We get so much joy and happiness from our cats that it breaks our hearts to see them in discomfort. As responsible pet owners, we should provide them with proper care. Unfortunately, sometimes they may suffer from a condition that involves pain or irritation. At this point, many owners wonder “What can I give my cat for pain relief?” As a cat owner, it pays to know your options because there are limitations to conventional painkillers and most human pain medication can be toxic for felines.
How To Tell If Your Cat Is In Pain
It can be extremely difficult to tell if your cat is in pain. They tend to hide that fact from their owners. This may cause you to overlook certain telltale signs. Additionally, there are many different types of pain states, broadly divided into acute and chronic. An example of acute pain would be an injury or bite wound your cat suffers. An example of chronic pain would be arthritis, which is extremely common in cats.
Signs Your Cat Is In Pain
Some general changes with both acute and chronic pain are:
- Cats in pain tend to be more aggressive. As such, they are more likely to scratch, bite, or hiss.
- Cats in pain rarely vocalize
- They will spend more time hiding. If your cat is spending an excessive amount of time hiding under a bed, couch, or some other piece of furniture, they are likely in distress.
- Your cat might exhibit changes in their eyes.
- If your cat is usually active and/or playful and they stop showing this kind of behavior, they may be in pain.
With acute pain, you may see:
- Your cat may have a shorter and faster breathing pattern (such as panting). There may also be changes in the movements of the abdominal or chest muscles.
- They could have a faster heart rate or pulse.
- Your cat might have a lower appetite or even stop eating food and drinking water entirely.
With Arthritis, you may see:
- Cats may exhibit changes in their movement and/or gait. This can appear as an overall stiffness in how your cat moves about as well as possible limping.
- Impaired ability to perform the activities of daily living
- Disrupted sleep
- Difficulty jumping up or down
- Decreased willingness to play and engage in life
- Difficulty climbing or descending stairs
- Difficulty running or chasing objects
Watch Your Cat’s Behavior
Seeing one or more of these signs may indicate that your cat is in pain. It is useful to remember that cats do feel pain, but because they are both predators and prey, they will not readily show signs that they are in a state of pain and distress. Therefore, it is important to keep a close eye on them.
It pays to observe your cat’s behavior. Most owners are familiar with their cats’ behavioral patterns and can quickly tell if there is a problem. If something is wrong, then you should take your cat to a veterinarian especially if the condition is persistent or gets worse.
Why Can’t I Give My Cat Human Painkillers?
Humans and cats are both mammals. This means that we share many similarities in our metabolic systems. However, there are some differences that are crucial to consider when treating pain in cats.
There is a category of over-the-counter painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (commonly referred to as NSAIDs). These are extremely common for treating general pain and inflammation in humans but they can be downright dangerous for cats.
Examples of NSAIDs include:
- Aspirin – acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)
- Tylenol – acetaminophen
- Motrin/Advil – ibuprofen
- Aleve – naproxen
NSAIDs are also referred to as analgesics (painkillers) or antipyretics (fever reducers). They are very effective and safe for humans if taken appropriately.
Cats, like all species, metabolize different NSAIDs differently. There are some NSAIDs that are safe to give cats – talk to your veterinarian. Currently, there are 2 NSAIDs that are FDA approved for acute pain, but none that are FDA approved for chronic pain. However, with the guidance of your veterinarian, there are NSAIDs that can be safely used long-term for chronic pain.
NSAID’s Toxicity In Cats
NSAIDs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and/or naproxen are NEVER safe to give to your cat. Using these can result in side effects. This is also known as NSAID toxicity and is characterized by the following symptoms:
- A decrease in appetite
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Shallow or rapid breathing
- Swelling and pain in the abdomen
- Pale gums
It is important to note that NSAID toxicity is potentially fatal. Furthermore, many of its symptoms are similar to the symptoms of overall pain in your cat. If you suspect that your cat is suffering from NSAID toxicity, you have to take them to a veterinarian immediately.
What Can I Give My Cat For Pain Relief?
