Using Tramadol To Help Dogs With Pain And Anxiety

golden retriever sitting on the beach

What is Tramadol?

Ultram® is a prescription medicine that helps control your dog’s pain by dulling the brain’s perception of painful sensations by how the nervous system processes pain by binding to the mu-opoid receptors. This is different from non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs which work by influencing the area of damage and helping to decrease swelling and pain in the area of injury. However since NSAIDs can be harmful to animals, this course of treatment offers a “safer” alternative for treating chronic pain such as arthritis and dysplasia as long as the dosage is carefully controlled. It is often used for cancer or following surgical procedures.

While classified as a non-narcotic, it is a synthetic opiate (schedule IV controlled substance) and works via similar passageways and can cause all of the same side effects as a regular narcotic.

It is typically used to handle moderate to severe pain — especially as a post-op drug.

Tramadol is sold under multiple names including Ultram, Ralivia, Dromodol, and ConZip. However, you will normally find that when being prescribed for pets that it is only sold under its generic name.


Typical Symptoms A Vet Would Use Tramadol To Treat

White labrador LOOKING SADI want to first state that Tramadol has potential risks and should never be given without the direction of your vet.

This medicine is an analgesic (pain relief) medicine and can often be helpful with older canines suffering from joint pain.

It can also help when an acute injury has occurred and short-term pain relief is needed for extreme pain.

There are several conditions that are more commonly treated with this drug. A canine who has anxiety with events such as travel, holiday noises, weather or any unusual event that occurs outside his or her s normal routine may find relief from this medicine. It can help to calm them and be able to safely get them through the event. However, this course of treatment is rare as there are typically safer options your vet will want to try first.

Depression is another disorder that this drug may help relieve. Since it is an opiate, it can actually induce mild feelings of euphoria, elevating their mood. If you’ve received a vet’s diagnose that your pooch as being depressed, you can inquire if it might help ease it. Once again, this is rarely used for depression but has seen positive results in some cases.

Another symptom a canine can suffer from is coughing. Have your pooch seen by his or her vet to determine the reason behind a cough. Of course, Tramadol is not the first course of action, but in extremely severe cases, it may be used to suppress severe coughing spasms.

Veterinarians are trained to read your dog’s body language to understand how serious a condition is by observing how they pant, whine, shake, how their eyes look and many other symptoms. They are the best judge to know when this or other medications are needed.

If they diagnose your pet as dealing with severe pain, your vet may suggest giving it a try. It is also one of the more affordable pain relief options out there.

Typical Tramadol Dosage Amounts

The dosage must be determined by a veterinarian. It can start at .5 mg for every pound and as a very low dose and goes all the way up to 1.8mg per pound and is given by mouth every 8 to 12 hours. The dosage and the times to administer are determined by the condition of your pooch.

Dosing will also vary according to the amount of pain he or she is in. Talk to you vet if they have prescribed an amount you do not feel is relieving the pain effectively. Your pet may also display unusual behaviors where you think they might be getting too much. This is a narcotic-like drug, and can be addicting.

Do not give your dog more medication without permission from your vet. This can lead to an overdose which can cause painful liver damage and even death. Stopping this medication must also be done slowly and typically is handled in a “tapered off” manner to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Side Effects

There are a number of side effects your dog may experience while using this medicine:

Upset Stomach

This is most often a symptom when your pet takes their medication on an empty stomach. If your canine consistently vomits after every dose, you may need to try a different medication.

Blurred Vision

Blurred vision is a very uncommon and infrequent side effect of a Tramadol use. It is easy to tell if your pet is suffering from this by watching your pet to see if there is any kind of disorientation or imbalance in movements. Dogs have also been known to walk haphazardly in circles and become confused when experiencing the blurred vision. While this is not necessarily considered a severe side effect it is still something that should encourage the watching of your pet.


Drowsiness is very common for dogs on this drug though, and it is rarely something to be concerned about. It should not cause any problems for them, as long as they are eating and drinking when they are awake. It is normally most severe when they start taking the drug and gets better over time.

While the drowsiness is not a serious problem, you may still think your buddy is sleeping a bit too much. If you feel this way, you can try lowering their dosage by a little. It would not be recommended to try putting your pet on other drugs unless your veterinarian specifically approved something.

In the case of an overdose, drowsiness is a symptom here as well. If you noticed your dog becoming much more drowsy than usual, along with the other symptoms of an overdose like excess salivation, intoxicated movements, trouble breathing, loss of consciousness, seizures, vomiting etc., you would want to contact your vet, especially if you were unsure for some reason as to the dose that had been ingested.


Constipation is one of the most common side effects of opiates. You may notice your pet straining as if attempting to go and having no or limited success. Your dog may also show some signs of pain and bloat.

If they have not been able to go for a significant amount of time, they may also start to vomit.

There are some home remedies for curing this. You can increase their fiber intake. Some sources of fiber include canned pumpkin, dark green vegetables, and coconut fiber, one teaspoon per ten pounds of weight for each. You could give wet food instead of dry food to move things along. You should also make sure they are drinking plenty of water.

