Analgesia in veterinary patients — opioids part one

17 December 2013
12 mins read
Volume 4 · Issue 10
Figure 1. Opioid response and ‘ceiling effect’.
Figure 1. Opioid response and ‘ceiling effect’.


Analgesia in veterinary patients can be achieved by using drugs from two major classes: opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In addition, analgesic adjuvants such as lidocaine, ketamine and alpha-2 adrenergic agonists are also used in the management of pain. This first article will review the general pharmacology and clinical use of opioids. The subsequent article will discuss the individual opioids and their specific characteristics.

Opioids have been used as analgesics in human and veterinary medicine for many years. Papaverum somniferum (the opium poppy) is the origin of all opioids. This particular species of poppy has been used to provide analgesia by a variety of means (Kerr, 2007; Lamont et al, 2007; Dugdale, 2010). Opioid analgesics are the most effective and versatile group of drugs with extensive application in the pain management of acute trauma patients, patients undergoing surgical and/or diagnostic procedures, patients with painful medical conditions or disease processes, and in patients suffering from chronic pain, e.g. cancer pain, requiring longterm analgesic therapy (Lamont and Mathews, 2007; Gurney, 2012).

Opioids are commonly used in veterinary patients and, as such, it is essential that veterinary nurses understand how this class of drugs may affect patients. This article will provide detailed information on how opioids provide analgesia and focus on potential side effects, drug interactions and in which circumstances a particular opioid should be chosen.

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