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Medication details

  • Medication type: Pain relief, Opioid
  • Form: Topical, Injection
  • Prescription required? Yes
  • FDA approved? Yes
  • Brand names: Torbutrol, Torbugesic, Butorphine, Stadol
  • Common names: Butorphanol
  • Available dosages: 1 mg, 5 mg, and 10 mg tablets; 1 mg/ml, 2 mg/ml, and 10 mg/ml solution for injection
  • Expiration range: 2 years for tablets

If your dog has ever undergone an anesthetic procedure or suffered from a mild cough, he may have been prescribed a medication called butorphanol. Butorphanol is a very common opioid medication in both human and veterinary medicine. 

Read on to learn more about butorphanol for dogs and how to use it.

What Is Butorphanol?

Veterinarian looks at prescription bottle

Butorphanol is an opioid medication commonly used for sedation, pain control, and cough suppression. It is FDA approved for use as a pain reliever and cough suppressant in dogs. Butorphanol is most commonly given by injection in the veterinary clinic, where it is used as a sedative and anesthetic agent, but it can also be prescribed as tablets for use at home. Butorphanol is a controlled drug and is only available by prescription from your veterinarian.

What Does Butorphanol for Dogs Look Like?

Butorphanol is a generic medication, so its appearance varies widely depending on the manufacturer of the product. It may also go by the brand names Torbugesic, Torbutrol, or the human product Stadol.

How Does Butorphanol Work?

Butorphanol is a short-acting pain reliever (analgesic) with both opioid agonist and opioid antagonist activity. This means that butorphanol stimulates some opioid receptors while blocking others. Butorphanol stimulates kappa receptors, which provides mild pain relief. Butorphanol blocks mu receptors, which can reverse the effects of other opioid drugs that stimulate mu receptors. This is useful if a patient begins having negative effects due to excessive stimulation of mu receptors, such as excessive sedation or respiratory depression. Butorphanol can be used to reverse some of these effects while still maintaining some analgesic effects.

Butorphanol is also used as a cough suppressant (antitussive) medication. It is not known how the cough suppressant effects of butorphanol actually work. In dogs, butorphanol provides antitussive activity for about 4-10 hours, which is longer than the antitussive effects of codeine.

What Is Butorphanol Used For in Dogs?

Dog falling asleep after a sedative

Butorphanol is primarily used as a sedative for dogs and is given by injection in the veterinary clinic prior to anesthetic procedures. Butorphanol is also a mild antitussive and may be used to ease coughing due to conditions such as collapsing trachea, kennel cough, or chronic bronchitis. Butorphanol is in dogs is typically used for:

  • Sedation
  • Anesthesia
  • Antitussive effects
  • Reversal of mu-opioid agonist drugs
  • Mild analgesia

How to Give Butorphanol to Dogs

When butorphanol is used for sedation or analgesia, it is often given by injection in the veterinary clinic by your veterinarian. In this case, you will not need to do anything at home except monitor your dog for side effects.

If your dog was prescribed butorphanol tablets, you will need to give the tablets to your dog by mouth according to your veterinarian’s instructions. To facilitate administration of the tablets, you can hide them in a treat such as a bit of peanut butter, cheese, or hot dog to tempt your dog to eat the tablet. 

If your dog is especially discerning and manages to pick the tablet out of even the best of treats, you may need to administer the tablet to your dog directly. For a step-by-step guide, check out How to Give a Dog a Pill.

Butorphanol for Dogs Side Effects

The most common side effect of butorphanol administration in dogs is sedation. Dogs with an MDR-1 (multidrug resistance) gene mutation may be predisposed to adverse events from butorphanol and pet parents should monitor closely for side effects in these patients. Other side effects from butorphanol can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Transient weakness
  • Transient pain at the injection site
  • Constipation

Reactions With Other Drugs and Medications

Because butorphanol is an opioid agonist/antagonist, there is a potential for interaction with other opioid drugs, particularly for reversal of the analgesic effects of an opioid agonist. Butorphanol may partially reverse the effects of mu agonist opioids and should be used with caution with these drugs.

Butorphanol may also cause excessive sedation when combined with other tranquilizers, sedatives, and antidepressants and should be used with caution with these medications.

Opioid drugs such as butorphanol may increase the effects of skeletal muscle relaxants. They may also decrease the effects of diuretics in patients with congestive heart failure. Dosage adjustments may be necessary in these patients.

Butorphanol Dosage for Dogs

The dose of butorphanol for dogs varies depending on your dog’s body weight and the desired effect of the medication. For example, the dose for sedation may differ from the dose given for cough suppression. Always follow your veterinarian’s dosing instructions carefully to ensure your dog receives the correct dose of medication.

What If My Dog Misses a Dose of Butorphanol?

If your dog misses a dose of butorphanol, give the dose as soon as you remember. If the next dose is due soon, do not give two doses or double your dog’s dose, as this may increase the risk for side effects. Instead, simply skip the missed dose and proceed with the next dose as usual. If your dog misses multiple doses of medication, contact your veterinarian for advice on how to proceed.

Cost of Butorphanol for Dogs

Butorphanol is available as a generic medication, which makes it relatively inexpensive. Pet owners can expect to spend $25-$50 on a month’s supply of butorphanol for dogs, depending on their dog’s weight and dose.

Butorphanol Storage Instructions

Tablets should be stored at room temperature, 59-86 degrees Fahrenheit, and protected from moisture.

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