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Tramadol For Dogs: Pros & Cons

One of the worst feelings for a pet owner is knowing that your beloved four-legged companion is in pain but not know what to do for them.

Whether your dog is recovering from surgery or experiencing pain associated with aging bones and joints, your vet will likely prescribe conventional pain medication.

Here's where things get worrisome. A quick glance at the laundry list of potential adverse reactions associated with nearly every single conventional medication will terrify most any dog owner.

From kidney damage to liver failure to potential death, the amount of things that could go wrong is horrifying. Yet, what else can you do? You don't want your precious pup to be in pain, but is there any other way?

In this article, we'll cover the pros and cons of a commonly prescribed pain medication called Tramadol. Before deciding to move forward with the medication it is imperative to know the associated risks.

Additionally, we will cover holistic medicinal alternatives that are continuing to prove to be effective and safe. Let's begin!

tramadol for dogs

What is Tramadol for Dogs

Tramadol for dogs is a prescription medication that many vets recommend for managing pain. You may recognize the name as it is also prescribed by many physicians to treat pain in humans.

In fact, tramadol is one of the few human painkillers that veterinarians deem safe to give to Fido, under veterinary supervision of course. A tramadol prescription should never be transferred between pets or from owner to pet.

Each case is different and should be closely monitored by your vet (or your physician, depending on who has prescribed the drug).

Understanding How Tramadol for Dogs Works

Tramadol is a member of the opioid family. Like many other opioids, tramadol increases the serotonin levels in the brain which therefore aims to alter the perception of pain in both dogs and humans.

Additionally, the increased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the bloodstream helps to create the sensations of euphoria and wellbeing, allowing your dog to not only be pain-free, but also mentally calm and physically relaxed.

Unlike the addictive nature that opioids have proven to have on humans, the drugs do not affect our dogs in the same, destructive manner. 

What is Tramadol Used For

As a whole, tramadol is primarily used to manage general, chronic pain, and acute pain in dogs. However, in this section, we'll break down the more specific reasons why tramadol may be prescribed.

Tramadol for Osteoarthritis

One of the primary reasons why tramadol is prescribed to dogs is to treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis. It is important to note that tramadol merely treats the symptoms and is not a cure for the underlying condition causing them.

As your dog gets older, their bones and joints begin to wear from the years of constant use.

The wear creates inflammation and associated pain that can cause your dog to become lethargic, depressed, and even shy away from physical attention for fear that being touched will result in even more pain.

In these cases, your veterinarian will likely prescribe tramadol.

osteoarthritis in dogs

Treating Post-Operative Pain

Vets also prescribe tramadol to manage pain resulting from a recent surgery. It is important to note that if you are using tramadol to manage post-operative pain, you'll need to keep a close eye on Fido to make sure they aren't overdoing it.

The medication will relieve their pain which can cause them to not rest and fully heal from the surgery they underwent.

Managing Cancer Symptoms

Additionally, your veterinarian may prescribe tramadol to ease symptoms associated with cancer as well as a conventional cancer treatment.

If your pup is battling cancer, the last thing that you want them to experience is even more pain. Tramadol is an effective way to increase their serotonin levels and reduce distress.

Treating Lameness

Tramadol is also prescribed to reduce stiffness and lameness associated with hip dysplasia and a number of other joint disorders.

Again, tramadol does not work to cure the underlying cause of disorders. It merely manages the associated pain and distress that the dog is facing.

Nonsurgical Intervertebral Disc Disease

Additionally, veterinary medicine such as tramadol may be necessary to treat diseases that affect the spinal cord. A condition such as Intervertebral Disc Disease causes an immense amount of pain as well as nerve damage and potential paralysis.

Again, tramadol does not cure the disease, it simply provides relief. It is important that pet parents monitor these conditions closely and know how to recognize when a painkiller is not providing enough.

Additionally, in more rare situations, your veterinarian may prescribe tramadol to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Canine Degenerative Myelopathy
  • Coughing

Tramadol Side Effects

Like all conventional medications, tramadol has its fair share of side effects. Studies show that most dogs tend to tolerate the medication relatively well.

However, the following side effects still occur in many dogs in varying degrees of severity.

dog vomiting from tramadol

Avoiding Tramadol Side Effects

The only real way to completely avoid the side effects of tramadol is to simply decide on an alternative treatment.

However, we understand that for some, a conventional painkiller may be what they find necessary. In these cases, there are a few ways to avoid and limit the severity of several associated side effects.

First, ensure that your veterinarian has an accurate and detailed account of your dog's complete medical history.

