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Imipramine (Tofranil®)

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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  • Behavioral disorders in dogs and cats are a common reason for pet owners to visit their veterinarian and a frequent cause of frustration for pet owners. Behavioral problems are also a common cause of euthanasia, especially when these problems involve unacceptable or dangerous animal behavior.
  • Currently, veterinarians are placing more emphasis on training and behavior modification of pets, and animal-behavior specialists have adopted drugs used in human-behavior treatment for animal use. Imipramine is one such drug.
  • Imipramine belongs to a general class of drugs known as tricyclic antidepressants. Other related drugs in this class include amitriptyline, nortriptyline, desipramine, and doxepin.
  • Imipramine increases brain levels of the nervous system messenger, or neurotransmitter, called serotonin. By increasing serotonin levels, behavior is modified.
  • Imipramine 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 (FDA) but may 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: Tofranil® (Geigy) and various generic preparations
  • Veterinary formulations: None

    Uses of Imipramine

  • Imipramine is primarily used to modify unwanted behaviors. Common behavior problems treated with imipramine include urinary incontinence (inability to control urination) and separation anxiety (abnormal canine behavior associated with separation from the owner).

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, imipramine causes side effects in some animals.
  • Imipramine should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Imipramine is not commonly used in animals, and perhaps for this reason, reports of adverse and toxic effects are scant. There are other approved drugs available for use in dogs for treatment of separation anxiety.
  • Imipramine may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with imipramine. Such drugs include barbiturates, tranquilizers, cimetidine and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
  • The most commonly reported adverse effect is sedation.

    How Imipramine Is Supplied

  • Imipramine is available as 10 mg, 25 mg, 50 mg, 75 mg, 100 mg, 125 mg and 150 mg tablets.
  • Imipramine is also available in a 12.5 mg/ml injectable form.

    Dosing Information

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • For dogs, imipramine is typically dosed at 1 to 2 mg per pound (2.2 to 4.4 mg/kg) one to two times daily.
  • The dose will vary, based on the type of behavior to be modified.
  • For cats, imipramine is dosed at 0.25 to 0.5 mg per pound (0.5 to 1 mg/kg) once or twice 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 to be feeling better, the entire treatment plan should be completed to prevent relapse.

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