Using Tramadol To Help Dogs With Pain And Anxiety

What is Tramadol?

Tramadol is a prescription medicine that helps control your dog’s pain by dulling the brain’s perception of painful sensations.

Tramadol alters how the nervous system processes pain by binding to the mu-opioid receptors. Unlike Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs  (NSAIDs) which work by influencing the area of damage –  decreasing swelling and pain.

However – NSAIDs can be harmful to animals. A course of Tramadol treatment offers a “safer” alternative for treating chronic pain such as arthritis and dysplasia, The dosage must be 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 similar side effects as a regular narcotic.

Tramadol is addictive and should be used with great care.

Tramadol is sold under multiple names including Ultram, Ralivia, Dromodol, and ConZip. However, you will normally find that pet prescriptions are under the generic name.

Typical Symptoms A Vet Would Use Tramadol To Treat

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:

  1. A canine who has event-related anxiety
    Events such as travel, holiday noises, weather or any unusual event that occurs outside a normal routine. Tramadol 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.
  2. Depression
    Since it is an opiate, it can actually induce mild feelings of euphoria, elevating their mood. If you’ve received a vet’s diagnosis that your pooch is 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.
  3. 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.

Typical Tramadol Dosage Amounts

The dosage must be determined by a veterinarian.White labrador LOOKING SAD

It can start at .5 mg for every pound of body weight and go all the way up to 1.8mg per pound. This 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 your vet if they have prescribed an amount you do not feel is relieving the pain effectively. Your pet may also display unusual behaviors – and 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.

Overdose 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:

1. 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.

2. Blurred Vision

Blurred vision is a very uncommon and infrequent side effect of Tramadol use.
Watch your pet to see if there is any kind of disorientation or imbalance in movements. Dogs have been known to walk haphazardly in circles when experiencing the blurred vision.

3. Drowsiness

Drowsiness is very common for dogs on this drug, but 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.

If you think your buddy is sleeping a bit too much, try lowering their dosage by a little. Don’t put your pet on other drugs unless your veterinarian specifically approved something.

4. Constipation

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. Check they are drinking plenty of water.

5. Dizziness

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 it’s important to take a deep breath and calm yourself.

Helping Your Dog With Dizziness

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. 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.

Severe Side Effects

If you encounter any of these symptoms, the dosage probably needs adjusting. You need to contact your vet right away.
  • Trouble breathing
  • Convulsions
  • Developing rash
  • Slowing heart rate

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. It is particularly challenging to see them fighting cancer, 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 option 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?

The main concern with older dogs 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.

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

Yes, you and just about every other pet owner!

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).

If your pup is a good eater they will probably gobble food up without noticing the pill (or not !!!).

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):

1. Should I Give My Dog Its 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.

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 is not wise – particularly with Tramadol. Work with your vet to ensure a tapering dosage.

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

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.

3. 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 about any other medications your dog is taking. These could have interactions with your pet which could prove fatal.

4. Is It An Anti-Inflammatory?

This medication does not affect swelling and is only for the treatment of pain.

NSAIDs) 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.

5. 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.

6. Can Tramadol Be Given On An Empty Stomach?

Most of us disguise pills inside of food, so this is typically not an issue. 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.

For most of my pets, I sneak them their meds right before they eat.

7. 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.

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.

However, always communicate with your vet, as there may be extra concerns with your individual case (such as liver health.

8. 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 likely that your veterinarian may alter the dosage. They will want to avoid undue pressure on the rest of the endocrine system.

Observe your pet carefully.

9. 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.

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.

10. Is Tramadol Safe For Canines After Surgery?

As long as the dose the vet gives is maintained, then post-surgery dogs are very tolerant of this drug. As with any animal, medical drugs should be given to them for the shortest term possible.

Easing Their Comfort

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.