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Fentanyl for Dogs and Cats

By Evan Ware, DVM

Last reviewed: 7/13/2022

Commonly prescribed for: Moderate to Severe Pain

Species: Dogs and Cats

Therapeutic Class: Opiate Narcotic

Basic Information

Fentanyl is an opiate narcotic medication that is used by veterinarians to treat animal patients suffering from moderate to severe pain. It also can be used as a sedative or tranquilizer in some animal patients.

Veterinary Medicine Uses for Fentanyl

Fentanyl can be appropriate for relieving pain because it causes depression of the central nervous system of the animal, which regulates all sensation through the body.

Potential Side-Effects of Fentanyl

Fentanyl generally is considered appropriate for use in veterinary medicine. However, some animals can be more susceptible to experiencing certain side-effects. The most-common side effects of Fentanyl include shallow or depressed breathing and lethargy or general weakness. If the animal experiences shallow breathing or a drastic drop in pulse rate, the veterinarian should be contacted immediately.

Side effects attributed to using the topical Fentanyl patch include a mild skin rash at the site.

Precautions for Using Fentanyl

Fentanyl should not be prescribed or administered to a patient who has experienced allergic reactions to it in the past. It should also be avoided in patients with pre-existing lung disease, as Fentanyl can cause the breathing activity in the animal to diminish.

If the animal patient has a fever, then using Fentanyl should be closely monitored, as the increase in body temperature can result in a greater amount of the drug being absorbed by the body, therefore increasing the risk of overdose.

If the animal is prescribed the Fentanyl patch, the patches must be kept away from young children and other pets. The animal also must be prevented from eating the patch, so in some cases an Elizabethan Collar may be needed.
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