Just as a statement, not all people experience tramadol period like that - I take it for migraines, and I know at least 5-6 other people that take it for back pain. I've never had nausea or spacing out, and I've never seen an animal made nauseous from the drug.
She's already using the tramadol, and I have hundreds of animals on the drug. As dobes2kh said, the dose can range GREATLY (and I discussed her dose with her, pushing for higher ones if I recall!) and the dosing frequency can change as well. My girl, the one day prior to her amputation but after she fractured her leg, was on SUPER high doses just in an effort to keep her down!
Tramadol at a normal dose doesn't do a thing to make my dogs quiet. Other narcotics, almost universally, have been MORE effective on all the dobermans I've seen and owned and lived with - I half dose their butorphanol, half dose buprenorphine, I've had to take fentanyl patches off, and hydro, HA! A single dose of butorphanol lasted all my dobes at the time over 12 hours (which it DOES NOT last!). So the fact that tramadol, at a standard dose, does NOT sedate them is something big and it's why I go for this over many others.
As for NSAIDs, Mercury takes metacam (it's the only one he tolerates) occassionally for leg pain when he's active or after training/showing - he had an external fixator on the leg he severed the tendon on, and it's still rough down there.
Tyler, my old blue boy was on Rimadyl for over a year consistently - it was one of the only things that kept him alive and moving (he was also on Duralactin, Dasuquin, Tramadol, and tons of other things) - I monitored his liver enzymes and he did just fine. Missing one dose left him unable to move.
I have many dogs on long term NSAID use - they are good drugs, and necessary - but it requires owner compliance and vigilance, and monitoring blood work. I recheck values one month after starting and then at least every 4-6 months for the life of the pet. Any vomiting, diarrhea, or anorexia the drugs are stopped ASAP. With judicious use of these drugs I honestly haven't seen a case of NSAID induced liver disease (just two dogs that ate a full bottle and got GI side effects).
I'll also state that my own cat ate Rimadyl out of Tylers bowl - 2 days of fluids and she was fine, no long term side effects. She reached toxic dose on that, but we saw her eat it (Saw her steal it) - she scarfed it immediately.
These drugs have gotten a bad rep on the internet because of the extreme stories shared, poor use, and inattentive owners and vets that continued to give drugs when things were looking poorly. I have it on labels, its on your bill, its in your chart - STOP the drug the minute you see vomiting, diarrhea or stops eating. i teach owners how to look for icterus (yellow mm).
As an aside, Metacam I believe is metabolized not through the liver, but through the kidneys - it's risk is not liver disease but kidney failure. I use it more in dogs prone to liver issues or with a history of elevation, and I use it extensively as one of my only pain medication options in exotics (almost every one i see gets it for surgery, dentals, GI stasis, etc). It's also the only one approved for long term use (IN OTHER COUNTRIES NOT US) in cats... (just a little bit bitter over that...). I use metacam more than any other NSAID, and I love it. Even if the liquid smells like ferrets.
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