Side Effects of Buprenorphine in Cats

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Buprenorphine is a medication used for pain relief in cats and can be very helpful, but make sure to ask your veterinarian for advice.
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Whether your kitty is suffering pain from surgery, injury, or another condition, buprenorphine might be what your vet prescribes to relieve pain. This short-acting pain reliever usually passes out of the system within 24 hours and typically has minimal side effects.


Side effects of buprenorphine

Don't worry if your kitty seems more drowsy than usual. Sleepiness is the drug's most common side effect, and a bit of extra rest will help your cat recover faster. Sleeping also helps prevent tearing out stitches or re-injuring the affected area through overactivity.


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Monitor your sleepy kitty's breathing rate to make sure it is not abnormally fast or slow. Normal cat respirations fall between 15 to 30 breaths per minute. Ask your veterinarian what is normal for your cat and how many breaths faster or slower would be of concern.

VCA Hospitals explains how to monitor your cat's breathing by setting a 30-second timer on your smartphone or watch. Count the number of breaths during the 30 seconds and multiply by two. Alternatively, you can count your cat's inhalations for the entire 60 seconds. Rapid breathing such as panting without exertion also warrant a call to the vet.


Buprenorphine's other names

Buprenorphine for cats is sometimes used before administering anesthesia before surgery or injected by your veterinarian as an IV or shot. However, your vet might send some home for you to administer to your cat by oral syringe. Buprenorphine is the medication's generic name. The name on the prescribing label might include the following trademarked brands according to VCA Hospitals:


  • Belbuca
  • Buprenex
  • Buprenodale
  • Simbadol
  • Sublocade
  • Suboxone
  • Subutex
  • Temgesic
  • Vetergesic

Simbadol is the injectable version of the medication according to Mar Vista Animal Hospital. If your vet sends this home with you, make sure you know precisely how to administer the injection for maximum effectiveness. Do not use this version orally for your pet.


Store the medication at room temperature between 68 and 77 degrees. Keep it out of freezing temperatures or those above 104 degrees.

Inform your vet

Make sure your veterinarian knows the full scope of any medications, supplements, or home remedies that your cat recently ingested. Plumb's Veterinary Medication Guides says that other pain relievers such as tramadol can interact with buprenorphine for cats. Even certain types of flea collars can affect how your cat's body processes the med.



Review your cat's pre-existing conditions with your vet to help her know whether buprenorphine would be well tolerated. If your pet has liver disease, thyroid disease, lung disease, kidney disease, or Addison's disease, extra caution is needed. There could also be increased side effects in very young, very old, debilitated, pregnant, or lactating felines.


Buprenex dosage for cats

Follow your veterinarian's instructions for dosing your kitty carefully, as buprenorphine for cats is a powerful drug. The medicine is most often prescribed as a liquid that you squirt into the cheek pouch or under your cat's tongue.


Don't add the medicine to food or liquid. It is important to let it absorb through the mouth tissue as opposed to being ingested. The medication acts quickly and you'll see improvements in your cat's pain symptoms within an hour or two.

Should you forget a dose, don't double up or wait until the next scheduled time to give your cat the medicine. Just give her the dose as soon as you remember, make note of the time, and administer the next dose after waiting the prescribed amount of time between doses.

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.

When to worry

Serious side effects of buprenorphine cats are rare. Vomiting or increased body temperature are two side effects of buprenorphine for cats that can signal a serious reaction. However, any abnormal behavior or symptoms shown by your cat warrant a call to your vet's office.



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