What is Tramadol for Dogs?

Dog at Vet

Does your dog seem in pain after an injury or surgery? If so, you must be devastated seeing them in such a situation. Sometimes, the pain might be so intense that your dog cannot sleep at night or get the strength to eat. It gets frustrating to realize that your canine friend’s pain won’t disappear unless you get a pain reliever. If your vet has prescribed Tramadol for dogs, you may be wondering if it will work, the side effects, method of administration. Here is everything you need to know about the drug.

What is Tramadol for dogs?

According to PetMeds, Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic. It works by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and adrenaline. Originally used in human medicine for managing osteoarthritis pain, the veterinary field accepts it as a pain reliever for dogs and cats. Besides reducing pain, this medication boasts few anti-anxiety effects. Tramadol for dogs can be used as a preoperative, peri-operative, and chronic pain medication. Vets rely on it when sedation and opioids are out of the equation. It’s advisable to give it through the mouth with or without food. Your vet can tailor the dose and dose intervals, depending on the severity of your dog’s pain, age, and weight.

Dosage of Tramadol for dogs

Tramadol is a class 4 controlled substance you can only dispense as a prescription. You can’t buy Tramadol from a pharmacy unless your vet gives you the green light. We get how frustrating such a process can be, particularly if you have no time or money to see one. However, the last thing you need is to get it as a human prescription and give it to your dog, only to realize the harsh reality of your decision. Keep in mind that dosage for dogs is different from the ones for humans. Your vet is the only person who can tell how much Tramadol your dog needs to avoid putting their health at risk. Therefore, you should never attempt to gauge how much Tramadol your dog needs minus your vet’s approval. Usually, vets calculate Tramadol doses depending on your dog’s weight, medical history, and preexisting conditions. They also evaluate the severity of your dog’s pain. For example, if your dog has acute pain, the dosage will be less potent than managing chronic pain. It’s possible that your vet may prescribe Tramadol for your dog if they’re in acute, moderate or severe pain. Perhaps your dog has developed osteoarthritis, has an injury or is battling pain after surgery.

How to administer Tramadol for dogs

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, Tramadol for dogs is in tablet, capsule, or compounded liquid. It’s best administered through the mouth with or without food. It has a bitter taste and may make your dog puke it out when given without food. Here are the steps for the administration of Tramadol for dogs:

Step 1: Open the bottle

Tramadol for dogs comes in different dosage strengths, depending on your dog’s pain status. For example, a dog with acute or moderate pain will benefit from a less potent drug than the one with chronic pain. The bottle might contain capsules or tablets, and it has a child-proof cap.

Step 2: Drug administration

Before administering such a drug, the first thing to do is to calm your dog down. You can wave a treat or use calming words to motivate him to anticipate the drug. Next, hold him upright (you can get someone else to do it for you). Ask them to open their mouth and insert the tablet. Do not crush it to pieces or dissolve it in water. Alternatively, put the tablet or capsule in their food if they don’t seem to cooperate.

A word of caution

  • Your vet may prescribe Tramadol for dogs in different doses, depending on your dog’s pain severity, age, and weight. It’s capable of stimulating its expulsion from the body with subsequent doses. For example, if your dog starts taking it on Monday, its body will expel it seven times faster in subsequent days than on the first day of use. That’s the reason most research experts recommend it for short-term use.
  • It can be used to suppress a cough or manage pain
  • Because it’s a controlled substance, make sure you see your veterinarian before buying it over-the-counter. The product is often tracked, which is why you should provide information like date of birth and other medical forms before buying from a pharmacist.
  • Overdosing on Tramadol is often common for pet owners fond of forgetting to administer doses. Even if you forget, don’t double up on the dosing. Keep giving the required dose until your dog’s health improves.
  • Ensure you store Tramadol at room temperature, preferably away from light and humid conditions. Secure it tightly in a cabinet or cupboard away from the reach of children.

Side effects of Tramadol for Dogs

Dogs are often tolerant to such medications, but that doesn’t make them immune to the side effects as shown below:

  • Occasional stomach upset
  • Lowered heart rate, but this should cause any alarm
  • Constipation
  • Dilation of pupils and palpitations may also occur
  • Overdose may lead to drooling, mental issues, tremors, extreme sleepiness, agitation, incoordination, or seizures. See a vet should any of such symptoms occur.

Also, keep a watchful eye on your pet if they exhibit a behavior change. Tramadol may make once calm dogs become aggressive or vice versa. See a vet if your dog becomes lethargic.

Is Tramadol suitable for all dogs?

