The pharmacokinetics of tramadol in camels (Camelus dromedarius) were studied following a single intravenous (IV) and a single intramuscular (IM) dose of 2.33 mg kg(-1) bodyweight. The drug's metabolism and urinary detection time were also investigated. Following both IV and IM administration, tramadol was extracted from plasma using an automated solid phase extraction method and the concentration measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS). The plasma drug concentrations after IV administration were best fitted by an open two-compartment model. However a three-compartment open model best fitted the IM data. The results (means+/-SEM) were as follows: after IV drug administration, the distribution half-life (t(1/2)(alpha)) was 0.22+/-0.05 h, the elimination half-life (t(1/2)(beta)) 1.33+/-0.18 h, the total body clearance (Cl(T)) 1.94+/-0.18 L h kg(-1), the volume of distribution at steady state (Vd(ss)) 2.58+/-0.44 L kg(-1), and the area under the concentration vs. time curve (AUC(0-infinity)) 1.25+/-0.13 mg h L(-1). Following IM administration, the maximal plasma tramadol concentration (C(max)) reached was 0.44+/-0.07 microg mL(-1) at time (T(max)) 0.57+/-0.11h; the absorption half-life (t(1/2 ka)) was 0.17+/-0.03 h, the (t(1/2)(beta)) was 3.24+/-0.55 h, the (AUC(0-infinity)) was 1.27+/-0.12 mg h L(-1), the (Vd(area)) was 8.94+/-1.41 L kg(-1), and the mean systemic bioavailability (F) was 101.62%. Three main tramadol metabolites were detected in urine. These were O-desmethyltramadol, N,O-desmethyltramadol and/or N-bis-desmethyltramadol, and hydroxy-tramadol. O-Desmethyltramadol was found to be the main metabolite. The urinary detection times for tramadol and O-desmethyltramadol were 24 and 48 h, respectively. The pharmacokinetics of tramadol in camels was characterised by a fast clearance, large volume of distribution and brief half-life, which resulted in a short detection time. O-Desmethyltramadol detection in positive cases would increase the reliability of reporting tramadol abuse.