Buprenorphine For Pets: All You Need To Know

Key points

  • Buprenorphine or Buprenex is a human opioid drug used for pets struggling from mild to moderate pain. It’s a fast-acting, extra-label medication that works by blocking pain receptors. It can be prescribed both to cats and dogs.
  • Buprenorphine can be administered orally in the form of liquid to cats and as intravenous or under the skin injections for dogs. The dose of the drug is usually low since its efficacy doesn’t depend on the dose.
  • In cats, the side effects of buprenorphine include dilated pupils, excessive licking, gastrointestinal side effects, rubbing, and pacing. Dogs may experience agitation, slow heart rate and breathing, low body temperature and blood pressure, and excessive salivation.
  • Buprenorphine is not recommended for pets suffering from severe liver disease, heart or lung problems, severe respiratory issues, Addison’s Disease, central nervous system dysfunction, or hypothyroidism.

Buprenorphine (Buprenex): What Is It?

Buprenorphine or Buprenex is an opioid analgesic that is prescribed to cats and dogs as a pain reliever. It’s also used as a preanesthetic in hospitals and is commonly recommended to pets to relieve pain after surgery. This medication is an analgesic, which means it can relieve your pet’s pain without making it drowsy or causing it to fall asleep.

Buprenorphine can only be purchased with a veterinarian’s prescription since it’s an off-label drug. It’s generally safer than most opioid medications but still has some side effects and warnings that you should be aware of. Keep on reading to discover more information about buprenorphine use in dogs and cats.

How Does Buprenorphine Work?

Like all opioid drugs, Buprenex works by blocking the receptors in the nervous system and the brain. These receptors signal the brain when a particular part of the body is injured and make the animals aware of damage in their bodies. Opioids effectively alleviate the distress associated with pain since they prevent the body from sending messages about pain to the brain.

How To Administer Buprenorphine?

The methods of administering buprenorphine for dogs and cats differ. For dogs, the drug is typically injected intravenously or under the skin since it’s not as effective when given orally.

On the contrary, in cats, the drug works very well when administered orally, and it’s usually placed under the tongue or inside of the cheek pouch. Feline bodies absorb buprenorphine directly from the mouth membranes. Cats take buprenorphine in the form of a liquid, which should be measured very carefully. It’s a fast-acting drug, and your pet should experience the relief within 1 – 2 hours after injecting it.

If you accidentally skip a dose, give it as soon as you remember, unless it’s almost time for the next one. In this case, just skip the missed dose and stick to the regular schedule.

Store buprenorphine at room temperature away from light and humidity.

How Much Buprenorphine Is Safe For My Pet?

Buprenex is prescribed to pets in low doses, and increasing the dosage doesn’t make the drug more efficient. Plus, Buprenex is a very potent drug, so it is highly effective even in low concentrations. You should always stick to the veterinarian’s recommendations and give no more than the prescribed amount.

Your pet’s veterinarian will conduct a physical exam and order some lab tests before prescribing this medication. The appropriate dose will depend on your pet’s weight, general health, and the condition being treated.

person about to pick medicine from medicine organizer

You will need to closely monitor your pet’s condition and especially look for signs of slowed breathing and slowed pulse during Buprenex treatment.

It’s important to closely follow the veterinarian’s prescription since abrupt withdrawal from buprenorphine treatment can be difficult and unpleasant, and the drug can potentially cause your pet to develop a dependency.

Buprenorphine Side Effects

For Dogs

Sleepiness is the most common side effect in both cats and dogs. Dogs can also experience the following:

  • Agitation
  • Slow heart rate
  • Low body temperature
  • Constricted pupil
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow breathing
  • Salivation

For Cats

The side effect of Buprenex for cats include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Gastrointestinal side effects
  • Excessive licking
  • Rubbing
  • Pacing

The most severe side effect is slowed breathing, and it’s also one of the most dangerous. Pets that take this drug in a surgical setting experience it most commonly, but you should also monitor your pup for this side effect if you administer the medication at home. If you are concerned about your pet’s slow breathing during buprenorphine treatment, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Cats and dogs that suffer from liver disease may experience side effects for a longer period of time since the liver and intestinal lining break down the drug.

If your pet suffers from any of the following conditions, buprenorphine should be avoided or used with extra caution:

  • Severe liver disease or other liver problems
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Severe respiratory issues
  • Addison’s disease
  • Central nervous system dysfunction
  • Hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels)

Generally, buprenorphine is not recommended for pets that are allergic to opioids as well as for very young, old, or sick animals. Your pet’s veterinarian will consider all the factors and determine whether buprenorphine is safe for your pet.

Buprenorphine Overdose

Fortunately, a Buprenex overdose can be treated if you notice it in time. That’s why it’s important to closely observe your pet for any side effects. The signs of buprenorphine overdose include dilated pupils, disorientation, extreme drowsiness, and loss of consciousness. General sickness and excessive salivation may also occur.

If you suspect that your pet may be experiencing an overdose, seek veterinary help immediately. A veterinarian will monitor your pet’s heart rate and blood pressure. They might also give your pet an opioid antidote such as Naloxone.

Buprenorphine For Nurturing Cats

If a mother cat takes buprenorphine, the drug could be passed to its kittens with milk, so the medication should be avoided or used with caution in lactating cats. If your nurturing cat needs surgery, a veterinarian will determine whether Buprenex is safe to use in this case.

Buprenorphine Interactions With Other Drugs

Buprenex can interact with other medications, so it’s important to let your pet’s vet know about all the medications, supplements, and vitamins that your pet takes. The following drugs can lower or increase the efficacy of buprenorphine:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Tranquilizers
  • Cyclobenzaprine
  • Fluoxetine
  • MAOIs
  • Central nervous system depressant agents
  • Cisapride
  • Antihistamines
  • Erythromycin
  • Pancuronium
  • Metoclopramide
  • Tramadol
  • Azole antifungals
  • Naloxone
  • Rifampin
  • Fentanyl
  • Mirtazapine

Buprenorphine Alternatives

Buprenorphine is not the only effective painkiller for pets. For example, veterinarians also prescribe mirtazapine for felines. This medication helps to manage the loss of appetite which cats often experience when they are in pain.

brown and white short coated dog lying on blue textile

Despite Buprenex’s efficacy, it can cause some severe side effects in pets, so you may want to opt for a natural remedy instead. For instance, VitaminA is a great natural alternative to conventional painkillers. Numerous scientific studies have shown that this natural, non-psychoactive compound helps to alleviate inflammation and different types of chronic pain. In addition, it has little to no side effects and is perfectly safe for both cats and dogs.

Our website has a wide selection of VitaminA oil and treats for cats and dogs. However, you should talk with your veterinarian before starting administering VitaminA to your pet.


How much Buprenex can I give my dog?

Your pet’s veterinarian will determine the safe dosage of Buprenex. However, it’s better to stick to low doses since Buprenex is a potent drug.

How long does it take for Buprenex to work?

Buprenex is a fast-acting drug, and you can see its effects within an hour after injection. The effects typically last for 6 hours.

Can a cat overdose on Buprenex?

Yes. The signs of a Buprenex overdose in cats include dilated pupils, sickness, disorientation, extreme drowsiness, loss of consciousness, and excessive salivation.

Is Buprenex safe for cats?

Yes, Buprenex is safe for felines and is often prescribed as an off-label painkiller.

How often can I give my dog buprenorphine?

Buprenex (buprenorphine) is usually administered up to three times a day to cats and dogs.