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I will never forget the look on the face of a cat owner when I said, “You might have just killed your cat.” The owner, a registered nurse, gave her cat a dose of children’s Tylenol, making the fatal assumption that using the dose that is appropriate for a 10-pound baby would be all right for her cat.
Cats, however, cannot metabolize acetaminophen the way humans can. The cat survived the near-fatal anemia that resulted, but it was a costly lesson: Cats are not small people.
According to a study published in The Veterinary Journal in March 2011, 61 percent of cats older than 6 years of age displayed signs of osteoarthritis. With a large percentage of senior cats experiencing joint disease, veterinarians and owners are keen to find a safe and effective pain medication for cats, but it is not an easy proposition.
In 2011, the FDA approved the use of robenacoxib (trade name Onsior) for use in cats. This is the first nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) specifically approved by the FDA for cats, and owners are eagerly awaiting its availability in the U.S., which is slated to happen soon.
Before you run over to the vet and ask to try it, there are a few things to keep in mind. Cats have notoriously fickle kidneys, and that’s one of the reasons why NSAIDS are not more commonly used in this species. The FDA has approved Onsior under very specific restrictions. Cats must be at least 6 months and 5.5 pounds. The drug is only approved for short-term use up to three days for control of postoperative pain. As of this time, it is not approved for long-term use.
Onsior has been available in Europe for over a year, and veterinarians in the United States are watching its usage closely. As it enters the market, owners can expect their veterinarians to get a better sense of how the medical community is responding to it and whether it is a drug they will be using routinely.
Both vets and cat owners are anxious to find a good way to manage feline pain, but as is the case with all new drugs, we want to do it in a safe manner. Here’s hoping Onsior proves to be a good remedy for pets that are in pain.
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang is a small-animal veterinarian from San Diego. When she's not at work or with her family of two and her four-legged creatures, you can find her blogging about life with pets at PawCurious.com. Dr. Vogelsang's blogs have previously appeared on The Daily Cat.