Major Uses

Butorphanol is an opioid analgesic primarily used as a cough suppressant in dogs and cats. It can also be prescribed to horses to relieve colic pain or as a sedative. Butorphanol can be used as a pre-anesthetic and for post-operative pain control, but its properties act quickly for a short period of time so it would need to be dosed quite often or paired with other sedation medications. The drug has been used to help prevent nausea and vomiting during cancer chemotherapy treatment as well.

Common Precautions

The most common side effect seen in dogs, cats, and horses with the use of butorphanol is sedation. Other possible side effects include vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea, however, some animals may experience constipation. Over-excitement, ataxia, and respiratory depression have also been reported. For horses that receive high doses, central nervous system excitement may be exhibited (tossing and jerking of the head and pacing).

Butorphanol should be used with extreme caution in animals with hypothyroidism, kidney insufficiencies, hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's disease), heartworm disease, and in those that are debilitated or elderly. The drug should not be administered to patients with head injuries, hydrocephalus (buildup of fluid in the brain), or patients in a coma or that have other CNS dysfunctions. Because the drug is removed through the liver, butorphanol should not be used in patients with a history of liver disease. The drug should be used with caution in animals that are pregnant or lactating. Because possible drug interactions can occur, the prescribing veterinarian should be informed of all other medications the pet is taking. For example, butorphanol may interact with other pain medications and reverse the effects.

Butorphanol should not be administered to animals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to the drug. Signs of an allergic reaction may include facial swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. If any of these reactions occur, the pet's veterinarian, or an emergency veterinary facility, should be contacted immediately.


Butorphanol should be stored in light resistant, child proof containers. The injectable form should be kept at room temperature, and proper care should be taken so it is kept from extreme heat or cold.


The drug is available in 1mg, 5mg, and 10mg tablets and in 0.5, 1, 2, and 10 mg/mL injectable form. The typical dose to suppress coughing in dogs and cats is 0.025 - 0.05 mg/lb (0.055 - 0.11 mg/kg) every 6-12 hours. For pain control, the typical dose is 0.05 - 0.4 mg/lb (0.1 - 1 mg/kg) two to six times a day. For horses, the typical dose for to control pain is 0.05 mg/lb (0.1 mg/kg) every 3-4 hours intraveniously, and for sedation, the dose is 0.005 - 0.03 mg/lb (0.01 - 0.06 mg/kg). Doses may vary in different species, when the drug is given by a different route or concurrently with other medications, and with regards to a patient's age, breed, and health status. A veterinarian's dosing instructions and/or those printed on the medication label should be followed closely.

If a dose is missed, it should be given as soon as possible, unless it is almost time for the next dose. The missed dose should be skipped and the regular dosing schedule can continue. Two doses at once should never be administered. The pet's veterinarian should be contacted if there are any questions.

This information is for general reference only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition of your pet. It's intended as a general reference, this information may not include all possible uses, precautions, directions, reactions (including allergic), drug interactions, or withdrawal times. Always consult your local veterinarian and have your pet examined for any advice concerning the diagnosis and treatment of your pet, including which products and doses are most appropriate. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. VetDepot is not a pharmacy. All prescription products are dispensed by our Pharmacy Partner. Article last updated 2/2014.