Pros: Relieves pain, Allows our dog to remain active and physically fit
Cons: Can be expensive and addictive, Has lots of warnings and cautions
Tramadol is a narcotic-like analgesic used for treating moderate to moderately severe pain. It is formulated to be an “extended-release” medication that works on the opioid receptors. Tramadol is only available through a prescription and must be used exactly as directed by your physician. It comes with a lengthy list of cautions, side effects, and warnings. Possible side effects include constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, and weakness as well as allergic reactions. If taken over an extended period of time Tramadol can become habit forming. Before taking this, and while taking Tramadol, your doctor will monitor your blood, particularly your kidney and liver functions. It comes as a small white pill from the pharmacist and should not be crushed into powder. Anyone taking this should not drink alcohol but should drink lots of water. There is much I don’t understand about this medication and those are questions for you and your doctor.
This is serious medication and doctors often prescribe Tramadol for people who have considerable pain from certain forms of cancer. I’m not taking this, nor is my husband; however, our blond lab has been taking Tramadol now for over a year. That’s a long time, but when she began taking this medication her life expectancy was six months -- we’re not taking her off the treatment.
Bone Cancer -- Doggy Style
When first diagnosed the oncologists said her leg muscles would deteriorate from lack of exercise and she would never walk on all four nor would she ever, or should she ever, run again. They warned her cancer would spread to other parts of her body over the next six months. We consider re-naming her Lucky.
She doesn’t drink alcohol nor does she take cold medication, she definitely drinks lots of water, and she doesn’t display any of the above mentioned side effects. She is monitored by her doctor every month and also treated intravenously with a bone-strengthening medication (pamidronate) each month. She has Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that is similar to the human form rather than the canine form, and instead of amputating her leg or having her undergo chemotherapy we opted for a different course of treatments. Belle had intense radiation treatments on her leg the first month following her diagnosis and since she has received monthly treatments of pamidronate and she takes Tramadol.
When she began this treatment she walked on three legs and couldn’t put weight on her back leg. This was heartbreaking for a dog who “laughed” while running – she has always loved the pure freedom that comes from a full-out run. Motion is lotion, or so we've heard from previous doctors, and her legs are strong! The Osteosarcoma has only slightly enlarged and nothing has shown up in her lungs or brain and if the analgesic dose is just right she runs, plays, teases, and enjoys life. She takes two 50 mg pills three times a day as needed for pain. We mix this in her food at meal time and cover it with peanut butter before bedtime.
We keep her weight lower (85 pounds these days rather than the 95 she weighed in at when first diagnosed). She’s probably physically addicted to this, and perhaps there are better ways to control her pain, but she’s alert, physically active, involved with our activities and behaves like a six-year old Labrador rather than an aging and ill ten-year old. While we don’t have children in the house we do keep this out of the reach of our ten-year old.
If your vet recommends this for your dog, don’t laugh, but consider it and question the cautions, possible side effects and instructions. Proceed with care. When we first administered this she was incredibly lethargic and we had to adjust her dosage. I actually cut the 50 mg pill in half with a pill cutter. Now when she receives 1 ½ pills she gets lethargic but we discovered recently that if she gets two pills at a time she’s energetic. It's all about pain management. We realize though that the pain is getting worse and can’t be left untreated and her body needs more medication to be effective. If she misses her dose her blond face and big brown eyes actually look gray.
Additionally if your vet prescribes this for pain relief check your local pharmacies for a less expensive source. We pick this up at one of the national chains and she has her own prescription discount card. Our initial cost from the vet clinic was close to $80 and our pharmacy discount price is $19. The vet doesn’t mind calling this in to the pharmacy and understands the necessity. When anyone in your life, dog or human, has cancer you appreciate those savings as they allow you to extend the treatments out longer. At her last doctor visit they celebrated her one-year anniversary by giving her a doggy bandanna, fully signed by all of the staff, and we’re all looking forward to another celebration in 2010. I recommend Tramadol based upon our dog’s experience and her response to the medication, it lets her sleep at night and puts the smile back on her face.