Postonychectomy pain relief is a concern for both the veterinarian and owner. Butorphanol is commonly used and has been shown to be effective; however, as a scheduled drug that requires repeated administration, its use is problematic. Meloxicam is a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug that has recently been approved for use in cats. In cats, the half-life has been reported to be 11 to 21 hours. This study was conducted to determine the efficacy and potential for adverse reactions in cats receiving either butorphanol or meloxicam for declaw alone or declaw and neutering. Cats (n = 138) were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups. Meloxicam was administered at a dose of 0.3 mg/kg SC, and butorphanol at 0.4 mg/kg SC 15 min after premedication and before anesthesia. "Rescue analgesia" was included in the protocol. Using serum glucose and cortisol concentrations, heart rate, respiratory rate, and a lameness and pain scoring system, the investigators found that meloxicam-treated cats were less lame, had lower pain scores, had a higher pain threshold 8 hours after surgery, and required less rescue analgesia than did cats treated with butorphanol. After surgery, packed cell volume and blood urea nitrogen concentrations decreased in both groups and glucose decreased in cats treated with meloxicam, but these findings were not considered clinically significant.

COMMENTARY: Butorphanol may be an effective analgesic, but it has a short duration of action, making its use as a first-line therapy for onychectomy problematic because of the repeated injections needed to provide optimum pain relief. In a busy practice, this becomes a difficult task and increases the risk for unattended pain in the immediate postoperative period. The authors found that administration of meloxicam before surgery extended analgesia for at least 24 hours. Meloxicam also makes it easier to assess postoperative recovery in cats. In a busy practice, these are important benefits for both patient and doctor.

Analgesic efficacy of preoperative administration of meloxicam or butorphanol in onychectomized cats. Carroll GL, Howe LB, Peterson KD. JAVMA 226:913-919, 2005.