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Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of tramadol in horses following oral administration


Dr Heather Knych, K.L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, West Health Science Drive, Davis, CA 95616, USA. E-mail:


Tramadol is a synthetic opioid used in human medicine, and to a lesser extent in veterinary medicine, for the treatment of both acute and chronic pain. In humans, the analgesic effects are owing to the actions of both the parent compound and an active metabolite (M1). The goal of the current study was to extend current knowledge of the pharmacokinetics of tramadol and M1 following oral administration of three doses of tramadol to horses. A total of nine healthy adult horses received a single oral administration of 3, 6, and 9 mg/kg of tramadol via nasogastric tube. Blood samples were collected at time 0 and at various times up to 96 h after drug administration. Urine samples were collected until 120 h after administration. Plasma and urine samples were analyzed using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry, and the resulting data analyzed using noncompartmental analysis. For the 3, 6, and 9 mg/kg dose groups, Cmax, Tmax, and the t1/2λ were 43.1, 90.7, and 218 ng/mL, 0.750, 2.0, and 1.5 h and 2.14, 2.25, and 2.39 h, respectively. While tramadol and M1 plasma concentrations within the analgesic range for humans were attained in the 3 and 6 mg/kg dose group, these concentrations were at the lower end of the analgesic range and were only transiently maintained. Furthermore, until effective analgesic plasma concentrations have been established in horses, tramadol should be cautiously recommended for control of pain in horses. No significant undesirable behavioral or physiologic effects were noted at any of the doses administered.