What Is the Drug Torbutrol Used for in Dogs?

By Cuteness Team

If you're a pet owner, chances are sooner or later you're going to need to treat your dog for pain. While your veterinarian may prescribe a number of different ways to relieve your dog's pain, you might be curious about several of the most common medications.

Dog with a vet
If you ever have to take your dog to the vet for pain relief, one of the most common medications prescribed is Torbutrol.
credit: shironosov/iStock/GettyImages

Torbutrol is the brand name for butorphanol tartrate, an opiate that has a variety of uses to help your dog. According to Veterinary Partner it is a versatile drug, helping to relieve coughs and pain, as well as the effects of nausea. Because of its potential to be misused, this drug is controlled by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency, making it available only by veterinary prescription.

Opiates and Receptors

dog examination by veterinary doctor with stethoscope in clinic
Your vet may prescribe Torbutrol to treat a variety of symptoms, including nausea and pain.
credit: Andrey_Kuzmin/iStock/GettyImages

According to Pet Place, your dog's nervous system has several types of receptors responding to opiates. Some opiates bind and stimulate the receptors referred to as agonist opiates, while others bind and block the receptors, to antagonize the receptors. For some opiates, it's an either/or proposition: they either stimulate or block. Diamondback Drugs explains how medications such as butorphanol do both. As an agonist/antagonist opiate, butorphanol is a versatile medication in your vet's pharmaceutical toolbox. It's available as an injectable, to be delivered by the vet, or as a nasal spray or tablet form for home administration.

happy doctor with dog at vet clinic
Torbutrol can also be used to treat your dog's cough!
credit: dolgachov/iStock/GettyImages

Torbutrol for Coughs

Also available as Stadol or Torbugesic, Torbutrol's primary use is as a cough suppressant. There are other opiates effective for treating a cough, however, butorphanol doesn't suppress the brain's respiratory center. Pet Education explains that that Torbutrol allows the cough to be controlled without slowing your dog's respiration rate or making his breathing more shallow.

Other Uses

Just as codeine is a cough suppressant with pain relieving qualities, so is Torbutrol, although Veterinary Partner explains its effects are short, making multiple doses throughout the day necessary. It's also an effective sedative, useful as a tranquilizer prior to administering anesthesia for surgery. Butorphanol's anti-nausea properties make it popular for preventing vomiting in animals undergoing chemotherapy.

Skillful male vet is analyzing animal health
Vets may use Torbutrol as a sedative or for animals going through chemotherapy
credit: YakobchukOlena/iStock/GettyImages

Side Effects and Concerns

According to Diamondback Drugs and Pet Education the most frequently seen side effects from Torbutrol are sedation, loss of appetite and diarrhea; it also can cause a slower heart rate. A dog who is hypersensitive to the drug may vomit, have difficulty breathing or experience hives, facial swelling or skin reactions — all of which call for immediate veterinary treatment. Dogs with kidney or liver disease, hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, head trauma or nervous system dysfunction should not use butorphanol. The medication may interact with other drugs, including antihistamines, barbiturates and other opiates. Pregnant and lactating dogs should not take Torbutrol.

Vet with dog
Remember to consult with your vet if you have any questions about your pet's medication!
credit: hedgehog94/iStock/GettyImages