What to Give Your Cat For Pain?We like to think that we have risen above such primitive problems as illness or injury. Thanks to modern medicine, many of us—even some of us with chronic diseases—can go for days or weeks without thinking about our aches and pains for more than a few minutes at a time. Our homes are full of all sorts of topical anti-itch ointment, numbing cream, tablets, gel caps, and chewables that are all designed to relieve our discomfort before we really even have a chance to feel it. As humans, we have the capacity to knock out mild to moderate pain just by swallowing a couple pills with a glass of water.
We’re quick to dismiss our own aches and pains with a couple pills, but once our pets appear to be suffering, we panic. We know how to treat our own ailments, but what on earth are we supposed to do when our precious Persian is hurting? How can I help her? What can you give your cat for pain?
The general consensus is that you should not give your cat (or your dog, for that matter) any sort of medication without discussing it with their veterinarian first. Cats are even more susceptible to the side effects of many medications than dogs, so the best way to keep them safe is to have your cat examined by a veterinarian before you give them any medications for pain. Countless cats become sick every year—and many even die—because their well-meaning caretakers improperly administer over-the-counter pain medications.
There are some sources online that recommend giving cats baby aspirin. This is outdated and dangerous advice, and many experts no longer recommend administering even small doses of baby aspirin without the guidance of a vet. Dogs may be able to survive taking very low doses of painkillers such as baby aspirin, but cats have extremely fragile bodies. Pain in felines is far more difficult to treat, and they are far more likely to suffer from potentially life-threatening side effects.
Things to Keep in MindIf you are trying to treat chronic pain, such as the pains associated with arthritis, do not start your cat on a daily aspirin regimen. Your cat may be able to handle an isolated dose of baby aspirin, but, if you give it to them regularly in the long term, they will almost certainly suffer from serious health problems. Cats who are suffering from chronic pain need specialized pain relief. Your toddler’s aspirin is not going to help them.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs, are also completely off-limits. This includes ibuprofen, which is commonly used to treat pain and inflammation in humans. NSAIDs are so effective because they turn off the enzyme responsible for creating substances called prostaglandins, which are the inflammation-causing chemicals the body uses during times of illness or injury. Prostaglandins cause the swelling, fever, and pain often associated with colds and other common ailments.
Prostaglandins sometimes cause discomfort, but they also happen to play an important role in our cats’ ability to function. Prostaglandins are involved in maintaining proper circulation to the kidneys, secreting the mucus lining that prevents gastrointestinal damage, and even forming blood clots. Cats, who are far more sensitive to anti-inflammatory drugs than humans and dogs, can suffer from a wide range of complications if they take NSAIDs in large or frequent doses. Mild side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, and poor appetite, but NSAIDs can also cause permanent kidney or liver damage, internal bleeding, and death.
Tylenol, another popular pain medication, poses an even bigger danger to your cat’s health. Veterinarians do not use acetaminophen on felines. This drug should never be administered to cats—it is considered extremely toxic, and there is no safe dosage. A single Tylenol tablet has more than enough acetaminophen to kill your cat, so, if your cat has ingested Tylenol, consider it a medical emergency.
Cats who have consumed any amount of acetaminophen should be taken to the veterinarian immediately. Among other things, this drug can cause fatal kidney and liver failure. The sooner your cat receives treatment for Tylenol poisoning, the better their prognosis—your veterinarian can use various techniques to minimize the absorption of the drug.
In conclusion, there is no safe way to administer pain medications to your cat without the guidance of a veterinarian. Most of the drugs we use to treat pain in humans are extremely dangerous to our feline friends. Tylenol, NSAIDs like ibuprofen, and even baby aspirin are poisonous to our pets. If your cat appears to be suffering, have them examined by a vet. They will be able to address the underlying cause of the pain—or, if necessary, they can prescribe pain medications that have been formulated specifically for cats. It’s heartbreaking to see your cat suffer, but, if you try to treat them at home, you will do more harm than good.