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Buprenorphine (Buprenex) for Cats

By | Last Updated : 8th March 2018

What is buprenorphine

Buprenorphine (brand name Buprenex) is an opiate painkiller given to cats to relieve pain from injuries, trauma, and surgeries, as well as for suppressing chronic pain like arthritis [1]. It is a synthetic partial opiate, around 30 times more potent than morphine [2, 3].

Can cats safely take it

Although Buprenex is not approved for veterinary use by the FDA, it is sometimes prescribed for cats as an extra-label medication [1].

 Quick Information

Buprenorphine for Cats

Generic Name (active ingredient)


Brand name

Buprenex ®


Opiate Analgesic

Who can take it

Cats, dogs

FDA approved

Not for veterinary use [1]


Prescription only

Available forms

Injectable, but may be given to cats orally

How does buprenorphine (Buprenex) work in cats

It is swiftly absorbed after an injection or having been administered through the mouth [1, soon binding to the opiate receptors in the brain, releasing chemicals that decrease the sensation of pain [3]. However, instead of treating the cause of the pain itself, it just masks the feeling of pain so that the underlying condition can be treated adequately.

Dosage: How much is given

Being as potent an opiate as it is, Buprenex should never be given to a cat without consulting a veterinarian. The usually prescribed dosage is 0.005-0.01 mg per pound (0.01-0.02 mg/kg) of its body weight, administered two to four times daily. This dose can be supplied orally, or through an injection (intravenous/intramuscular) [1].

How to administer buprenorphine in cats

This medication is usually administered by the vet himself [6], instead of asking the owner to do it. In case multiple doses are prescribed to be given at home, make sure to get proper instructions on how to give it properly from your vet.

Possible Side-effects

Since it is administered by the vet himself, chances of side-effects and overdose are few. However, little to moderate sedation or drowsiness is common after your cat receives a dose. Other rare, yet possible side effects include [1, 6, 7]:

  • Fluctuations in body temperature and heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal problems like loss of appetite, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Shallow breathing (respiratory depression)
  • Drop in blood pressure (weakness and lack of activity in your cat)

If you notice any of the above, immediately get in touch with the vet or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Helpline (1-888-426-4435).

Contraindications: When not to give

Inform the vet about all the medicines you might be giving to your cat, as well as any health conditions it has [1]. It is usually not prescribed to cats with [1]:

  • Known allergy or hypersensitivity to buprenorphine
  • Addison’s disease, kidney disease, or a compromised thyroid gland
  • Cardiovascular disease or a head trauma
  • Liver disease

It is also not given to older felines, or to individuals rendered infirm due to some health problem or accident [1].

Buprenorphine is known to interact with tranquilizers, antihistamines, and MAO inhibitors.


    1. Buprenorphine (Buprenex®) for Dogs and Cats – PetPlace.com
    2. A Guide to Buprenex, A Medical Opiate For Pets – PetCareRX.com
    3. Buprenorphine for Cats – VetInfo.com
    4. Buprenex For Cats – TheHappyCatSite.com
    5. Buprenorphine – VCAHospitals.com
    6. What Is Buprenorphine Used for in Cats? – Catster.com
    7. Side Effects of Buprenorphine in Cats – Cuteness.com

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