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What Is Amitriptyline for Dogs?

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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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Amitriptyline for dogs is a prescription medication that’s used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. It is not FDA approved for use in animals, but veterinarians often use it for behavioral disorders such as fear of noises, separation anxiety, or generalized anxiety. The drug is effective in treating the symptoms of these behaviors, but dog owners will find more success when the drug is combined with behavior modification therapy. Amitriptyline for dogs can be purchased in generic form, and it is also available under the brand name Elavil®. It is considered a tricyclic antidepressant, and the drug works by interacting with chemicals in the brain that become unbalanced.

Prescriptions of amitriptyline for dogs can be administered in pill form or as an injection in the veterinarian’s office. It is available in dosages that range from 10 to 75 mg per tablet. The size of the dose is often determined by the pet’s weight and can range from 0.5 to 2 mg of the drug per pound. Amitriptyline should be given with plenty of water. Doses are given two to three times per day, depending on the instructions from the veterinarian. It often takes several days before the dog owner will see any difference in her pet’s behavior.

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There are many potential side effects to using amitriptyline for dogs, because the drug interacts with the central nervous system and the brain. The most common side effects include dizziness, retention of urine, and appetite loss. Constipation, panting, and weight loss are additional side effects that are sometimes reported. Some of the more serious concerns when giving a dog amitriptyline include seizures, high blood pressure, and severe muscle weakness. Allergic reactions to the drug are also a possibility, so dog owners should watch for signs of facial or tongue swelling in addition to difficulty breathing. If any serious side effects are noticed, the drug should be discontinued and the dog should be taken to a veterinarian for emergency treatment.

A veterinarian will often ask questions about the dog's medical history before providing a prescription of amitriptyline. The drug should be used with extreme caution if an animal has a history of heart, kidney, or liver disease or of seizures. It is usually not recommended for dogs that are pregnant or nursing pups. Collars and dips that are used for flea control should not be used on a dog that’s taking amitriptyline, and the vet will most likely not prescribe the drug until at least two weeks after flea control measures are discontinued. There are many additional drugs that can counteract the effects of amitriptyline or that can produce dangerous results if taken in combination. The best course of action is often to tell the veterinarian about every drug and supplement the dog is taking.

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