Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that tramadol is ineffective in alleviating signs of pain associated with osteoarthritis in dogs, according to a release from the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF), which funded the study. The research team published their results in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“The data shows conclusively that tramadol is not an effective drug in treating the pain associated with arthritis in the dog, despite its common recommendation,” says Steven Budsberg, DVM, MS, DACVS, professor of surgery and director of clinical research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, in the MAF release. “This use of tramadol is a classic example of failing to acknowledge and control for bias when evaluating a potential treatment.”
The team at the University of Georgia, led by Dr. Budsberg, compared the use of tramadol with both a placebo and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug carprofen in client-owned dogs in a randomized, blinded, placebo- and positive-controlled crossover study, according to the release and the study abstract.
Dogs with osteoarthritis of the elbow or knee were assigned to receive each of the three treatments in a random order, with each treatment arm lasting 10 days. Improvement was measured using vertical impulse, peak vertical force and Canine Brief Pain Inventory scores to assess gait and pain levels. The results showed no improvement when tramadol was given compared to either baseline or placebo. Carprofen was associated with significant improvement in results.
The study highlights the need for carefully controlled studies when evaluating drug effectiveness, according to MAF. “Recognition and alleviation of pain in animals has been a priority for Morris Animal Foundation since our founding,” says Kelly Diehl, senior scientific and communications adviser for the foundation, in the release. “This study reinforces the need to carefully and systematically evaluate a pain medication’s effectiveness before it becomes commonly prescribed, no matter what the species.”