If your dog requires pain medication, your vet might prescribe buprenorphine, marketed under the brand name Buprenex. While Buprenex is only approved for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, veterinarians are allowed to prescribe under the FDA's "extra label" provision. Most dogs tolerate the drug quite well, but side effects can occur.
Buprenex for Dogs
Buprenorphine, an opiate, is a mu receptor. That means it has narcotic properties, such as analgesia, but also the possibility of addiction. However, addiction is an issue for humans, not canines. Your vet will choose Buprenex if your dog suffers moderate levels of pain, not severe levels. It's likely your vet will use an injectable version of buprenorphine after your dog's surgery or treatment. Unlike other pain medications, Buprenex is given as a spray or sublingual tablet, not a solid pill. Generally, Buprenex is prescribed for three times daily administration.
Buprenex is often used as a post-surgery painkiller. If your dog has suffered trauma -- although not head trauma, as the drug is contraindicated for that -- broken bones, joint injuries or inflammation from disease or necrosis, your vet might choose Buprenex to offer relief.
Side effects with Buprenex are relatively rare and mild. While morphine, which the drug resembles, can cause gastrointestinal problems, that's not the case with Buprenex. Sedation is the most common side effect, which is not cause for concern unless the dog is so sedated he can't be roused.
One benefit of Buprenex is that it is almost impossible for a dog to overdose on the drug. That's because additional amounts of the drug doesn't increase the effect, per se, but makes the effect last longer. Some dogs may be allergic to Buprenex. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives or facial swelling. Call your vet immediately if your dog appears to have an allergic reaction.
Precautions and Contraindications
Dogs with hypothyroidism, kidney, liver or heart disease or Addison's disease should not receive Buprenex. Pregnant or lactating dogs should not receive this drug. Use with caution in dogs with respiratory disease, as Buprenex can sometimes slow breathing rates. Don't use a flea dip or flea collar containing amitraz on your pet while he takes Buprenex, or for two weeks after treatment. It's possible the combination of these two drugs could cause high blood pressure or high body temperature. Your dog should not receive any other pain relievers while receiving Buprenex. Tell your vet about any other medications or supplements you give your dog.