Tramadol for Dogs: How It Works & Signs Your Dog Needs It

Tramadol for Dogs: How It Works & Signs Your Dog Needs It

Alpha Paw Sale

Jan 08, 2024

  • Tramadol for dogs is an opioid pain medication that is sometimes prescribed by veterinarians.
  • You should never give your dog tramadol unless it was prescribed by your veterinarian because tramadol has many potential side effects and should be used with caution in dogs with certain conditions.
  • There is growing evidence that tramadol may not be very effective at treating pain in dogs, and there are other better dog pain medications available.

Tramadol for Dogs

Tramadol is an opioid-based pain medication that is commonly prescribed by veterinarians to pups suffering in great pain. It is one of the few human painkillers that can be given to dogs under the supervision of a veterinarian.  There is varying evidence on the efficacy of tramadol for dogs meaning that it may work for some dogs while other dogs may see no beneficial pain-relieving effects. It is probably most effective when used in combination with other pain medications such as dog-specific non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

Tramadol is sometimes used by veterinarians to treat pain associated with:

Other uses include treating: 

  • Anxiety
  • Coughing
  • Canine degenerative myelopathy

Top Products for Canine Pain Relief

Ensuring your dog’s comfort is paramount, and there are excellent products designed to provide effective pain relief for your furry friend. Explore top-rated supplements, joint care formulas, and pain-relieving medications specifically crafted to alleviate discomfort associated with conditions such as arthritis or injuries.

Vetality canine aspirin for dogs | fast pain relief | small to medium dogs | liver flavor | 75 chewa
  • Contains dog-safe aspirin.
  • Features a delicious liver flavor.
  • These chewable tablets are easy for pups to eat.
  • Provides fast-acting relief for joint issues, inflammation, fever, and minor aches and pain.
  • When used as directed by a vet, they are paw-fect for small to medium sized dogs.
Nutri-vet aspirin for dogs | medium to large dogs | 300mg | 75 count
  • Made in the USA with your dog’s wellbeing in mind.
  • Helps ease pain and inflammation with a temporary solution.
  • Delicious taste of liver makes it easier for your furry friend to take the tablet.
  • Paw-fect for when daily exercise is hard on your pal’s joints.
  • Created from quality ingredients with the highest standards.
Homeopet joint stress, joint support for dogs and cats, liquid pet meds to support healthy joint mov
  • Homeopathic drops promote temporary relief from soreness, stiffness, lameness, overexertion, and muscle tension.
  • Use on dogs, cats, birds, and small animals for arthritis, hip dysplasia, previous injury, and age-related joint ailments.
  • Chemical-free formula uses the best all-natural, pure ingredients based on years of research, and causes no known side effects.
  • Non-sedating and safe for all pets including puppies, kittens, pregnant, and nursing animals. Easily administer by mouth or through food or water.
  • Fast-acting liquid drops are made in the USA and registered with the FDA.
Medinatura t-relief extra strength gel arnica +12 natural relieving actives for back pain joint sore
  • Helps relieve pain in hips, muscles, and joints due to overexertion or injuries.
  • Formulated with Arnica plus 12 plant-based active ingredients like Calendula, Echinacea and Hypericum to promote healing.
  • Mixable with water or food for no-fuss consumption.
  • Suitable for dogs, cats and horses of all ages with suggested dosages.
  • Help your furry family member feel like his liveliest self again!
Green goo natural skin care salve, pain relief with arnica, 0. 7-ounce travel tin, 4-pack
  • Designed to soothe bruises, sore muscles, sprains, strains, joint pain, arthritis and inflammation.
  • Formulated with a blend of arnica flowers, herbs and essential oils.
  • Suitable for all domesticated animals in the household, farm or ranch.
  • Small portable tin allows for easy storage in a first aid kit.
  • Made in the USA—safe for pet owners too!

How Does Tramadol for Dogs Work?

