Tramadol is a prescription oral opioid pain relief medication that has for years been used to help relieve minor to moderately severe or chronic pain due to injury, arthritis, post-surgery or after dental procedures. What you may not know is Tramadol is not only used to treat pain in people, but it is a common pain reliever given to dogs and cats as well.
How does Tramadol work? Technically it binds to the opioid receptors within the brain, the receptors which are responsible for transmitting the sensation of pain through the body. In other words, Tramadol changes the way the body (human or animal) senses pain. It also increases the hormonal activity of serotonin and nor-epinephrine, which are commonly referred to as the ‘feel-good’ hormones. It has the same effect on pets.
It is prescribed by many veterinarians to help treat and relieve pain experienced from injury, to manage pain after surgical procedures such as spay or neutering, de-claw or for help in managing pain caused by chronic conditions like arthritis. Because it works well in controlling less acute pain, it can be given in instances when your pet is in pain due to minor injuries.
Minor injuries caused by things like getting into a semi-minor ‘disagreement’ with a sibling which leads to some cuts or scraps, deciding to investigate that porcupine that’s been hanging around the yard and ending up with some painful porcupine quills needing to be removed.
One of the reasons it is used in pets is Tramadol isn’t a typical opiate drug, which means the risks of addiction are all but non-existent, unlike other opioid drugs. This is one of the things that make it a good choice in treating minor to moderate pain in pets. No one wants an addicted pet right?
Because this pain reliever is most effective for treating minor to moderately severe pain, it can be combined with other pain reliever or anti-inflammatory drugs to more effectively manage severe pain. However, if the Tramadol is given consistently over a long period of time to manage chronic pain, issues of the pet’s body becoming tolerant of the drug can cause it to no longer provide the level of pain relief it once did. In those instances your pet’s veterinarian can prescribe additional pain medicines like the NSAIDs.
Just as the side effects of Tramadol can affect humans, they can also cause various concerning side effects in pets. Among the side effects that can be experienced, the most common is sleepiness or sedation. Your pet can become sleepy or exhibit signs of extreme lethargy. Other potential side effects are anxiety, agitations, coughing, decreased heart rate and nausea.
If your pet is on Tramadol make sure to monitor your pet carefully, and seek immediate attention from your veterinarian if you notice any changes in behavior. It is also important to note, since Tramadol is metabolized and passes through the liver and kidneys, if your pet is taking it for an extended time period it might be a good idea to have your vet monitor kidney and liver functions.