In order to avoid the possibility of your cat suffering side effects, it is important that you consult your veterinarian. They can advise you on how best to treat your cat’s pain.
Remember that over-the-counter human-grade NSAIDs are absolutely NOT an option!
NSAIDs For Your Cat’s Pain
As indicated above, there are two NSAIDs that are safe to give cats: robenacoxib and meloxicam. Talk to your veterinarian about these as a potential option. Your veterinarian will determine if these are appropriately safe to administer.
Corticosteroids For Your Cat’s Pain
You can use corticosteroids to help treat your cat’s pain. These include cortisone, prednisone, and/or methylprednisolone. Because pain is usually associated with inflammation, these drugs are effective because they treat both conditions at the same time. However, they do have side effects if given on a repeated basis, long-term.
Opioids for Severe Pain
Veterinarians use opioids routinely for the control of acute pain. They are best used in the hospital setting to control severe, acute pain. There are not any good options for the control of pain in the home setting, particularly on a long-term basis.
Alternative Pain Relief For Cats
Some of you may opt for a more holistic approach to treating your cat’s discomfort. You might be asking yourself “what cat I give my cat for pain relief?” and you wish to keep it natural.
Some research suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may provide comforting relief in humans and dogs.
However, there is a possibility that CBD may inhibit some drug interactions. Therefore, if your cat is already taking some type of medication, it is best to seek advice from a vet in order to avoid any complications. If your cat is not on any medications, CBD can be a viable option to address feline discomfort.
CBD acts on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is present in all mammals, including cats. It plays a role in the proper functioning of various systems in the mammalian body. The ECS helps govern appetite, heart function, sleep cycles, fat metabolism, pain responses, inflammation, a healthy immune system, and more.
CBD is a cannabinoid that interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. These are known as CB1/CB2 receptors and are located all over the mammalian body. CBD provides its effects through acting on cannabinoid receptors.
Because CB1/CB2 receptors and are located all over the mammalian body, CBD can have multiple effects throughout the body. For example, perhaps it can provide comfort as well as stimulate a healthy appetite.
Inflammation In Cats:
Inflammation is the response to tissue damage that can occur from injury or disease. In general, it is characterized by pain, swelling, heat, redness, and a loss of function. It is part of the body’s response to help with healing and repair. Although it is a necessary part of the response to injury and disease, if unchecked, it can become a problem in its own right.
In cats who suffer from unchecked and chronic inflammation, the DNA in their cells eventually becomes damaged. This prematurely ages the cat and subjects them to a variety of other health problems.
Fortunately, the ECS helps to control and regulate a healthy inflammatory and immune response. CBD may help the ECS to maximize its beneficial effects.
How Much CBD Should I Give My Cat?
CBD is usually very tolerable but side effects are seen more frequently in cats than dogs. If you are thinking of using CBD, you should notify your veterinarian.
It is also important to use products from a legitimate and highly-regarded company. The company should provide products that have consistent and clearly marked dosage amounts. This is important when determining how much to give your cat. They should also provide evidence of so-called third party analysis and testing. This is when a separate company analyzes the product, on a batch-by-batch basis to ensure it both contains the stated amounts of CBD, and does not contain dangerous chemicals.
CBD Dosage for Cats
The optimal dosing for cats (or dogs) is not known. There is active ongoing research on this topic. Based on our findings, we recommend:
- .25 milligrams for every 1 pound of body weight for a regular dose (approximately 0.5 milligrams for every 1 kg of body weight). This means that a 20-pound (9.0kg) cat would get a 5-milligram dose.
- .5 milligrams for every 1 pound of body weight for a high dose (approximately 0.5 milligrams for every 1 kg of body weight). This means that a 20-pound (9.0kg) cat would get a 10-milligram dose.
For detailed dosing instructions: visit our Vet CBD Dosing Chart For Pets
Remember, let your veterinarian know you are considering using CBD in your cat. They can advise you on whether this will be safe to do based on your cat’s medical history and other treatments your cat may be receiving. Your cat will thank you tremendously.