No pet parent likes to see their dog in pain. Tramadol is a pain reliever often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, as well as chronic pain.
But just how safe is this drug, and will it help your four-legged friend? Read on to find out if and when to give tramadol for your dog’s pain.
What Is Tramadol?
Tramadol is a medication used by veterinarians to manage pain in dogs. It is one of the few painkillers used to treat aches and pains in both humans and animals.
Classified as an atypical opioid, tramadol acts similar to morphine. This means that it blocks pain receptors in the brain, upping serotonin levels to relieve pain.
Since tramadol is an atypical, not typical, opioid, it does not pose the same threats of addiction. It can, however, become habit-forming over longer periods of time.
How Effective Is Tramadol?
Like most opioids, tramadol is prescribed to treat pain. It does not treat the underlying cause of the pain; rather, it shifts the body’s perception of pain to deliver relief. As a result, it is often prescribed with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or an NSAID.
- Relief for various causes of pain, including post surgery pain
- Relief for chronic pain
- Can be used with an NSAID for relief
If tramadol is used over time for chronic pain, it may lose its effectiveness as your dog builds tolerance. If this is the case, your veterinarian may prescribe additional pain medications.
When Is Tramadol Typically Prescribed?
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified tramadol as a schedule IV controlled substance. This means you can only get it through a prescription from a licensed veterinarian.
Tramadol is typically prescribed to dogs affected by the following:
- Nonsurgical intervertebral disc disease
- Postoperative pain
- General pain from an injury or other condition
- Other chronic pain disorders
Which Dogs Should Not Take Tramadol?
Tramadol is relatively safe, but there are some dogs who should not take it. Since this drug affects serotonin uptake, your vet will need to look at whether your dog is taking any other medications that could negatively interact with it. Be prepared to share your dog’s history and current list of medications to help your vet prescribe proper treatment.
Let your vet know if your dog:
- Is taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including fluoxetine; sertraline; paroxetine, and fluvoxamine
- Is taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), like the drug selegiline—used to treat canine cognitive dysfunction and Cushing’s Disease
- Has a history of recent seizures
- Has liver or kidney disease
- Is pregnant or nursing
What Are the Side Effects of Tramadol for Dogs?
Like most medications, tramadol can cause side effects. Although most dogs take well to this drug (properly administered), there are a few side effects to watch out for.
Side effects of tramadol in dogs include:
- Vomiting and/or nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue or drowsiness
If you notice any of these effects, call your veterinarian.
How Much Should I Give My Dog?
Because it is a schedule IV controlled substance, tramadol—and its dosage amounts—can only be given by a licensed veterinarian. He or she will take into account your dog’s weight, as well as other components of his health such as pre-existing conditions, and the cause of the pain itself.
It is never recommended to alter the dosage without first consulting your vet. Doing so may lead to overdose, which can manifest through the following symptoms:
- Excessive drooling
- Decreased heart rate
- Fatigue or sedation
- Respiratory depression
- Dilated pupils
- Uncontrollable movement
- Loss of consciousness
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately.
Are There Alternative Treatments to Tramadol?
If you are still unsure about tramadol for your dog’s pain, talk with your vet about alternative treatments. He or she may prescribe one, or a combination, of the following:
- NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Chiropractic techniques
- Herbal medication
- Homeopathic remedies
- Physical therapy
- Laser therapy
It is never easy to watch someone you love go through so much pain. However, with the range of treatments available today, you and your veterinarian can work to build a happier, healthier future for you and your pet.