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Buprenorphine for Dogs and Cats

By Evan Ware, DVM

Commonly prescribed for: Pain

Species: Dogs and Cats

Therapeutic Class: Opiate


Basic Information

Buprenorphine belongs to the opiate class of drugs and partially binds to opiate mu-receptors. This prevents the sensation of pain produced by brain chemicals. A synthetic opiate, buprenorphine can be used by veterinarians for the management of mild to moderate pain.


Buprenorphine is like morphine but may not include the associated gastrointestinal side-effects. Although buprenorphine has up to a 30 times stronger bond to the mu-receptors as compared to morphine, the original opiate narcotic that all others tend to be compared to in terms of potency and clinical response, it tends to exhibit less relief from severe pain sensation.

Buprenorphine Uses in Veterinary Medicine

In veterinary medicine, buprenorphine is commonly prescribed for buccal administration in feline patients to treat mild to moderate pain sensation. For example, a veterinarian can prescribe buprenorphine to manage pain associated with tissue inflammation due to infection or pathological disease, tissue spasms, and trauma.

As with many other drug therapies in veterinary medicine, buprenorphine is approved by the FDA only for use in humans, not animals. However, veterinarians have been able to prescribe the drug as an extra label medication under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act.

Precautions and Potential Side-Effects in Veterinary Medicine

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulates buprenorphine. Buprenorphine tends to be administered onsite at the prescribing veterinary clinic or hospital.

Allergic or hypersensitive patients should not be given buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is not recommended for use in animals with Addison's disease and kidney disease. Geriatric patients and animals with liver disease, severe head trauma, or cardiovascular conditions can require close monitoring throughout treatment.

As with all forms of drug therapy, buprenorphine treatment has potential side-effects. The most-common side effect is sedation.

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