Your veterinarian should be implicitly aware of any allergies as well as any time that your dog reacted negatively to a medication. Additionally, your vet should know any other medications that your dog is presently taking.

Tramadol should not be used in conjunction with certain drugs and can cause irreversible effects if used incorrectly.

Also, it is important for dog owners to make sure that they are following the prescribed medication exactly how it is directed.

If you stop the medication too soon it can cause the symptoms being treated to immediately reappear, often more severe than they initially were.

Additionally, increasing the dose of tramadol without consulting with your veterinarian can be extremely harmful.

Finally, accidentally missing a dose of tramadol can also cause severe damage and should be avoided at all costs.

Signs of Tramadol Overdose

Adverse reactions aren't the only thing that pet owners must be aware of when it comes to tramadol. Overdoses also occur and can cause severe, irreversible damage.

Overdoses may occur if Fido is given too much of the medication. Perhaps because the pet owner is not seeing immediate relief and chooses to increase the dosage without proper veterinary evaluation.

Tramadol overdoses may also occur if the dog gets into the medicine cabinet and consumes too much tramadol (or any medication for that matter).

It is imperative that pet owners recognize the signs of overdose and seek immediate veterinary intervention.  

  • Excessive, severe vomiting
  • Lethargy and possible sedation
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Respiratory depression
  • Excessive, uncontrollable tremors
  • Seizures
  • Uncontrollable drooling
  • Agitation
  • Uncontrolled movement (Ataxia)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Again, if you see any of these signs, call your veterinarian straight away.

Tramadol Dosage

It is important for pet owners to understand that tramadol is a class 4 controlled substance and requires a prescription from your veterinarian.

As we previously mentioned, never give your dogs tramadol that was intended for human consumption as the dosages for dogs vary significantly.

Tramadol 50 mg

Tramadol is typically prescribed in 50mg pill form. Only your veterinarian should advise the exact dose for your dog's specific needs.

For example, dogs experiencing chronic pain often have a different dosage of tramadol than dogs experiencing acute pain, even if the dogs are the same weight.

Additional Precautions

We previously mentioned the importance of your veterinarian knowing all of your dog's current medications and preexisting health conditions.

This is because of the fact that tramadol can have severe reactions to a number of medications as well as cause harm to dogs with certain health issues.

Health Conditions

Dogs with the following preexisting health conditions should not take tramadol:

  • Liver disease or liver damage
  • Kidney disease and associated damage
  • Pregnant dogs
  • Nursing dogs
  • Dogs with a history of seizures

Medication Interactions

Additionally, the following medications are known to have negative reactions when used with tramadol:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as selegiline
  • Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) including fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline and fluvoxamine

When Will Tramadol Start Working

In most cases, pet owners find that tramadol begins working within the first day. However, the medication must be completed in its entirety.

As we previously mentioned, stopping the medication too quickly can cause severe harm and cause their symptoms to immediately reappear. In the vast majority of cases, tramadol should be used as a means to treat present pain, but not used as a long-term solution.

Once your dog is feeling relief, it is imperative to find a permanent solution that addresses the underlying cause of the pain instead of a means to only solve the symptom.

Other Pain Medication for Dogs

Although this article pertains specifically to tramadol in dogs, we want to briefly mention other commonly prescribed medications for pain management known as NSAIDs.

What are NSAIDs

When it comes to treating pain in dogs and humans alike, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly prescribed.

Tramadol is not considered to be a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which is seen as a good thing for many dog owners. NSAIDs are commonly associated with stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.

what can i give my dog for pain

What is Amantadine

Additionally, a medication called amantadine is often prescribed to treat chronic pain in dogs. Amantadine also has its fair share of side effects, but most of them are much less severe adverse reactions than those associated with NSAIDs.

Regardless of the medication that your vet prescribes, it is extremely important to be well aware of the risks involved.

Is My Dog in Pain

Pet owners must understand that dogs are notorious for hiding pain. Therefore, if and when your dog begins showing signs of physical pain, it is imperative that owners take it seriously and act accordingly.

If your dog is limping, crying out, or struggling to perform basic activities, it's likely that they have been in pain for a long period of time and their suffering is immense.

What Can I Give My Dog for Pain

With all of the associated adverse effects of conventional pain medication for dogs, many pet parents find themselves wondering if there are any alternatives available.

Are there any ways to truly provide pain relief in a safe way? We are happy to be able to tell you that there are. Even more, many prove to be even more effective than prescriptive drugs.

