Tramadol, a pain reliever used in treatment of both cats and dogs, rarely exhibits side effects during feline use. However, cat owners need to be aware of the possible side effects and symptoms so that they can quickly seek veterinary care in the event their pet suffers a serious incident such as an allergic reaction to or overdose of the medication.
As with any medication, it is important to consult with your vet prior to giving your cat a dose. Make sure you understand the dosage instructions and follow your vet’s guidance explicitly. This will help to keep your cat out of harm’s way and avoid any dangerous medical situations while administering the medication.
What is Tramadol?
Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic which acts on the central nervous system. Though the exact mechanism of action for Tramadol is unknown, it is believed to work similarly to morphine. By binding to and blocking opioid receptors in the brain, it inhibits the transmission of pain sensations throughout the body.
Tramadol is used primarily in human medicine for the management of osteoarthritis pain, but is increasingly accepted in veterinary medicine to treat mild to moderate pain in cats and dogs. In addition to its analgesic properties, Tramadol may also have some mild anti-anxiety effects.
Uses of Tramadol
Tramadol can be used to treat various causes of pain in cats including arthritis. Some vets have started to prescribe the medication to aid in chronic pain relief and may also choose to utilize Tramadol for post-surgical pain.
This medication has a few benefits, including the rare occurrence of hallucinations and drowsiness that are commonly associated with feline painkillers. In addition, Tramadol can be used with, or as an alternative to, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which can have dangerous and unpleasant side effects for your cat.
Administering Tramadol to Cats
Tramadol is available in capsule, liquid, powder, or tablet form. However, the medication is known to have a bitter taste, which some cats may find unpleasant. You may want to discuss disguising this medication in food, to make administering it easier on both you and your pet, with your veterinarian.
If you miss a dose of Tramadol, give the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and give the medicine at the next regularly scheduled time. Do not give extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
When administering Tramadol, do not give your cat the human brand of the medication known as Ultracet. This product is a combination of Tramadol and acetaminophen, and it can be extremely harmful to your cat’s health. Only give your cat medication that is specifically prescribed for her by your vet.
As your cat nears the end of his Tramadol use it is important to remember that you should not stop giving tramadol suddenly. Symptoms of sudden withdrawal may include anxiety, nausea, diarrhea, tremors, chills, and breathing problems. Talk to your veterinarian about how to avoid withdrawal symptoms when stopping this medication.
Side Effects and Cautions of Tramadol for Cats
As with any medication, the use of Tramadol comes with a list of side effects and cautions that any owner should be aware of if administering the drug. While feline side effects during Tramadol use are rare, there a few mild side effects owners should be aware of which include:
- General weakness or lethargy
- Blurred vision
- Loss of appetite
If you become concerned that your cat may be experiencing any of the above side effects, notify your vet. However, you will need to immediately stop using Tramadol and seek emergency veterinary care if your cat develops any of the following severe side effects:
- Signs of an allergic reaction including: hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Skin rash that is red, blistering, and peeling
- Shallow breathing
Be sure to discuss your cat’s medical history thoroughly with your vet prior to administering Tramadol. Do not give your cat this medication if any of the following conditions apply:
- History of seizures including epilepsy or other seizure disorders
- A metabolic disorder
- Use of antidepressants, muscle relaxers, anti-nausea medication, cold or allergy medication, or narcotic pain medication
If you think you may have given your cat an overdose of Tramadol, seek emergency veterinary attention. A Tramadol overdose can be fatal and symptoms may include drowsiness, shallow breathing, slow heartbeat, extreme weakness, fainting, or coma.
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- “Tramadol Side Effects in Cats.” VetInfo, Accessed 26 Nov. 2017. www.vetinfo.com/tramadol-side-effects-in-cats.html.
- “Tramadol Hydrochloride (Ultram®) for Dogs and Cats.” PetPlace, 24 May 2018, Accessed 26 Nov. 2017. www.petplace.com/article/drug-library/drug-library/library/tramadol-hydrochloride-ultram-for-dogs-and-cats/.
- Geggel, Laura. “Tramadol: Dosage & Side Effects.” LiveScience, 14 Sept. 2017, Accessed 26 Nov. 2017. www.livescience.com/41174-tramadol.html.