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

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2018 Feb 15;252(4):427-432. doi: 10.2460/javma.252.4.427.


OBJECTIVE To investigate the effectiveness of tramadol for treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs. DESIGN Randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled crossover study. ANIMALS 40 dogs with clinical osteoarthritis of the elbow or stifle joint. PROCEDURES Dogs orally received 3 times/d (morning, midday, and night) for a 10-day period each of 3 identically appearing treatments (placebo; carprofen at 2.2 mg/kg [1 mg/lb], q 12 h [morning and night], with placebo at midday; or tramadol hydrochloride at 5 mg/kg [2.3 mg/lb], q 8 h) in random order, with treatment sessions separated by a minimum 7-day washout period. Vertical ground reaction forces (vertical impulse [VI] and peak vertical force [PVF]) were measured and Canine Brief Pain Inventory (CBPI) scores assigned prior to (baseline) and at the end of each treatment period. Repeated-measures ANOVA was performed to compare VI and PVF data among and within treatments, and the χ2 test was used to compare proportions of dogs with a CBPI-defined positive response to treatment. RESULTS 35 dogs completed the study. No significant changes from baseline in VI and PVF were identified for placebo and tramadol treatments; however, these values increased significantly with carprofen treatment. Changes from baseline in VI and PVF values were significantly greater with carprofen versus placebo or tramadol treatment. A significant improvement from baseline in CBPI scores was identified with carprofen treatment but not placebo or tramadol treatment. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE 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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Veterinary

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dog Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Dogs
  • Elbow Joint*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis / complications
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy
  • Osteoarthritis / veterinary*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / veterinary
  • Pain Measurement / veterinary
  • Random Allocation
  • Stifle*
  • Tramadol / administration & dosage
  • Tramadol / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Tramadol