There are chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters that are important in the pain pathway. Tramadol inhibits the re-uptake of two of these neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, and as a result, this may make your dog feel better. It works similarly to how morphine works in people. It is often paired with another drug, such as the NSAID carprofen (Rimadyl). 

Is tramadol an anti-inflammatory medication?

Tramadol is not an anti-inflammatory medication. Because it is not anti-inflammatory, it will not be useful at treating the underlying cause of your dog’s pain. What it does is alter the way the body recognizes pain, giving your dog relief. Tramadol use in dogs does not reduce any inflammation within your dog’s body and only acts to decrease the pain sensations that your dog is feeling.

Does tramadol work in dogs?

There is growing evidence that tramadol may not work to relieve pain as much as we once thought. More studies are suggesting that tramadol may not work very well in dogs. Because there are other more effective pain medications that can be used in dogs, many veterinarians are no longer prescribing tramadol for dogs.

Is Tramadol safe for dogs?

Generally, tramadol is safe for dogs, only if you follow your veterinarian’s instructions and recommended dosage. However, keep in mind that certain dogs shouldn’t be given tramadol, even at a prescribed dosage. Consult with your vet first if your dog meets the following: 

  • Dogs taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), like the drug selegiline
  • Dogs taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, and fluvoxamine
  • If your dog has a recent history of seizure
  • Pregnant or nursing dogs
  • Dogs with liver or kidney disease

Only your vet can determine if tramadol is safe or unsafe for your dog. While overdoses of tramadol are rare because of its wide range of acceptable doses, overdoses can be fatal so it is best to always follow their recommended dose to ensure your dog’s safety at all times. 

Can I give tramadol for humans to dogs?

As mentioned, tramadol is one of the human medications that can be administered to dogs while giving similar effects. Usually, only the dosage differs. That being said, do not give your dog human tramadol. If your dog needs tramadol, only give him the medication that your vet has prescribed. It might be tempting to give your furry friend that untouched tramadol you have lying in your medicine box but a general rule of thumb in giving medications to dogs is to always consult your vet first. 

Veterinarians are in the best position to tell which medicine to give to your dogs, as well as its dosage. Administering medicine without your veterinarian’s instructions only increase the risk of side effects and overdose. 

How is tramadol for dogs given?

Tramadol for dogs is given orally in the form of a tabler, capsule, or compounded liquid. It can be given with or without food but some dogs might be repulsed due to its bitter taste. There are also instances where vomiting occurs when given on an empty stomach so give future doses with food or treats. In the case of liquid forms, make sure to measure this medication carefully. 

Tramadol for dogs usually immediately takes effect, in about 1 to 2 hours and improvement on your dog’s condition should follow. However, improvements for dogs with chronic pain can take up a few weeks before full effects can be observed. 

What other pain medications can be used in dogs?

Because tramadol may not work for some dogs, you should ask your vet about other pain medication options. Dog-specific non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like carprofen can be extremely effective at relieving pain in dogs. In addition, gabapentin may help treat back pain and pain secondary to chronic arthritis. For dogs that are painful from arthritis, joint supplements may be recommended by your veterinarian for pain relief. Most joint supplements contain glucosamine and chondroitin which may help keep your dog’s joints healthy.

Tramadol for dogs: how it works & signs your dog needs it

Tramadol for Dogs Dosage

Always consult with your veterinarian before administering any new medications or supplements to your dog. Tramadol is a prescription medication and a controlled substance and should be used with caution in dogs. If you would like to start your dog on tramadol, discuss with your veterinarian what a safe starting dose would be for your dog. Some medications and conditions can cause tramadol to be unsafe for dogs so it is always important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations when using tramadol.

If the veterinarian decides that tramadol is safe for your dog, they will prescribe a dose of 1 milligram per pound of body weight. Again, please do not administer tramadol to your dog unless you have consulted first with your veterinarian because it can be dangerous for some dogs. Also, an overdose of this medication, because it is an opioid, could be fatal to your dog.

