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Does Tramadol for Amputation Recovery Work?

Tramadol for amputation recovery is a drug that’s been used for decades. But as many members here have witnessed, it doesn’t always work. So what’s the deal with Tramadol? Let’s turn to veterinary pain management experts to find out.

Is Tramadol for Amputation Recovery Helpful or Not?

Tramadol for amputation recovery

Most pets come home with Tramadol for amputation recovery. This opioid analgesic drug has always been a go-to drug for all sorts of acute and chronic pain situations. It is a known fact that dogs and cats don’t metabolize Tramadol very well, yet many vets keep prescribing it. Perhaps a recent study will help change that.

The groundbreaking 2018 Tramadol study from the University of Georgia looked at the effectiveness of Tramadol in dogs with osteoarthritis pain. The conclusion? Tramadol is not an effective drug for alleviating osteoarthritis pain.

CONCLUSION: 10 days of treatment with tramadol as administered (5 mg/kg, PO, q 8 h) provided no clinical benefit for dogs with osteoarthritis of the elbow or stifle joint.

Lack of effectiveness of tramadol hydrochloride for the treatment of pain and joint dysfunction in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis

Many veterinarians are not surprised by the findings, like friend of Tripawds Dr. Mike Petty, DVM, CVPP, CVMA, CCRT, CAAPM, owner of Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital and Animal Pain Center in Canton, Michigan.

Whether a vet is trying to address chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis, or acute pain after amputation recovery, Dr. Petty says Tramadol is not the best pain relief for pets. Better alternatives exist, and he suggests that veterinarians avoid Tramadol altogether.

” . . . those of us with pain practices have suspected for several years that tramadol doesn’t work for chronic pain either,” — Dr. Petty told DVM 360.

Some studies show that Tramadol for cats works a little better than it does in dogs. But just as the case with dogs, Tramadol only seems to be effective when used in combination with another drug.

One veterinary pain management expert who thinks we shouldn’t completely discard Tramadol for post amputation pain in cats and dogs is Dr. Ralph Harvey, DVM, MS, DACVAA, associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Harvey told DVM 360 he believes Tramadol may have some value in alleviating the emotional aspect of pain in dogs and cats.

The problem, he proposes, lies in thinking of tramadol as an analgesic. “We do better to think of it as an emotion-modifying drug—at least in those animals that produce the right metabolite,” he says. “Dogs are extremely variable in their ability to produce that mu-receptor-binding metabolite. Some dogs do; others don’t.” — “Study shows tramadol has no effect on osteoarthritis pain scores,”

Across the globe in New Zealand, Dr. Alex Avery of Our Pets Health explains his knowledge about the pros and cons of Tramadol.

Dr. Avery’s findings also show Tramadol’s effectiveness is sporadic. But he too doesn’t think we should totally disregard it. In his article “Can You Give Tramadol for Dog Pain,” he writes:

I have found that some dogs really seem to improve well and become more comfortable after taking tramadol. Other patients though did not seem to get much benefit at all. More often than not I would also use tramadol as an addition to a pain killing strategy, using it at the same time as another pain killing medication. — Dr. Alex Avery, Our Pets Health

Don’t Settle for Tramadol as a Stand-Alone Pain Relief Medication

Whether it really works or not, the fact is, newer, proven pain relif drugs exist. Unfortunately many old-school vets are not practicing the most current veterinary pain management protocols, and prescribing it to patients as the only pain relief for acute and chronic pain.

Don’t settle for Tramadol as a stand-alone medication if that’s all your pet is prescribed. Veterinary pain management experts all agree that if Tramadol works at all, it is not the most effective drug on its own.

Stand up for your pet! Show your vet the AAHA Pain Management Guidelines. Advocate for the best pain relief you can get wherever you live. Your pet deserves to enjoy a pain-free life.

8 thoughts on “Does Tramadol for Amputation Recovery Work?”

  1. It’s stated that tramadol may work best in combination with other medications. What medication in addition to tramadol works best? I’d like to make sure my dog is receiving adequate pain control.

    • Hi Stella, from my understanding, many vets believe it works best with another type of medication that addresses different nerve pathways, like Gabapentin or Amantadine, which focus on nerve pain. I would definitely ask your vet.

  2. Is there a prescription drug you would recommend that I inquire about in lieu of Tramadol? My dog just had an amputation yesterday and I am trying my best to be on top of the latest and greatest and most effective way to treat her pain.

    • Hi Denise, keep in mind that when used as part of a multi-modal pain relief approach, it is believed that Tramadol is effective. When used alone, not so much according to the recent study. If your dog doesn’t tolerate Tramadol, you can always ask your vet about adding Amantadine into the mix, which addresses another pain pathway effectively when used with Gabapentin and a NSAID. Hope this helps.

  3. Is gabapentin the drug it works best with? And I have been giving it to my dog per vet’s instructions However she doesn’t seem to be in terrible pain should I cut back on it?

    • According to veterinarians we have talked to, Gabapentin and Tramadol may work synergistically with one another. Before assuming your dog is not in pain, please review these pain signals in dogs and talk to your vet about how and when to reduce her medications. Keep us posted in the Forums.

  4. Great information. It doesn’t work for me either but must help someone. Unfortunately our pets can’t tell us how they are feeling. Thanks for this article.

    • You are so welcome. And you’re right, it is such a test of our sensitivity to animals’ behavior when trying to decipher their pain. I hope you find a medication that does help you feel better.


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