While it’s indicated on the bottle’s label that Tramadol is for dogs, there are some exceptions. You can’t assume that all dogs need Tramadol for whatever condition they may be battling. Think about this for a second; the effects on serotonin uptake varies from dog to dog. Some dogs might exhibit drug interactions with Tramadol, making them the worst beneficiaries of this drug. Remember, Tramadol may also pass from a lactating or pregnant dog to the puppies. Some studies suggest that dogs with preexisting conditions are likely to face the worst drug interactions like seizures after taking Tramadol. That said, discuss with your vet if Tramadol is suitable for your dog and if the following factors apply:

  • Your dog is taking a drug like selegiline, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor for treating pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism and cognitive dysfunction. Your vet may refer you to a specialist to check the severity of your pet’s disease to determine if they will benefit from Tramadol.
  • Your dog is under specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluvoxamine, paroxetine, fluoxetine, or sertraline.
  • ·Your dog was once diagnosed with seizures
  • Your dog is pregnant or lactating
  • Your dog is living with liver disease or kidney disease.

Which brand names for Tramadol are available over-the-counter or on a prescription basis?

The most common brand name for Tramadol for dogs is Ultram®. But you can still find it in other names like ConZip®, Durela®, Ralivia®, Rybix®, Ryzolt®, Tridural®, Zytram®

Can I rely on Tramadol to treat my dog for anxiety?

Maybe. However, you can’t rely on it to treat your dog, whose sole problem is anxiety. There are several potent options you can use to calm your clinically anxious dog. Despite this, dogs in pain often develop anxiety over time. It doesn’t go without saying Tramadol’s ability to raise serotonin levels makes it helpful for relieving pain in dogs. Remember, anxiety aggravates pain perception. It’s like your dog wakes up, and the first thing they experience is the pain, perpetuating their anxiety. Should this be the case, you can use Tramadol as an analgesic and anxiety reliever.

Do Tramadol and Gabapentin go hand-in-hand?

According to ToeGrips, Tramadol and Gabapentin are pain relievers. That means they can be used with other drugs that work by reducing or controlling pain. They can work hand in hand. The best part about the two is that they present minimal side effects and are affordable. So, if your vet approves both medications, you have nothing to worry about.

Why is my dog lethargic and sleepy after Tramadol treatment?

Sleepiness is a side effect of Tramadol, but it doesn’t cause an alarm. Perhaps your vet prescribed higher doses of Tramadol, increasing your dog’s habit of being unusually sleepy. However, discuss with your vet about it if the sleepiness persists even after your dog completes the treatment.

What concerns should I raise to my vet before giving Tramadol to my dog?

Most vets advise against giving Tramadol to dogs if they’re taking drugs like sedatives, tranquilizers (valium), narcotic pain medication or anxiety medications. Inform your vet about any of these drugs. It’s worth noting that seizures have happened before in humans taking Tramadol. The same may happen to your dog. If your dog is allergic to any medications, discuss it with your vet about it. After taking Tramadol, dogs with a medical history of liver disease, kidney disease, or frequent stomach disorders might also have adverse side effects. Don’t forget to tell your vet if your dog is pregnant or lactating.

Can I administer Tramadol for dogs without seeing the vet first?

Tramadol for dogs should only be administered as a prescription from your vet. Usually, it can be used to relieve pain in dogs by mouth. According to PetMeds, Tramadol is best-utilized whole, so do not crush it. Since it’s bitter, consider adding it to your dog’s food. The worst decision you can make is stopping to give Tramadol suddenly without your vet’s approval. Your dog may suffer withdrawal symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, tremors, breathing problems, or chills if you do so. Therefore, you should keep giving it to your pet even if their health improves.

Will Tramadol alone treat my dog’s pain or other conditions?

No. Tramadol lacks anti-inflammatory properties associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It will only alter how your dog’s body responds to pain, but it won’t treat the cause of pain. For example, if your dog has osteoarthritis, Tramadol will only reduce the symptoms. That means you will need other medications for treating the underlying condition like NSAID carprofen (Rimadyl).

Which situations call for the administration of Tramadol with caution?

Certain underlying conditions may put your dog’s life at risk if they take Tramadol as a pain reliever. For example:

  • If your dog is taking a drug like selegiline, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor for treating pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism and cognitive dysfunction, talk to your vet first. Your vet may refer you to a specialist to check the severity of your pet’s disease to determine if they will benefit from Tramadol.
  • Your dog takes specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluvoxamine, paroxetine, fluoxetine, or sertraline.
  • Your dog has recently been diagnosed with seizures
  • Your dog is pregnant or nursing
  • A vet diagnosed your dog with liver disease or kidney disease

Remember, these factors can affect the effectiveness of Tramadol on your dog, putting their lives at risk. Your vet should prescribe alternative treatment or schedule them for specialist treatment like surgery to address the underlying issue and end the chronic or acute pain.

Can I administer Tramadol for dogs on my cat?

No. Tramadol for cats is also available in leading pharmacies in the US. However, you might need to get a prescription from your cat’s vet before administering it. The specialist will tailor your cat’s dosage depending on their weight, age, underlying condition and current medications they are taking.


A dog without pain is a happy dog. Watching your dog battle pain from a surgery, underlying disease or injury can be frustrating. Your canine friend depends on you to help take the pain away. Tramadol is an excellent pain reliever but only when administered under a vet’s watchful eye. To ensure your dog benefits from this medication, take them to their vet to check if they have underlying conditions that may put their health at risk when they take Tramadol. Good luck!

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