Another option is to give your pooch mineral oil. It is recommended to give one teaspoon per every ten pounds your dog weighs. Make sure to add to their food and not directly to the mouth as if inhaled it can cause serious respiratory problems.

As with all of these side effects, it is important to communicate what your pet is experiencing with their veterinarian so they can adjust dosages, as necessary.


You may observe your dog falling over, stumbling, and a general loss of balance.  You may see your puppy walking in circles, tilting his head to one side, or struggling to walk at all.

Some canines react by lying on the floor and refusing to move, and you may not be able to discern any symptoms.  In that case, you may notice an eye flickering movement, called nystagmus.

These symptoms can be very scary for a dog owner, but he is probably freaking out more than you and needs comfort and calmness from his human.  It’s important to take a deep breath and calm yourself.

Pet your dog; scratch his ears; do everything you can to comfort him.  Try to get your buddy to lie down in his dog bed or on a blanket.  Somewhere comfortable where he can feel more relaxed.  Resting will be his best defense against his spinning head.

Give your dog some water.  He will probably be too uncoordinated to drink from a bowl, so you may have to help him along.  It’s important that he stays hydrated to ensure proper blood flow to the brain.

Cocculus indicus, a homeopathic remedy, is usually recommended to help with nausea and car sickness in dogs and can be purchased at most pet stores.  It can also help relieve your pooch’s dizziness, and pet owners report it has been effective.

Another option for alleviating dizziness in your puppy is ginger, which most people already have at home!  A dosage is about 3/4 of a teaspoon for a dog over 35 pounds.  The powdered form is fine to give to your dog and will probably be the easiest for him to take.  If all you have is ginger root, be sure to peel it and mince it finely.


Severe Side Effects

dog sitting on the grass

These symptoms are not dangerous but if you notice them you should mention them to the vet, especially if they increase. More severe side effects are:

  • trouble breathing
  • convulsions
  • developing rash
  • slowing heart rate

Contact your vet right away with these symptoms as the dosage probably needs adjusting. If these symptoms progress too quickly, you will need to rush your pet back to their emergency care provider.

Working with the vet and monitoring your dog will decrease the side effects while helping your favorite buddy get the relief he needs.

Humans and pets alike have been known to have seizures while on this medication. If your pooch has a history of having seizures, make sure to tell your vet, as this may not be an appropriate medication.


Prescribing Tramadol For Older Dogs

Older dogs deal with a lot of pain. As much as it grieves, us, their bodies aren’t designed to last as long as ours.

And it is frustrating to see them in so much pain and yet be unable to help. Especially when they are fighting cancer, or arthritis, or any other painful, degenerative condition.

At the right moment, you may have to make the decision to say goodbye, but we want to prolong that as long as possible.

Tramadol is an excellent way to help with end of life comfort. It is one of the more robust medications and it has a long track record. Veterinarians are comfortable dosing it and watching for side-effects. Compared to a lot of the options, this one can make a huge difference for your pet.


What Are The Risks?

There is a number of side-effects that we discuss, and you will want to get up to speed on those so you can keep an eye out for any problems.

The main concern might be liver or kidney damage. Tramadol is mostly processed by the liver, so that would be the first concern. If your dog already has a weak liver or kidney, the added strain of breaking down medications could tax their system.

Sometimes your vet will schedule regular blood draws to watch for indicators that your pet is having a hard time keeping up with the load. This can help prevent excessive damage and give you time to adjust to a different medication before irreparable damage is done.


I’m Having A Hard Time Getting My Pet To Take His Medicine

It can be really hard to get your pet to take his meds. Becoming an expert at disguising the pill is typically key. I like to try placing it into their daily food (especially when using wet food) or wrapped inside their favorite treat (cheese normally works well for me) is usually the easiest way. If your pup is a good eater they will probably gobble food up without noticing the pill.

If hiding it in food doesn’t work:

  1. Take the pill between fingers of one hand. Take the hand that is holding the pill and put it on their lower jaw. Take your other hand and place on their upper jaw
  2. Open your their mouth and twist your hand with the pill in it so you can place the pill in their mouth. Place the pill as far back on their tongue as you can. Quickly take your hand out of their mouth and close the jaw.
  3. Keep the mouth closed and the head pointed towards the ceiling. With one hand gently stroke the throat to encourage they swallow the pill.
  4. Make the experience as pleasant as possible. Once you know they have swallowed the pill, give them a treat. This will also ensure that the pill has gone down.


Common Questions (FAQs):

Should I Give My Dog It’s Dose When It Is Not In Obvious Pain?

mastiff laying on the floor looking sadYour pet may have prescribed one course of action, but over the course of a day, your pet is now in significantly less pain and you are wondering if you should give it the medication.

Since all pain meds must be processed by the liver, it is best not to give your pet more meds than absolutely necessary for them to be comfortable.

