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Tramadol for Dogs: What it is, Treating Arthritis, and Safety

dog with person

Some prescription pain medications that are effective in humans are also beneficial to our dogs and have been widely accepted and applied in the animal health industry. Tramadol is an example of one of these medications.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Tramadol
  2. Tramadol for Arthritis and Joint Discomfort 
  3. Side Effects, Safety, & Drug Interactions
  4. Alternatives

What is Tramadol? 

Tramadol is an opioid medication in tablet, capsule, and liquid form. Commonly prescribed to humans and dogs, prescription medications like Tramadol are mainly used to treat pain, more so moderate to severe pain. In other words, it isn’t exactly the equivalent of Advil or Tylenol. 

In dogs and other small animals, Tramadol is often prescribed as an “off-label” medication, meaning your doctor or veterinarian may instruct you to use different dosing amounts than what is recommended on the label. This is common practice with powerful medications. Opioid-based medications like Tramadol should be used only in cases where it is absolutely necessary and should only be taken under the strict instruction and supervision of your doctor and or veterinarian. These medications can help with pain, but they must be treated with an especially heightened sense of safety and responsibility. 

How do you give Tramadol to dogs? 

Tramadol is given orally and can be taken with or without food. The liquid may be an effective option for dogs who struggle with pills or capsules; however, the liquid has an unpleasant odor and taste, raising its own complications. Discuss with your veterinarian what the best option for your dog might be. ALWAYS follow the dosing instructions given by your veterinarian. If you miss a dose or have any questions about dosing, call your veterinarian right away to be safe. 

Tramadol for Arthritis and Joint Discomfort 

A common issue for dogs and humans alike is pain associated with arthritis, and Tramadol is often prescribed to address such pain. Arthritis, in its different forms (over 100 types), occurs in or around the joints. When inflammation or damage occurs in a joint, it can be extremely uncomfortable, causing constant pain and stiffness. “Arthritis” is the informal name/blanket statement medical professionals have given the common ailment of inflamed joints and the pain that comes with it; it is not considered the name of a singular disease. 

Common ways arthritis develops in joints: 

  • Arthritis as a result of an injury 
  • Arthritis as result of overuse or common ‘wear and tear’
  • Age related arthritis 
  • Arthritis as a result of an underlying disease 

Symptoms include:

  • Pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Stiffness 
  • Decreased range of motion in effected joint/area

Arthritis develops and makes itself known in similar ways across both species (human and canine). Unfortunately for our dogs, it may be more difficult for them to express. Whereas we can just call our doctor if we are in pain, dogs rely on their owners to interpret what they’re feeling and act on it. Check out some common signs of discomfort in dogs

Side Effects, Safety & Drug interactions 

Tramadol’s side effects in dogs may include sedation, anxiety, dizziness, vomiting, and tremors. Adverse reactions can include seizures, agitation, and irregular heartbeat. 

Tramadol should be used with caution in pets with seizure disorders, liver or kidney disease, or pregnant pets. Consult your veterinarian and have an in-depth discussion about the medications your dog is currently taking and the potential interactions that could occur. It is essential to understand and research anything that could negatively interact with opioid medications. We want our dogs feeling better, but safely! 


The ElleVet Team
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