The difference between Tramadol and Rimadyl for dogs is substantial: indeed, we are talking about two totally different drugs that work in different ways. While both drugs can be used to treat pain, the choice of one drug or another will depend on several factors. For instance, dogs suffering from certain medical conditions may do better on Tramadol, however, specific medical conditions may warrant the use of Rimadyl for a faster and more successful treatment. To better understand the difference between Tramadol and Rimadyl it helps to first take a look at both drugs closely. Following is information about both drugs by veterinarian Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic.
Rimadyl (Carprofen) for Dogs
Carprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used by veterinarians and sold under many brand names. One of them is Rimadyl, made by Zoetis. As the name suggests, this drug is not a steroid, so it has less negative side effects than a steroid, making carprofen more suitable for long-term use.
The mechanism of action is through inhibition of COX-1 and COX-2 which reduces inflammation but also fights pain and fever. The inhibition of said COX-2 enzyme provides anti-inflammatory activity. Carprofen in canine use is a selective inhibitor of COX-2 versus COX-1, which is a good effect because inhibition of COX-1 is thought to be associated with kidney and GI tract toxicity.
Rimadyl is used as a supportive therapy for dogs with degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) and as a pain-relief drug in post-operative treatment.
Like any drug, Rimadyl can have side effects, and most serious ones are related to the GI tract, and these complications include vomiting and diarrhea as well as ulcers. Almost 40 percent of dogs taking Rimadyl can show different side effects, so the owners should look out for symptoms like changes in appetite, changes in a stool, vomiting, behavioral changes, polyuria, polydipsia, seizures or jaundice, especially in older dogs or in dogs that take Rimadyl long-term.
Human NSAIDs are not suitable for animals, and should not be given to dogs as a substitute for carprofen.
The usual prescribed dosage for dogs is 2 mg per pound of body weight given once daily, or it can be broken down to giving 1 mg per pound of body weight given twice daily. Your veterinarian may adjust the dosage based on your dog’s condition that is treated and how he responds to the drug.
Tramadol for Dogs
Tramadol is an opioid-like drug used to relieve moderate to severe acute pain as well as chronic pain. It is classified as atypical opioid and schedule IV controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2014.
Tramadol is not approved for use in animals by the FDA, but it is legally prescribed by veterinarians as an extra-label drug. It is also used in humans, and it is one of few drugs used both in dogs and in humans.
Tramadol works similar to other opioids, by latching to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord which changes the sensation of pain by reducing the pain messages sent to the brain. Another effect is the promotion of the release of serotonin and norepinephrine, chemicals promoting the feeling of happiness.
Tramadol is used for pain relief but also as an alternative to NSAID drugs, usually in post-operative pain relief or pain relief from chronic illnesses. Other indications include a constant cough, inter-vertebral issues, cancer, severe arthritic pain, and nervous tension.
Give tramadol exactly as it was prescribed for your dog. As a pain reliever, the usual dose of tramadol in dogs is 0.45-1.8 mg/lb of the dog’s weight given by mouth every 8-12 hours.
For treating chronic pain as experienced in dogs with cancer, the usual dose is 0.45-1.8 mg/lb of pet’s weight given by mouth every 6 hours.
Side effects include gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, tremors, and drowsiness, while more serious problems that require veterinarian attention are respiratory problems, convulsions, and declining heart rate. Tramadol is prohibited to pregnant or lactating dogs, dogs taking allergy or cold medications.
Difference Between Rimadyl and Tramadol
The mode of action of these two drugs is very different. While tramadol blocks pain receptors in the brain and changes the perception of pain, Rimadyl decreases inflammation. This means that Tramadol works well in treating the pain, but it does nothing to treat the cause of the pain, while NSAID reduces the inflammation and consequently treats pain.
Depending on the source of the pain, Rimadyl is given to patients with inflammatory conditions, while Tramadol is reserved for acute or severe pain. Usually, they are given together, so that Tramadol can alleviate the pain immediately, while Rimadyl can treat the inflammation which takes more time.
Rimadyl has common GI tract side effects, with possible bleeding, as well as rare liver and/or kidney complications. It is not recommended for dogs with liver or kidney problems, and before using this drug blood work is recommended as well as periodic monitoring for long-term users.
NSAID drugs can be expensive, while Tramadol is more economical and commonly used to treat even acute issues like pancreatitis or urinary inflammation pain. The most common side effect is sedation seen in more sensitive pets and drowsiness and it should not be used in pets with a history of liver problems or seizure.
Like all opioids, dosage must be followed almost religiously, an overdose may occur. Overdose symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, dilated pupils, tremors, and consciousness followed with possible coma or death.
Choosing the right drug is a veterinarian’s job. Owner’s job is to follow instructions regarding administration and dosage and to watch for any side effects. In cases where the dog badly responds to the drug, the drug can be changed or the dosage recalibrated.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic is a veterinarian in Belgrade, capital city of Serbia. She received her B.S from University of Belgrade in 2012, and her master’s degree from Veterinary University, Belgrade