Illnesses and Deaths in Pets Exposed to Prescription Topical Pain Medications Containing Flurbiprofen

A really nice nap.
A really nice nap.

The FDA published a warning about the topical medication Flurbiprofen, which reminded me of other cautions of contact transfer of substances from us to our pets, especially our cats. I have the text of the warning below with a link to report possible exposures.

Since I’ve been giving Mimi medications for the past three weeks I’m extra careful about what I have on my hands. My hands get into a lot of substances outside of the usual, from art supplies to wood finishes to garden soil to cooking and baking ingredients to medications for myself. This last doesn’t amount to much but my thyroid pill and the occasional ibuprofen which don’t leave much of a residue on my hands, nothing that can’t be washed off, but I do use medicated ointments to ease pain and stiffness in my back and shoulders. I never use the medicated ointments that I apply by hand because I touch my cats all the time even if I’m not shoving something in their mouth, and whatever gets on my hands gets on their fur and gets in their body, either by absorbing it through their skin or by washing it off themselves, or both.

I grow some pretty hot peppers in my garden and my hands are pretty tough for handling them without wearing gloves. I trimmed and sliced several to store in the freezer, washed my hands, a few hours went by, then I gave Stanley his medications for thyroid and potassium for ongoing renal issues, placing the pills in his mouth with my fingers and washing them down with a dropper of water.

At his age of 23 or so, deep into hyperthyroid disease and chronic renal failure Stanley could have appetite issues and hated his pills, but as the hours went by and he would not eat and pawed at his mouth I was concerned. Was a pill stuck? Had I hurt him with handling him and giving him the pill? Then I absently rubbed my eyes as I often do and felt the sting from the pepper still there hours later and after several hand washings. Capsaicin is the component in all peppers that determines their level of heat, irritating or even damaging to skin and tissues it is easily and quickly absorbed by the skin and is a natural defense for the pepper’s survival. I could have washed my hands all day and it would have still been there.

I could not have felt worse for knowing the pain he must have felt in his delicate elderly tissues. I didn’t see any swelling or raw areas and could only put a little more cool water in his mouth now and then. I remembered that for Stanley’s sake, and for all the cats following.

So I do a lot of hand washing with a basic milled soap to help break down oils, and with lavender oil to break down any residue of smell left behind, no perfumes or other ingredients, and I use a little olive oil on that often dry, chapped skin on my hands.

But contact transfer can happen not only from our hands but from anywhere on our body as our cats sleep with us or on us or rub up against us and even on our clothes and bedding which may carry a residue of substances we have on our skin, so we need to stay aware of this.

FDA Warning About Flurbiprofen

FDA Warns of Illnesses and Deaths in Pets Exposed to Prescription Topical Pain Medications Containing Flurbiprofen

April 17, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners, veterinarians, health care providers and pharmacists that pets are at risk of illness and death when exposed to topical pain medications containing the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) flurbiprofen. People using these medications, should use care when applying them in a household with pets, as even very small amounts could be dangerous to these animals.

The FDA has received reports of cats in two households that became ill or died after their owners used topical medications containing flurbiprofen on themselves to treat muscle, joint, or other pain. The pet owners had applied the cream or lotion to their own neck or feet, and not directly to the pet, and it is not known exactly how the cats became exposed to the medication. The products contained the NSAID flurbiprofen and the muscle relaxer cyclobenzaprine, as well as other varying active ingredients, including baclofen, gabapentin, lidocaine, or prilocaine.

Two cats in one household developed kidney failure and recovered with veterinary care. Two cats in a second household developed signs that included reluctance to eat, lethargy, vomiting, melena (black, tarry, bloody stools), anemia, and dilute urine. These two cats died despite veterinary care. A third cat in the second household also died after the owner had stopped using the medication. Veterinarians performed necropsies on the three cats that died and found evidence in the kidneys and intestines that were consistent with NSAID toxicity.

The FDA recommends that people who use topical medications containing flurbiprofen take care to prevent their pets from being exposed to them, even in ways that may seem unlikely to cause problems.

  • Store all medications safely out of the reach of pets.
  • Safely discard or clean any cloth or applicator that may retain medication and avoid leaving any residues of the medication on clothing, carpeting or furniture.
  • Consult your health care provider on whether it is appropriate to cover the treated area.
  • If you are using topical medications containing flurbiprofen and your pet becomes exposed, bathe or clean your pet as thoroughly as possible and consult a veterinarian.
  • If your pet shows signs such as lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, or other illness, seek veterinary care for your pet and be sure to provide the details of the exposure.
  • Understand that, although the FDA has not received reports of dogs or other pets becoming sick in relation to the use of topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen, these animals may also be vulnerable to NSAID toxicity after being exposed to these medications.

Veterinarians who have patients who show signs of NSAID toxicity should ask whether anyone in the household has used topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen.

Health care providers who prescribe topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen and pharmacists who fill these prescriptions should advise patients with pets to take care to prevent exposure of the pet to the medication.

Pet owners and veterinarians can also report any adverse events to the FDA.

Here is the link to the warning on the FDA website:

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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

4 thoughts on “Illnesses and Deaths in Pets Exposed to Prescription Topical Pain Medications Containing Flurbiprofen

  • April 24, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    I’m kind of confused about this – both my mother-in-law’s little dog and my own beloved cat who had laser surgery to remove an enormous iris melanoma ended up with glaucoma – and one of the regular treatments for both of them was flurbiprofen eye drops. Neither of them had any kind of problem with the medication……

  • April 24, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    guys….manee thanx for de post…..thiz iza grate info peace….we R sorree ta lurn bout de kittehz that dinna make it 🙁

  • April 24, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for this cautionary tale about dear Stanley.
    As cat guardians, we’ve all done things for which we’d like to have a mulligan. I’d rather not remember mine, even to share with others as you so graciously have.
    Obviously I need to be more aware of what could be on my hands, especially when I pill my cats (which is a twice-daily routine).
    Bernadette, our household of 2- and 4-leggeds appreciates your sage advice — and your creative gifts (okay, well, mostly the 2-legged is the one who enjoys those, but they do provide a nice static lap for the 4-leggeds during consumption).


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