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Amitriptyline HCl (Elavil®)

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Overview

  • Behavioral disorders in dogs and cats are frequently the cause for veterinary visits. Behavioral problems that involve unacceptable or dangerous behavior are also a common reason for euthanasia.
  • Veterinarians are placing increasing emphasis on training and behavior, and animal behavior specialists have adopted drugs used in modifying human behavior for use in pets. Amitriptyline hydrochloride is one of these drugs.
  • Amitriptyline belongs to a class of drugs known as tricyclic anti-depressants. In people, amitriptyline is used to treat depression and anxiety.
  • This drug increases the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • Amitriptyline is a prescription drug and can only be obtained from a veterinarian or by prescription from a veterinarian.
  • This drug is not approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration but can be prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.

    Brand Names and Other Names

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Elavil® (Zeneca) and various generic equivalents
  • Veterinary formulations: None

    Uses of Amitriptyline

  • Amitriptyline is used in behavior modification in dogs and cats.
  • Common uses for amitriptyline are treatment of separation anxiety in dogs and excessive grooming, inappropriate urination (urine spraying) and anxiety in cats.
  • The use of this drug in cats with interstitial cystitis is based on the condition's association with stress, and increased central nervous system activity occurring as a result of this disorder (because of frequent and painful urination).

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, amitriptyline may cause side effects in some animals.
  • Amitriptyline should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Amitriptyline may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with amitriptyline. Such drugs include cimetidine, drugs classified as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or drugs classified as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Prozac®-like drugs).
  • Weight gain may occur in some cats receiving this drug.
  • Amitriptyline has many side effects caused by actions on other body systems. It also acts as an antihistamine, blocks the parasympathetic nervous system and blocks other nervous system effects. Consequences of these effects include sedation, dry mouth, increased water consumption, rapid heart rate, and urine retention.
  • Amitriptyline, when accidentally ingested in a large overdose, can have very serious effects on the heart. Pets that consume large amounts of this medication (for example several tablets) should be taken to a veterinarian quickly. Failure to provide prompt medical attention in the instance of an overdose can be fatal.

    How Amitriptyline Is Supplied

  • Amitriptyline is available in 10 mg, 25 mg, 50 mg, 75 mg, 100 mg and 150 mg tablets.
  • It is also available in 10 mg/ml injectable form.

    Dosing Information

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • For dogs, the dose is 0.5 to 2 mg per pound (1 to 4 mg/kg) given every 12 to 24 hours, orally.
  • For cats, the dose is 2 to 10 mg per cat (most often 5 to 10 mg/cat) once daily.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the medication and the development of any adverse effects. Be certain to complete the prescription unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. Even if your pet appears better, the entire treatment plan should be completed to prevent relapse or prevent the development of resistance.




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