Analgesia is becoming increasingly important in veterinary medicine, and little research has been performed that examined pain control in avian species. Tramadol is a relatively new drug that provides analgesia by opioid (μ), serotonin, and norepinephrine pathways, with minimal adverse effects. To determine the pharmacokinetics of tramadol and its major metabolite O-desmethyltramadol (M1) in eagles, 6 bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were each dosed with tramadol administered intravenously (4 mg/kg) and orally (11 mg/kg) in a crossover study. Blood was collected at various time points between 0 and 600 minutes and then analyzed with high-performance liquid chromatography to determine levels of tramadol and M1, the predominate active metabolite. The terminal half-life of tramadol after intravenous dosing was 2.46 hours. The maximum plasma concentration, time of maximum plasma concentration, and terminal half-life for tramadol after oral dosing were 2156.7 ng/ml, 3.75 hours, and 3.14 hours, respectively. In addition, the oral bioavailability was 97.9%. Although plasma concentrations of tramadol and M1 associated with analgesia in any avian species is unknown, based on the obtained data and known therapeutic levels in humans, a dosage of 5 mg/kg PO q12h is recommended for bald eagles. Pharmacodynamic studies are needed to better determine plasma levels of tramadol and M1 associated with analgesia in birds.
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Vol. 23 • No. 4