Tramadol for dogs can be used in case of severe pain

Tramadol For Dogs – All You Need To Know

One of the most difficult situations for a pet parent is to deal with an ailing or an aging dog that is under severe agonizing pain. You’d want to do all that you can to make the pain disappear. And one of the first things that comes to your mind is to use painkiller meds that are meant for humans – Tramadol, for example.

Since Tramadol is so effective at relieving a different types of pain in humans, would it also be effective for your dog? This question arises in the mind of every pet parent.

If yes, then is it safe? What is the right dosage? Can it cause side effects? How does it impact dog’s health?

There are bound to be a lot of doubts in your mind about using Tramadol for dogs.

Here’s the lowdown on this opioid painkiller that has a very different action on the body as compared to conventional painkiller medications.

What is Tramadol for dogs?

Tramadol is sold under the brand name Ultram and is a painkiller drug that is used for treating severe or moderate pain in dogs. It is generally prescribed for the treatment of osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain and pain caused due to surgery. However, your vet may also prescribe it for treating several other conditions.

It is not clear how Tramadol works in the dog’s body. But its mode of action is considered to be similar to Morphine.

It binds to receptors in the body that signal to the brain about pain originating at different sites. This prevents the brain from receiving these signals and dulls its perception about pain.  At the same time, it works to increase the reuptake of serotonin which in turn helps to improve the dog’s mood. If you have a pet who is depressed due to the chronic pain, then your vet may recommend Tramadol.

Why is Tramadol used for dogs?

For a while, it was a common practice to prescribe Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs for pain management in dogs. But due to the increased risk of side effects like severe hepatotoxicity, stomach ulcers, internal bleeding and kidney failure in pets when used in a prolonged therapy, the use of NSAIDS in pets is limited these days to emergency cases or short term pain management only.

Tramadol on the other hand comes across as a much safer way to manage pain in dogs.

However, it is extremely important that you understand that it still comes with an extreme risk of side effects and a potential overdose which can cause a whole range of dangerous reactions.

When can Tramadol be used in dogs?

Your veterinarian may prescribe Tramadol in many different conditions that may be causing pain in your dog. Some of these conditions are:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Any other form of degenerative bone disease
  • Post-surgical recovery
  • Injury
  • Cancer
  • Dental problems that cause pain

These may not be the only conditions though and your vet is the ideal person to gauge if Tramadol will be beneficial to your pet. In many cases, vets have also considered using Tramadol for treating diabetic neuropathy, treating opioid withdrawal symptoms, OCD and managing withdrawal symptoms caused due to antidepressant use.

A sick, sad dog on a floor

Is Tramadol safe for dogs?

If your vet has recommended Tramadol for your dog, then it is most likely safe because they will be aware of your dog’s medical history. However, if you are considering giving the drug yourself to your dog (not recommended), then there are a few conditions that you must be aware of.

  • If your dog has a known allergic reaction to opioid drugs, then Tramadol is best avoided
  • The use of Tramadol is restricted in dogs who have a history of epileptic seizures or an injury on the skull.

These are not the only risks though. Tramadol must be administered in the precise dosage for dogs which depends on the weight of the dog.

What is the right Tramadol dose for my dog?

Getting the dosage of Tramadol right for your dogs can be a tricky affair and it is always better if you speak to your vet before administering the dose. This is particularly important because different dogs react differently to the drug even if you give the exact recommended dose. For example, some dogs may show signs of pain relief even with a very mild dose. While others may just have an allergic reaction without any signs of pain relief.

The generally recommended dose of Tramadol in dogs is 1-5 mg per kilogram of the dog’s weight. This dose needs to be administered every 4 to 6 hours at least three times a day and a maximum of four times in a 24 hour duration.

You must never exceed the recommended dosage even if your dog is not responding to treatment with Tramadol. This will only increase the risk of side effects or an overdose.

What are the side effects of Tramadol?

Tramadol is usually well tolerated in dogs and is only associated with mild side effects. These are non-fatal ones and usually fade by themselves. Some of the symptoms are excessive fatigue, lethargy, difficult bowel movement, drowsiness, insomnia and vomiting. Unless these symptoms persist and start to become bothersome for your pet, these do not require medical intervention.

However, there are a few rare but serious side effects that you need to be aware of.

  • A sudden skin rash
  • Palpitations
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Convulsions

If you notice any of these serious side effects in your dog or even one that you cannot explain, while using Tramadol, then rush him to a veterinarian immediately.


While Tramadol may seem like a much safer alternative to conventional painkiller medications in dogs, it does pose a very real and serious risk of side effects. You have to ensure that you are giving your pet the precise dosage and even then, there’s a significant chance of the drug not agreeing with your dog in the first place. So, you must always contact your veterinarian before giving your dog Tramadol.