Side Effects of Tramadol in Dogs

Side Effects of Tramadol in Dogs

Tramadol is a medication that veterinarians dispense to manage pain in dogs as best as possible. This is a drug that is also prescribed to humans whenever they have severe pain. It is one of the few painkillers for human use that is safe to give to our canine friends as well.

In this article, we’ll cover the pros and cons of this medication, as well as any of the side effects that might show up in a dog undergoing treatment with it. We’d like to note from the beginning that a Tramadol overdose can be life-threatening, so always make sure you stick to the instructions that your vet has given you.

What is Tramadol Used For?

This medication is mostly used to manage acute, chronic, or general pain in dogs. Cats should never be given Tramadol as it is highly toxic to them.

Osteoarthritis is a condition where treatment with this drug can prove to be quite effective. However, as is the case with any other type of painkiller, Tramadol manages just the pain (the clinical signs), and it doesn’t fix the cause, meaning that it doesn’t repair the degeneration in the dog’s joints.

Another situation where Tramadol can be prescribed by vets is postoperative pain. Since it is a rather dangerous medication, it can be used for a short amount of time. It is an opioid, so it can calm down dogs and make them a little sleepy, which is a great idea since it makes them avoid overexerting themselves (which would otherwise potentially cause trauma to the suture).

The drug can also be utilized to manage cancer symptoms. It is usually given in association with conventional cancer treatment. Once again, the medication is given for a short time, and it’s often replaced with other painkillers (usually less effective).

If a dog suffers from intervertebral disc disease, he can experience a lot of pain, nerve damage, as well as potential paralysis. In this case, as well, Tramadol can provide some relief. Last, but not least, Tramadol can also be prescribed to dogs that have canine degenerative myelopathy or anxiety.

Which Dogs Should Never Take Tramadol?

Dogs that have kidney or liver disease should never be under treatment using this medication. Those that have a history of recent seizures aren’t allowed, either, and neither are pregnant or nursing dogs.

Additionally, if your dog is undergoing treatment using serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluvoxamine or paroxetine, for example, Tramadol isn’t a good choice, either. The drug also interacts with selegiline, which is a medication used to treat hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease).


The typical dosage utilized to treat pain in dogs is 0.40 to 1.8 mg per pound of body weight given every eight to twelve hours. The dosage can be given every six hours if it is utilized for treating cancer-associated pain. Since an overdose can be fatal, have a talk with your veterinarian to find out how you can measure the correct dosage.

Tramadol usually comes in the form of 50mg tablets. You should make sure that your dog gets plenty of water with the tablets. What’s extremely important for us to note is that you should never suddenly discontinue the treatment. If you do, your dog could experience withdrawal symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, tremors, anxiety, and even breathing problems.

Side Effects

Tramadol has a number of side effects, just like any other type of conventional medication. Many studies have found that dogs tolerate the medication quite well, but there are some adverse reactions that can happen. These all depend on the animal’s health status, age, whether he’s also receiving other types of medication, or whether he has a history of neurologic disorders.

Here are some of the most common side effects that dogs receiving treatment with Tramadol can experience:

Just like you should make sure that you keep chocolate out of a dog’s reach, you should make sure that the medication is stored in a place to which the animal has no access.

Also, make sure that you have a talk with your family members, the pet sitter, or anyone who might care for your dog for some time. Even though a dog with cancer or degenerative disease can experience a lot of pain and it can be heartbreaking for someone to just watch that on the side, you should never give your dog another dose of Tramadol if you know that you’ve already done that.

It’s important for you to organize a schedule and stick to it. If six to eight hours from the last treatment administration haven’t gone by, avoid giving your dog another dose.

Signs of a Tramadol Overdose

If a Tramadol overdose does happen for any reason, you should be able to recognize the signs and seek veterinary intervention right away. Here are some of the symptoms that can be seen in such a situation.

  • Dilated pupils
  • Respiratory depression
  • Uncontrollable tremors
  • Uncontrollable drooling
  • Ataxia
  • Seizures
  • Severe lethargy

Since it can be considered a dangerous medication, many vets will not recommend Tramadol unless the dog is in severe pain, whether it is acute or chronic. Otherwise, if the symptoms are mild, the veterinarian will most likely recommend the use of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which is a lot safer by comparison. However, even NSAIDs are associated with internal bleeding and stomach ulcers if they are used in the long run or in dogs that have pre-existing medical conditions.

If your dog is suffering from a chronic medical condition that causes him pain, have a talk with your vet about using CBD oil. In some cases, it can have a truly positive effect, and it can also help manage the anxiety that a dog in pain might experience, as well. Plus, CBD is natural and has very few side effects, and it’s also available in a variety of forms, from capsules to treats.

Final thoughts

There are times when treatment with Tramadol can be necessary, but modern-day medicine has evolved a lot over the years, which means that there are alternative painkillers, as well. The risks associated with the treatment are high, especially in terms of side effects. Pet owners have to be extremely careful when giving their dogs Tramadol, which sometimes can make matters a lot more complicated than they would be when using a different medication.



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