Drugs and dogs: Imipramine uses & side effects

Most of the time if your pet is experiencing behavior difficulties, your veterinarian will encourage you to take additional steps in behavior modification, using a variety of training techniques.  However, every once in a while, even your pet needs a little help getting “healthy” and a veterinarian may prescribe Imipramine. What is Imipramine? Imipramine is a prescription drug that can only be obtained by a doctor or veterinarian.  Tofranil is its brand name and it is used as an anti-depressant of the tricyclic class, and many of these drugs may also be referred to as TCA’s.  In some patients (yes even your pet) depression is caused by abnormal levels of chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain. Imipramine elevates mood by raising the level of neurotransmitters, fighting the overall feeling of doom and gloom.  It has also been used in bedwetting ADHD and several disorders associated with chronic pain. Why would your pet need Imipramine? A veterinarian may prescribe Imipramine for your pet to help you handle extreme behavior situations with your pet, like separation anxiety (abnormal fear when being separated from its owner) or urinary incontinence (inability to control urine).  For some dogs acting out on extreme separation anxiety can result in “bad,” disruptive or destructive behaviors like barking incessantly, destruction of their environment or even suffer an injury to their body.  According to The Humane Society of the United States, dogs may experience extreme separation anxiety after a traumatic event or abrupt change in routine. When used to prevent urinary incontinence it has been especially effective in female dogs, when all other treatments and medications have failed. Dosages Imipramine is available in 10 mg, 25 mg, 50 mg, 75 mg, 100 mg, 125 mg and 150 mg tablets as well as 12.5 mg/ml injectable form. It is typically dosed at 1 to 2 mg per pound (2.2 to 4.4 mg/kg) one to two times daily for dogs and 0.25 to 0.5 mg per pound (0.5 to 1 mg/kg) once or twice daily and should never be given to your pet without a veterinarian’s prescription.  The duration of treatment depends on the dog being treated, how well they progress and any side effects that may occur. Dangers and side effects of Imipramine The FDA has not approved the use of Imipramine in pets; however, it may legally be prescribed to pets as an extra label drug.  This means that while not approved, it is permitted for use in pets.   Since Imipramine is not regularly prescribed to pets, it is difficult to determine the exact side effects that your pet may experience.  However, the most frequently reported adverse reaction is sedation.  Other reported side effects include, according to VetInfo:

  • Agitation
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Postural hypotension
  • Respiratory depression
  • Tachycardia

When not to use Imipramine Does your dog take any other prescription medications?  If so Imipramine may not be a good choice of treatment for your pampered pooch.  Other medications such as: barbiturates, tranquilizers, cimetidine and monoamine oxidase inhibitors may interact negatively with Imipramine. This medication should only be used according to the prescription provided, including following the treatment plan completely, as recommended by your veterinarian.

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