Accuracy Review & Edit: James Davis, Pharm. D - November 9th 2022
Seeing your dog in pain is unbearable. Many owners turn to a medication called tramadol to soothe their dog’s discomfort.
What is tramadol for dogs, and is it safe? This article will cover the safety, side effects, dosage, and explore some natural alternatives.
Table Of Contents
- What is tramadol for dogs?
- What is it used for?
- Is tramadol safe for dogs?
- Tramadol for dogs side effects
- Tramadol dosage for dogs
- Tramadol for dogs vs. humans: is it the same?
- Drug interactions you should be aware of
- Natural alternatives
WHAT IS TRAMADOL FOR DOGS?
Tramadol is most commonly used in humans, but has recently gained popularity in the canine world. It is a centrally acting opioid painkiller.
If you think your dog needs tramadol, you will need a prescription from a vet. Never give it to a dog without a prescription.
WHAT IS IT USED FOR?
Like humans, dogs can take tramadol for aches and pains. Vets will commonly prescribe tramadol for dogs suffering from arthritis, cancer, post-operative pain, or other chronic pain disorders.
In some cases, it also helps dogs with anxiety.
IS TRAMADOL SAFE FOR DOGS?
Tramadol is generally safe for dogs, but only if you closely follow the recommended dosage. This drug is fast-acting.
While overdoses of tramadol are uncommon because the range of acceptable doses is wide, it can potentially be lethal.
If you’re not sure if your dog needs medical attention, call your vet’s office or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680).
For certain dogs, tramadol isn’t safe, even at the prescribed dosage. Dogs with pre-existing conditions, pregnant dogs, or dogs taking other drugs may be at a higher risk. Your vet can help you determine if tramadol is unsafe for your dog.
Never use tramadol unless given by a medical professional.
Follow the directions on your dog's prescription as written. Overdoses can be dangerous!
TRAMADOL FOR DOGS SIDE EFFECTS
Tramadol can have serious side effects. Luckily, most dogs tolerate it well as long as you follow your veterinarian's directions. Your vet will choose a dose that is safe for your pet.
Here are some side effects to look out for:
- Loss of appetite
- Slow or fast heart rate
- Difficulties breathing
If your dog experiences any of the above symptoms after taking tramadol, contact your vet right away.
In the event of an overdose, your dog could experience those same side effects, along with more serious symptoms, such as seizures, comas, or a loss of consciousness.
TRAMADOL DOSAGE FOR DOGS
Tramadol dosages greatly vary based on the dog’s weight, health, and severity of pain.
Do not use a human prescription of tramadol and try to dose it for a dog yourself. Human dose forms are not always easy to convert to a safe dose for dogs. Rely on your vet's help.
The typical dosage for dogs falls between 2 and 5 milligrams per pound of body weight, but your veterinarian will make the final determination as each dog's situation is unique.
Tramadol for dogs is typically sold in 50 mg tablets.
Based on where and when you purchase this medication, it will likely cost you anywhere from $0.35 to $1.30 per tablet.
You may need to cut up the pill or serve more than one, depending on your vet’s direction.
Therefore, if you only need a small quantity, such as ten tablets, it could cost you anywhere from $3.50 to $13.
If you need a larger amount, such as 50 tablets, it could cost between $17.50 and $65. Like most medications, you will wind up paying for a larger supply if your dog weighs more.
TRAMADOL FOR DOGS VS. HUMANS: IS IT THE SAME?
Tramadol is one of the few medications that can be used for humans and dogs with largely similar effects.
In most cases, it’s the same drug with different doses given for humans and different animals.
Because of the difference in dosing, you should never give your dog “human tramadol” if you have it. If your dog needs tramadol, only use the specific medication that your vet provides.
Unused human tramadol should not be given to a dog without first consulting a veterinarian.
Never give your dog any medication without confirming with your vet first. They know the correct type and dosage to keep your dog safe.
Giving your dog human tramadol without asking a professional can lead to serious injury and death.
DRUG INTERACTIONS YOU SHOULD BE AWARE OF
If your dog is taking other drugs, they could interfere with tramadol, possibly worsening the side effects.
Be sure to disclose any other medications with your vet before giving your dog tramadol.
Here are some drug interactions to be aware of:
- Azole antifungals (fluconazole, itraconazole)
- MAO Inhibitors (selegiline, Marplan)
- Ondansetron (Zofran)
- Other opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone)
- SSRI and tricyclic antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft)
When discussing medications with your vet, don’t forget to mention vitamins, supplements, and herbal therapies.
The more information you can provide them, the safer your dog will be.
Many prescription medications for dogs in pain can have severe side effects, especially when taken long-term. This is true with dogs that use tramadol for extended periods. One of the greatest risks is dependence over time. Humans and other mammals that use opioids can become dependent on them, suffering withdrawal when the drug is stopped.
If you're concerned about giving your dog tramadol or want to explore some natural alternatives for your dog, there are some science-backed options worth discussing with your vet.
Acupuncture – Acupuncture has helped people for thousands of years and is now available for dogs. It is believed to balance energy throughout the body and help dogs feel better.
There are approximately 150,000 qualified veterinary acupuncturists in the united states, so one shouldn't be too hard to find. It's also always possible to ask your vet for a recommendation.
It's important to know that weekly treatment is often necessary for long-term issues like arthritis. Cost can also be a factor, as you can expect to pay $60 - $300 for each session with a doggy acupuncturist.
CBD – CBD has exploded in popularity in recent years, and it's not just for people.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence from pet parents supporting CBD for dog pain and even some studies on the topic.
Researchers from Cornell found that most osteoarthritic dogs given CBD oil (at 2mg/kg twice daily) showed decreased visible signs of pain after only two weeks of use.
CBD for dogs is widely available, but some products have a better chance of helping than others.
A high-quality CBD product can promote physical and mental well-being in dogs, helping them feel their best.
The best CBD treats for dogs contain only two natural ingredients and come in a wide range of strengths, ensuring they work for the smallest and largest dogs.
Supplements – Many of the same supplements we use can also help dogs.
Glucosamine, Chrondroitin, and Hyaluronic acid promote mobility in dogs with hip and joint issues. They can be safely given with CBD or while a dog is being treated with acupuncture. Learn more about how to treat a limping dog at home in our recent post.