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Q&A: Can I Give My Dog Human Buprenorphine for Cancer Pain?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Human medications come in different dosages than canine medications, making it impossible to give a safe amount.

Human medications come in different dosages than canine medications, making it impossible to give a safe amount.

Can I Give My Dog a Tiny Dose of My Pain Medication?

"My partner and I are proud owners of two Boston Terriers—one 11 and another 5 years old. Last week we got the devastating news that our 11-year-old has transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). We have opted out of chemo as he's 11, and from our understanding it only delays the inevitable.

I guess I will get to the point here—we are putting our 11-year-old Boston down in a few weeks' time. He was prescribed carprofen for the pain, but it really doesn't seem to help him much. He spends most of his day panting, pacing around and moving from position to position to get comfortable; sometimes, he rolls on his back and whines a little.

I hate to see our pet so miserable for the last few weeks of his existence. That said, I am prescribed buprenorphine/naloxone for opiate dependence, and I read that buprenorphine is often used for pain in dogs. Would it be safe to dose him a minuscule amount of my medication to give him comfort during his last few weeks with us? He weighs 30lbs and is down to one functioning kidney based on where the cancerous mass is. Thanks so much." —RG

Buprenorphine for Dogs

I am sorry to hear about your Boston. He is still a young guy, and no dog should have to go through that pain.

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While the medication that you suggested would probably help with the pain, the problem is the dosage. In dogs, buprenorphine is dosed in micrograms, and you probably have the 2 mg tablets (2000 milligrams). There is no way to break up a tablet for a human small enough to give a dose to a small dog that only weighs 30 pounds. If he overdoses, he may have side effects and will not just "go to sleep" like he is being euthanized.

Call Your Veterinarian to Discuss Stronger Pain Meds

According to a 2020 article in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, "numerous surveys have shown that pain is under-recognized and under-treated in cats and dogs." (1)

What I would suggest is that you call your veterinarian and discuss the pain your dog is in. Explain that the carprofen (Rimadyl) is not enough and he needs to be on something stronger because of his discomfort.

Piroxicam is an anti-inflammatory, but it helps a lot with pain for this type of cancer. There are also many other potent pain medications for dogs with cancer, like Amantadine. Hopefully your vet will be open to exploring these other options.

Source

(1) Rousseau-Blass, F., O'Toole, E., Marcoux, J., & Pang, D. (2020). Prevalence and management of pain in dogs in the emergency service of a veterinary teaching hospital. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne, 61(3), 294–300.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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