Even better? The holistic, all-natural alternatives that we are about to discuss come without any of the aforementioned side effects associated with conventional pain meds.

CBD for Dogs

If you're one to stay up on the latest and greatest in holistic wellness (which we highly recommend doing), then you've likely heard of CBD.

Derived from the hemp plant, CBD is making substantial headway in terms of how we can support healthy joint and bone function in both humans and dogs alike. 

Additionally, CBD for dogs is derived from the hemp plant.  Also, due to the fact that hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC, your dog won't feel "high" or out of it.

CBD Helps Maintain a Normal Inflammatory Response

Furthermore, CBD oil supports a healthy inflammatory response. When you trace the vast majority of ailments and disease back their root you'll find that they all have one major thing in common: inflammation.

Even if your dog is currently not suffering from any aches or pains, we highly recommend implementing CBD oil into their day to day life as it may prevent future issues.

Joint Support CBD Soft Chews

If your dog is presently suffering from joint pain due to age or injury, we recommend the Joint Support CBD Soft Chews.

The soft chews are packed full of the highest quality CBD along with 500mg of glucosamine.

The soft chews:

  • May help ease aches and discomfort 
  • May help maintain normal inflammatory response
  • Enhance the body’s normal repair of connective tissue and joints
  • Supports animals with joint tenderness due to everyday activity

Relief CBD Dog Treats

We also recommend trying the turmeric flavored Relief CBD Dog Treats to support a healthy inflammatory response.

The treats may help discomfort associated with normal daily exercise and activity. At Honest Paws, we believe that life is far too short to live in pain.

Let the Relief CBD Dog Treats help. 

Acupuncture & Massage Therapy

Additionally, many pet parents have found that acupuncture and different massage therapies have made a world of difference for their four-legged friend.

Both acupuncture and massage therapy work best with consistency which may not be ideal or possible for some dog owners as it proves to be a bit of a commitment.

However, it is comforting to know that there are all natural alternatives that are proving to be effective and safe when it comes to proving pain relief for dogs.

dog acupuncture

Turmeric for Inflammation

Another wonderful dietary supplement that we recommend adding to Fido's diet is turmeric. Turmeric is an all-natural anti-inflammatory that both humans and animals can highly benefit from.

As we previously mentioned, inflammation is a leading cause of a slew of conditions including:

  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Joint disorders
  • Allergies
  • Kidney disease
  • Dental disease
  • Digestive disease
  • Among many others

All of these conditions lead to your dog experiencing an immense amount of pain and distress if the disease is not diagnosed and treated early on. Adding turmeric for dogs to your pup's diet can serve as a way to ease and prevent inflammation.


Next, the importance of diet. If you've been following along with our other articles, you know that we always stress how absolutely imperative it is that your dog is being fed a well-balanced diet.

Diet can truly be a game changer in terms of your dog's health and well-being, As pet owners, we must make sure that we are doing all that we can to heal our four-legged friends through constant nutrition.

Many experts recommend implementing a raw food diet as a means to ensure that your dog is receiving all the of nutrients they need. We recommend consulting with your holistic veterinarian in terms of any dietary changes that your dog would benefit from.


Additionally, we highly recommend researching the incredible benefits of glucosamine for dogs. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that promotes the growth and repair of the cartilage and synovial fluid that protect the joints.

Adding a glucosamine supplement provides additional support for overall joint health. Or you can check out our CBD and Glucosamine joint support chews for a double whammy!

glucosamine for dogs


Finally, exercise. We understand that exercise may seem like the last thing you want to implement into your aching dog's life.

However, light movement and physical activity are necessary to build muscle and maintain overall health. Depending on your dog's level of pain, the "exercise" may start off as something as basic as standing up and laying down.

Don't overdo it in the beginning. We recommend talking to your veterinarian regarding the appropriate amount of movement that will help to maintain and restore joint health.

Tramadol for Dogs: A Final Thought

At the end of the day, we know that you want the very best for your beloved four-legged friend. At Honest Paws, we are all pet lovers and dog owners. Therefore, we empathize with the heart-wrenching experience of knowing that (wo)man's best friend is suffering.

There are times where conventional drugs such as tramadol are necessary and we certainly do not want to take away from the incredible importance of modern day medicine.

However, with that being said, we firmly believe that pet parents must understand the associated risks involved before beginning treatment with conventional drugs. Furthermore, knowing that there are all-natural alternatives to not only treat but prevent ailments is something that we can all stand behind.

When all is said and done, we encourage our readers to know their options and ask questions as they arise. Knowledge is power. We sincerely hope your dog feels better soon.


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