• Open Access

A Review of the Studies Using Buprenorphine in Cats


  • An abstract of this report was presented at the Association of Veterinary Anaesthetists meeting, Moscow, Russia, October 4, 2013


Pain management is a crucial component of feline medicine and surgery. This review critically evaluates studies using buprenorphine in cats and highlights the clinical application of the opioid in this species. The pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PK-PD) modeling of IV buprenorphine has been best described by a combined effect compartmental/receptor association-dissociation model with negative hysteresis. Therefore, plasma concentrations of the drug are not correlated with analgesia, and clinicians should not expect to observe pain relief immediately after drug administration. In addition, a ceiling effect has not been demonstrated after administration of clinical doses of buprenorphine in cats; dosages of up to 0.04 mg/kg have been reported. The route of administration influences the onset, duration, and magnitude of antinociception and analgesia when using this drug in cats. At clinical dosages, the SC route of administration does not appear to provide adequate antinociception and analgesia whereas the buccal route has produced inconsistent results. Intravenous or IM administration at a dosage of 0.02–0.04 mg/kg is the preferred for treatment of pain in the acute setting. A literature search found 14 clinical trials evaluating buprenorphine sedation, analgesia, or both in cats. There were 22 original research studies reporting the antinociceptive effects of buprenorphine by means of thermal threshold, mechanical threshold, or both, minimal alveolar concentration, or PK-PD. Individual variability in response to buprenorphine administration has been reported, indicating that buprenorphine may not provide sufficient analgesia in some cats. Pain assessment is important when evaluating the efficacy of buprenorphine and determining whether additional analgesic treatment is needed.