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Health & Wellness

Can I give my dog tramadol?

It might be safe, but there are still better options.

As doting pet parents, seeing our loved ones in pain can be a jarring and worrisome experience, and it’s only natural that you’d want to find any solution to alleviate their pain and see them playing fetch again. But in a world filled with pain-relief options, not all medications and solutions are made the same. Tramadol, for instance, is an option you should consider with care — and the advice of a vet.

Tramadol is a type of medication used to relieve moderate to severe pain, taken as a pill or capsule and typically prescribed for humans to cope with the after-effects of surgery. Like many medications, this is one that works both for humans and dogs. But just because you can doesn’t mean you necessarily should; the decision of whether or not to give your furry family members with tramadol is a whole can of worms in and of itself. 

Is tramadol safe for dogs? 

Like certain human medications, tramadol is technically safe for dogs, according to Dr. Betty Huang, a veterinarian at Sagamore Animal Hospital in Rye, New Hampshire. She says that while it’s okay to give your dog tramadol with your vet’s approval, it’s also not known to alleviate pain as well as other options. Plus, there are other unforeseen risks to take into consideration as well. 

“Since it works as a wimpy pain reliever with potential for humans to abuse the drug, we generally don’t prescribe this anymore,” she says of the controlled drug that requires a written prescription, due to its potentially addictive effects.  

Instead, Dr. Huang suggests other medications that get the job done just as well without as many iffy elements. “Tramadol is safe, but not as effective as we like for pain in canines,” she notes. “Better pain management can be achieved through other opioids, such as methadone given by the veterinarian, or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, such as carprofen.”

The most important thing to remember is that you should never give your pet medication without the guidance of a veterinarian.

How much tramadol is too much? 

If your vet does prescribe tramadol for your pup, be mindful of limiting it to the exact dosage recommended. According to Dr. Huang, signs of overdose can run the gamut from vomiting and diarrhea to sedation, lethargy, restlessness, drunken gait, drooling and tremors, in which case an immediate visit to your vet is in order. 

As long as you’re adhering to the allotted dosage prescribed by your vet, your dog should be safe. “If the dose is within normal limits, you don’t need to do anything but let the body have time to metabolize it and eliminate it,” says Dr. Huang. “If the pet has overdosed, then bring them to your veterinarian as soon as possible to induce vomiting and discuss options to decontaminate.” 

So, while tramadol is technically safe for your furry loved ones, it’s a delicate drug that merits careful consideration and discussion with your vet. More often than not, other — and more effective — alternatives are out there.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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