The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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. Topical medications are those applied to body surfaces such as the skin or mucous membranes to treat certain ailments like rashes and muscle pain. These medications can come in many forms such as creams, lotions, foams, gels, and ointments. People using these medications should use care when applying them in a household with pets, as even very small amounts could be dangerous to animals.
The FDA 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 priolcaine.
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.
People who use topical medications containing flurbiprofen should take care to prevent their pets from being exposed to them, even in ways that may seem unlikely to cause problems. The FDA requests that healthcare providers who prescribe topical pain medications containing flurbiprofen, and pharmacists who fill these prescriptions, advise patients with pets to take care to prevent exposure of the pet to the medication.