So if your pet is clearly past its pain, you should be able to communicate with your vet and get guidance on discontinuing the meds.

However, just stopping the medication suddenly can cause a relapse, and so it is important to watch your pet carefully while also staying in contact with their vet.

Is It Normal For Canines To Sleep A Lot After Their Pill?

We often hear that their pets sleep a lot after taking Tramadol. This is a normal side effect of the medication and shouldn’t be cause for worry. Once the pet’s system becomes accustomed to the dosage, it should make them less sleepy.

Is Tramadol For Humans  Different Than Tramadol For Dogs (50 mg HCL)?

There is no difference between the types of medication.  However, the human form is often mixed with other medications, such as Tylenol or codeine. It is important that you consult with your vet and possibly even show him or her the vial of medications before using it for your pet. These secondary medications can have interactions with your pet which could prove fatal.

Is It An Anti-Inflammatory?

This medication does not affect swelling and is only for the treatment of pain. Canine-Specific Non- Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) such as Rimadyl, deracoxib, Previcox or meloxicam are needed to decrease swelling. These medications actively target and inhibit inflammation, and in some case may speed recovery (especially when treating an acute injury). Sometimes your vet will prescribe an NSAID alongside Tramadol. Depending on your pet’s pain levels, they may need to be on their anti-inflammatory medication for a longer or shorter amount of time than the Tramadol.

Is Tramadol A Steroid?

There are no steroids in Tramadol and it is just a synthetic opiate. It is used to treat mild to moderate pain. While it isn’t a steroid, since it is a synthetic opiate, it is addictive. It doesn’t get you “high” when taken according to prescription, but it does have a high addiction rate.

Can Tramadol Be Given On An Empty Stomach?

Most of us disguise pills inside of food, so it really doesn’t become much of an issue for most of us. However, it does seem as though nausea can be worse when given on an empty stomach. This, of course, raises the chance of them vomiting the medication, and losing the benefits.

Of course, you don’t want your pet to be so full that they refuse their medication. or most of my pets, I sneak them their meds right before they eat.

Is It Safe To Give My Dog Tramadol And Prednisone At The Same Time?

It is not uncommon for canines to be on multiple medications when trying to treat severe pain situations. Drug interactions are something a pet owner should always be on the lookout for, especially, if it has been a few months since the last medication was prescribed. Your pet may be on medication to control the pain, as well as steroids in order to help reduce the local swelling around the hip joint. There should be no interactions between Tramadol and Prednisone. There is no interaction between the two drugs, and they are usually given together to treat humans with similar conditions to the one my dog has.
However, always communicate with your vet, as there may be extra concerns with your individual case — such as liver health — that your vet needs to consider.

Is Tramadol Safe For Dogs Suffering From Kidney Disease?

The kidneys are critical to purging waste products from the blood. If your canine is suffering from renal failure, it is highly likely that your veterinarian may put them on an adjusted dose. They will want to help your pet manage their pain without putting undue pressure on the rest of the endocrine system.

This is a case where you definitely want to observe your pet and communicate carefully on what circumstances would require an extra pill or increase in dosage. And, if your pet is managing their pain well, you may want to speak with your vet about a decrease.

Is Tramadol Safe For Dogs Suffering From Liver Disease?

It does not appear that proper use of this medication can cause liver disease. As long as you stay with your veterinarian’s recommendation, there should be no long-term harm. Overdosing on this medication can kill the liver, so it extremely important not to overdose.
However, it does increase the load on the liver slightly. And, if the liver is not able to properly process chemicals and the waste enzymes produced by Tramadol, there could be some impact.
In most cases, your veterinarian should weigh the risks and discuss which option is best. In most cases, the liver condition will not be so advanced so as to prevent your pet from using this medication.

Is Tramadol Safe For Canines After Surgery?

In addition to running this blog and being a mother to Butler, I have helped out at an animal rescue center for a few years now.  I deal with all kinds of animals and recently had the pleasure of caring for a canine who had just had an operation to replace a knee joint. She was only two years old and had been born with a defective knee. She was given to the center as the owner could not afford the vet fees.
The rescue shelter covered the costs of her knee replacement, and even though it was only two days ago, she is doing extremely well and should be running around like a normal young dog in a few weeks. The dog is currently on painkillers, and a lot of people do wonder if tramadol is safe for canines after surgery? As long as the dose the vet gives is maintained, then dogs are very tolerant of this drug. As with any animal, medical drugs should be given to them for the shortest term possible, and the dog I am looking after should be pain-free in a couple of weeks.

Watching your loved one lose a battle with cancer has got to be one of the hardest things you will ever do. I’ve been there. We’ve said goodbye to three dogs now in our family who have been taken by the ravages of this horrible disease.

There is never a moment when we don’t stop hoping that our pets will get better. But, ultimately, we want them to be comfortable.






My name is Nina, and I'm crazy about animals. I've spent years looking after my dogs, and have gained tons of tips. I decided to start writing about the best products that I came across, and that's how Dogs By Nina began.