Finding a pain reliever that is safe for cats is a Holy Grail of sorts for veterinary pharmaceutical companies. Cats do not tolerate non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs, like asprin and Ibuprofen) like dogs and humans do. They are very susceptible to liver issues, sudden non-reversable blindness, and severe GI upset. Cats and NSAIDs are not to be trifled with.
The lack of a reliable pain reliever for cats has led many veterinarians to use a three day shot of a morphine related drug called Buprenorphine for temporary pain control. However, in cases of post surgery, anti-inflammatory drugs have the added benefit of providing superior healing as well as pain relief by supressing the inflammatory process which slows normal cell growth. Think of it as the difference between Tylenol 3 which makes you loopy and pain free but does nothing to address the injury, and Celebrex which does not affect your mind but does control pain as well as facilitate the healing process.
Novartis has recently announced a new NSAID designed specifically for cats which is good for short duration post surgical applications. This drug, called Onsior (Robenacoxib) can be used safely in conjunction with the stronger buprenorphine, or alone.
Uniquely, Onsior is approved for use in both cats and dogs.
The FDA approval states that this drug is safe in cats for short term usage only (3 days) which makes it essentially useless for chronic pain, the alleviation of which, in cats, is still an elusive goal in veterinary medicine. Testing of the drug showed that it was well tolerated in higher than recommended doses for six months, but at this time any use over three days would not only be off label, but contraindicated.
In a conversation regarding the release of this new medication with a Tucson area hospital director, she stated that with the long history if NSAID issues in cats, the doctors in her hospital would hold off on use of the product until it had been on the market for a while.
It may take a year or two before veterinarians burned by the use of previous feline approved NSAIDs that turned out be be unsafe in a small number of cats, to feel confident that this NSAID is indeed as safe as the short term, and necessarily small-scale research shows (after all, testing a drug on 100 or 1000 cats is extremely cost prohibitive).
Onsior had been approved in Europe in 2009 in both cats and dogs, which should provide increased data regarding efficacy and safety.
If this drug proves it is as safe as the current research shows, it will of great assistance for controlling post operative pain in cats. Perhaps with additional research this drug or one similar will be proven safe for long term use.
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