Overdose of Tramadol in Dogs

Adverse effects are one thing that dog owners should look out for. One more thing to keep a close eye on is overdoses. Sometimes, accidents happen. You, pet sitters, or family members might have unintentionally given a higher dose than prescribed. These could result in serious reactions. 

Here are signs for tramadol overdose in dogs: 

  • Respiratory depression
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Excessive drooling
  • Agitation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Ataxia (uncontrollable movement)
  • Coma

If you have seen these signs on your dogs after tramadol intake, immediately stop the medication and call your veterinarian. 

How long does it take for tramadol to kick in?

According to VCA specialty hospital, tramadol takes a few hours to work. They also suggest that in dogs with more severe and chronic pain, your dog may not see beneficial effects from the medication for a few weeks.

Tramadol for dogs how it works & signs your dog needs it

Tramadol for Dogs: Side Effects and Warnings

Tramadol should only be used under the direction of your veterinarian. There are many potential side effects, drug interactions, and hazards when using this medication. Only your veterinarian will be able to decide if tramadol is safe to give to your dog. If your dog has been prescribed Tramadol and you notice any of the following side effects, it is important to alert your veterinarian. The most common side effects of tramadol use include lethargy or mild stomach upset. Occasionally, your dog may experience other more significant side effects from tramadol.

The main side effects of tramadol for dogs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Loose stool
  • Decreased appetite
  • Constipation

Tramadol Cautions

Multiple conditions might make tramadol unsafe for use. Tramadols should not be used on dogs that are hypersensitive to opioids and should not be used in conjunction with medication that decreases brain or lung function.

  • Seizures
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Geriatric animals
  • Extremely sick animals
  • Pregnant or nursing animals

Tramadol Drug Interactions

Many medications are not safe when used together with tramadol. Using these medications at the same time as tramadol may increase your dog’s risk of a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome. Tramadol may interact adversely and should not be used with the following medications:

  • Mirtazapine
  • Trazodone
  • Amitraz
  • Selegiline
  • Metoclopramide
  • Butorphanol
  • Buprenorphine
  • Fluoxetine
  • Paroxetine
  • Clomipramine

However, tramadol is compatible with all the COX-inhibiting NSAIDs and utraceuticals for joint pain like MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate.

Does tramadol cause panting in dogs?

Panting is not a common side effect of tramadol use in dogs. If you notice panting while your dog is taking tramadol, you should let your veterinarian know as soon as possible. Panting could be a sign that your dog is painful. In addition, panting could be a sign that your dog is exhibiting a serious condition called serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin Syndrome

Tramadol use can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome, especially if used along with other medications. It is a drug-induced syndrome because of elevated serotonin levels in the central nervous system. Dogs are more prone to serotonin syndrome than other species. Serotonin syndrome is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency veterinary treatment. If you suspect that your dog has serotonin syndrome, you should call a veterinarian as soon as possible. Signs of serotonin syndrome in dogs include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Vocalization
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • High body temperature
  • High heart rate
  • Panting

Serotonin syndrome onset begins 30 minutes to 12 hours after drug ingestion and the symptoms with treatment can continue for 24 to 72 hours. Extended signs can be linked to ingestion of higher dosages. 

Final Recommendations on Tramadol for Dogs

If you are interested in starting your dog on tramadol, you should first consult with your veterinarian. They will be able to determine if the benefits of this medication will outweigh the potential risks. Your veterinarian can help you decide what medication or supplement will provide your dog with the best pain relief.

Alpha Paw Sale
author image

Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian who lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats. She graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, and currently practices in the central Kentucky region. Dr. Addie has special interests in preventative care, dermatology, and diseases, and she enjoys creating helpful educational resources related to these topics to help pet parents keep their four-legged family members happy and healthy. We love Dr. Addie’s passion for providing reliable veterinary insight and medical advice to help pet parents like us give their pups the happy & healthy lives they deserve!


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