Butorphanol tartrate, also known as Torbutrol® is an opiate agonist used by veterinarians primarily as an anti-tussive, to help alleviate coughing. In some cases it may be used to treat pain in animals, such as colic in horses, or as a pre-anesthetic.

Treating Dogs and Cats With Butorphanol

Butorphanol is a potent, yet safe medication to decrease cough when administered according to a veterinary prescription. It is commonly used as a cough-relieving agent or for sedation purposes in the veterinary field.

Butorphanol Considerations

Butorphanol is a controlled Class IV narcotic medication; therefore, it requires a prescription from a veterinarian with the appropriate and active license from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Likewise, refills on the medication are strictly regulated and the veterinarian may require a new prescription request for each fill.

Butorphanol Precautions and Potential Side Effects 

The medication should not be administered to animals with a known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug. Butorphanol should also be avoided in animals suffering from nervous system dysfunction, a history of liver disease or from head trauma.

Butorphanol should be used with caution in elderly animals or animals with kidney disease, hypothyroidism and other serious conditions.

Butorphanol is safe and effective for use in animals when prescribed by a veterinarian. However, as with all medications, some patients may be more sensitive to the drug and experience certain side effects. The most common potential side effects include lack of appetite and general sedation, or paradoxical excitement.

If the animal exhibits symptoms such as swelling of the face, skin rash, hives, vomiting or difficulty breathing, this may be an allergic reaction to the drug. Under such circumstances, the veterinarian should be contacted immediately.

Butorphanol Dosage and Administration

The treating veterinarian will determine the dosage and method of administration for butorphanol. Butorphanol is available for veterinary compounding in oral capsule, transdermal gel and injectable formulations. The brand, Torbutrol®, is available in oral tablet form.

Author: Giano Panzarella