As anyone who is owned by a cat knows, felines are a different kind of creature. The differences extend all the way to the liver, which makes many pain medications used in dogs and people toxic to cats. This means fewer pharmaceutical options are available for your feline companion.
Veterinarians can prescribe several different types of medications to treat pain in your cat. The most common pain medications given to cats are Ketofen and Metacam. Opiates, such as morphine, also are prescribed for cats, but usually only when strictly controlled and given at the veterinary clinic. This is because of potential side effects with these drugs. Veterinarians also often prescribe steroids to help manage pain and inflammation. Unfortunately, medications usually aren't as effective at relieving pain in our feline friends as they are at easing the suffering of dogs and people. This means that non-pharmaceutical options are used more often along with or instead of medications when your cat is in pain.
Acupuncture is being explored more as an alternative or complement to pharmaceuticals in the treatment of cat pain. In the case of injury, your veterinarian may use bandages or splints to protect a damaged limb and reduce pain during healing. Physical therapy and massage also may be used to help your kitty heal and to ease pain. As simple as it may seem, heat is likely to be effective in pain management for your cat. This may be no more than a heating pad placed beneath a blanket or as elaborate as a special heated cage.
Nursing care is important in managing your kitty's pain, whether he is recovering from injury or surgery, or experiencing chronic pain from arthritis or disease. This is as simple as ensuring your feline friend is clean, especially if he is unable to groom himself. Your veterinary clinic may provide cushioned beds with warm blankets when he is hospitalized and prescribe similar arrangements when he comes home. Good nursing care lessens signals -- such as panting, hissing and growling -- that indicate your cat is in pain. Warmth and even petting and stroking, likely will cause your kitty to reduce the tension in his muscles, another sign that pain is being alleviated.
While many cat guardians may think they are helping their feline companions by giving them an aspirin or other over-the-counter pain medication when they are suffering, they actually are poisoning their pets. Over-the-counter pain medications, even those that sometimes can be given safely to dogs, are extremely dangerous for cats because of how their livers process the drugs. They are so dangerous that as little as two regular strength Tylenol pills are likely to be fatal to your cat. Never give your cat any over-the-counter medication. If you think your cat is in pain, consult with your veterinarian about the best mix of pharmaceutical, alternative and nursing treatments to help your pet.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Bethney Foster is social justice coordinator for Mercy Junction ministry, where she edits the monthly publication "Holy Heretic." She is also an adoption coordinator with a pet rescue agency. Foster spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter/editor. She graduated from Campbellsville University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, journalism and political science.