Buprenorphine (Buprenex) For Cats and Dogs: What Are The Side Effects – Relievet

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Buprenorphine (Buprenex) For Cats and Dogs: What Are The Side Effects and Alternatives?

Nali Macklin - March 16th 2020

 Accuracy Review & Edit: Nicole Wanner, DVM - July 12th 2021


What is Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine (also known as Buprenex) is a pain reliever commonly used in cats and dogs experiencing mild to moderate pain. It is often prescribed to manage pain after surgery or an injury, especially for cats.

It is a type of analgesic (a medication that provides relief from pain without putting your pets to sleep or making them lose consciousness) used primarily to help manage and dull pain.

Buprenorphine is not an over-the-counter drug; a veterinarian must prescribe it.

While this drug is less dangerous than some other opioid medications, it can still have side effects and should be used carefully.

Dosage Of Buprenophine

Buprenorphine is used in lower doses; since in higher doses, your pet may experience a “ceiling effect,” which means giving more of this drug does not create a more significant effect.

This is a potent drug, always give the exact amount that your vet has prescribed. Your pet should have a physical exam and lab work done before considering using this drug.

In cats, it is used by applying inside of cheek pouch or under the cat’s tongue. The drug is absorbed into the body directly from the mouth membranes making swallowing unnecessary.

In dogs, it is typically administered via intravenous injection (into a vein) or under the skin. When given orally, this drug doesn’t work as well as in cats. If you are asked by your vet to provide injections of this drug at home, make sure you follow your vet’s instructions carefully.  

Side Effects Of Buprenorphine

Sedation (sleepiness) is the most common side effect of Buprenorphine, but other side effects may include: 

Dilated pupilsAgitation
Excessive lickingConstricted pupil
Gastrointestinal side effectsSlow heart rate
PacingDrop in blood pressure
RubbingLower Body Temperature
Slow breathing

The most potentially serious side effect of buprenorphine is slowed breathing. This side effect is more likely when buprenorphine is used in a surgical setting by veterinarians, but it is also something to watch for in animals given the medication at home. If your dog or cat takes buprenorphine and you have concerns about slow breathing, contact your vet’s office.

Buprenorphine is broken down by the liver and intestinal lining in dogs and cats. Therefore, pets with liver disease may eliminate this drug more slowly and experience prolonged effects. 

Your vet will help determine whether buprenorphine is safe for your pet. Buprenorphine is used with extreme caution or avoided in dogs and cats with the following conditions:

  • Severe liver disease
  • Severe respiratory issues (including from heart failure or head trauma)
  • Hypersensitivity or allergy to opioids

Buprenorphine should also be used with caution in pets with:

  • Addison's Disease
  • Central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) dysfunction
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Very young, very old, or very sick/weak animals
  • Hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels)
  • Liver problems

Cost Of Buprenorphine 

According to Drugs.com, the average cost for Buprenex (injectable solution) is around $89 for 5 milliliters worth of supply. However, the price will vary depending on your veterinarian and/or the pharmacy where you pick up the medication.

How Does Buprenorphine Interact With Other Drugs? 

Some medications may interact with Buprenorphine. Be sure to let your vet know all the medicines your pet is taking.

Most medication interactions either increase or decrease a drug’s effectiveness. The drugs listed below may interact with buprenorphine: 

Azole antifungalsBarbiturates
BenzodiazepinesCentral nervous system depressant agents
FentanylMAOIs (certain antidepressants)

Are There Any Alternatives To Buprenorphine? 

Your vet may generally prescribe medications such as Buprenorphine to manage your pet’s pain, they might also prescribe a drug like Mirtazapine for cats, as they often lose their appetite when sick.

Although Buprenorphine is very effective, it can also come with dangerous side effects.

Some studies have shown that CBD may have the potential to assist with certain types of chronic pain, though more evidence is needed to know for sure. 

There is ongoing research on the side effects of CBD oil for dogs and cats, but so far, we have not seen any severe harm to pets. That being said, the few studies about CBD for pets so far have mainly focused on animals who are healthy. Always speak with your vet before adding CBD to your pet’s regimen.

CBD has the potential to help your pet manage their pain, but you should always discuss it with your veterinarian so they can properly diagnose the issue. Never stop or replace any of your pet’s medications without talking to your veterinarian.





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