all of which are pretty severe signs of discomfort. Most cats don't exhibit these behaviors, however, as the typical response is to go and hide. It's important to keep in mind that even friendly cats that are in pain may bite, which is a common defensive behavior in cats. 

Cats experience pain in a variety of situations. Cats with urinary blockages can experience intense pain and should be seen on an emergency basis. Degenerative joint disease is common in older cats and is generally caused by an arthritic spine or limb. In addition to medication options for these cases, other therapy modalities can be very beneficial, such as acupuncture and laser therapy. A good exam by your veterinarian and radiographs (X-rays) are the main starting place in these instances.

Many cats over the age of 3-4 years old experience dental pain. This type of pain is generally slow in onset but can be very uncomfortable for your cat. Rather than showing signs of discomfort, many cats will chew on opposite sides of their mouths or move the food around as they chew it. This form of pain is generally diagnosed by taking dental radiographs under anesthesia to see if the tooth is diseased or abscessed. 

Treatment Options for Pain in Cats

When treating pain in cats, there are a variety of options that your veterinarian may use. The most important thing to keep in mind is that cats are not small dogs, and some of the medications used in dogs can be deadly to your cat. There are no safe human medications that are available over-the-counter that you can give your cat. Instead, you need to take your cat to your veterinarian and have something specifically prescribed for him or her.

Cat medications come in a variety of forms. Sometimes owners cannot pill a cat, so medications need to be compounded in a flavored tablet or liquid formulation. Just because a cat won't take a pill doesn't mean that medication is out of the question.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are one class of medication that comes in a few different forms and can be very powerful for treating pain in cats. Unfortunately, they can also be dangerous and should be used judiciously. While there are more choices available for dogs, there are some NSAIDs that are specifically formulated for cats. They can be especially effective for musculoskeletal pain problems. While they do have risks, it's important to use them in certain situations. 

There are other types of medication for cats. Gabapentin is a neurogenic pain medication, and it is used in cases of arthritic musculoskeletal pain or spinal pain. There are also narcotic medications, such as Tramadol, Buprenorphine, and Torbugesic. While these medications are able to be used in cats, they need to be carefully administered under the guidance of a veterinarian, as dosing can be tricky. They need to be dosed not just at the appropriate amount but for the correct duration. 

Medication Side Effects

With NSAIDs, your cat needs to be carefully monitored before starting them and while they are on it. These medications most commonly affect the kidneys, so your veterinarian will generally recommend blood work and potentially a urinalysis to assess kidney function. Veterinarians make these recommendations if your cat is in pain and even if your cat is not being very direct with the signs of said pain. As always, however, never be afraid to voice any concerns you have with your veterinarian. 

Narcotic pain medications can also have side effects. Some cats are very sensitive to these medications, and they may become very sedated with administration. In these circumstances, your veterinarian may switch to another medication or lower the dosage to minimize the effects that your cat is showing. Your veterinarian will typically start with a standard dosage of cat medicine and adjust it as necessary to treat your pet's pain and discomfort. 

Your Veterinarian Can Help

Cats rarely show outward signs of pain and discomfort. They are more apt to hide or withdraw from normal activities. If you are noticing any of these signs within your cat, speak to your veterinarian who can work with you to find a combination of pain medications and nutraceuticals (such as glucosamine) to treat your cat's pain. 

Although pain medication for cats is a necessity in certain situations, you should reach out to a veterinarian near you with any concerns you have regarding your cat’s prescribed regimen.