Dawn M. Boothe, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVCP
Relieving pain in cats is difficult because oftentimes, they do not tolerate common pain medications, including many NSAIDs; in fact, one ibuprofen (Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) can make a cat seriously ill. Remembering this fact is a good reminder that cats are a unique species, and what works for them is often not the same as what works for dogs or people. This reality has led to a drug designed specifically to treat cats for discomfort from arthritis. It has been used in other countries for a while and is now available in the U.S.
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Osteoarthritis is what people commonly refer to as arthritis or degenerative joint disease, and this new drug is specifically targeted for osteoarthritis. When cartilage, the protective tissue in joints, is damaged and wears down over time, the loss of cartilage allows the bones to rub against each other. The unprotected bone begins to change, and the joint becomes inflamed. This process is arthritis. It is progressive and irreversible. Without treatment, chronic pain will continue to get worse over time, thereby limiting your cat's ability to jump up or down, walk or run at a normal speed, get where they want to go, and affect their basic quality of life.
Solensia™ is the brand name of a prescription drug called frunevetmab. It cannot be purchased over the counter and must be given by a veterinarian. It's a subcutaneous injection to be given monthly. There may be evidence indicating two injections are needed for improvement to appear.
Depending on your cat's weight, one or two vials may be needed; overweight cats are likely to need a second vial.
How it Works
Solensia™ is an injectable antibody drug. Antibodies are proteins made by animal (and human) immune systems and carry out many different functions.
Solensia™ is a type of antibody called a monoclonal antibody (mono-meaning one) that controls pain by targeting and blocking the activity of one specific protein called nerve growth factor (NGF). As NGF plays a role in inflammation and pain, and it is elevated in joints with arthritis, Solensia™ helps to control pain by controlling NGF.
Most cats show improvement in mobility within the first three weeks.
Because it is an antibody and not a chemical, Solensia™ is safer than other drugs used to control pain, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Solensia™ can be used in patients with other conditions, such as liver or kidney diseases. It also can be used with most other drugs and probably can be used for long periods of time. As this drug is relatively new, more research is needed to understand potential long-term side effects in cats.
- Solensia™ should not be used in cats who are known to be hypersensitive to its main ingredient, frunevetmab.
- Solensia™ should not be used in breeding cats or in pregnant or nursing mothers.
- The most common side effects seen were vomiting and injection site pain.
- For use in cats only.
- Pregnant veterinarians, those trying to conceive or breastfeeding, should take extreme care to avoid accidental self-injection. This caution does not affect the cat owner, as only veterinarians can administer this medication.