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Naloxone (Narcan®)

By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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  • In veterinary medicine, it is sometimes necessary to administer a drug to reverse the effects of another drug.
  • Naloxone is such a drug. It may be used safely to reverse the effects of opiate drugs, such as morphine. Importantly, naloxone has no sedative or pain-controlling properties of its own.
  • Naloxone works by binding with and blocking opioid receptors.
  • Naloxone is an opiate antagonist.
  • Naloxone 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: Narcan® Injection (Endo labs) and various generic preparations
    Veterinary preparations: None

    Uses of Naloxone

  • Opioids, such as morphine, depress the respiratory system and can lower blood pressure. Naloxone is predominantly used to reverse such depressant effects. It has also been used to reverse other opiate-induced side effects, such as constipation and itchiness.
  • Naloxone is also used in the treatment of certain types of shock.
  • It is also sometimes used in the treatment for spinal/brain injury.

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, naloxone can cause side effects in some animals.
  • Naloxone should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Naloxone should be used with caution in animals with known heart abnormalities.
  • Naloxone may interact with other medications. Consult your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with naloxone. Such drugs include those containing bisulphate, metabisulphite and solutions with an alkaline pH.

    How Naloxone is Supplied

  • Naloxone is available in concentrations of 0.02 mg/ml, 0.4 mg/ml and 1 mg/ml in vials or ampules.

    Dosing Information

  • Naloxone is usually administered within a hospital setting.
  • It is dosed at 0.0075 to 0.02 mg per pound (0.015 to 0.04 mg/kg) subcutaneous, intramuscular, or intravenous.
  • For the treatment of shock, naloxone is dosed at 1 mg per pound per hour (2 mg/kg/hour) in dogs; 4 mg per pound per hour (8 mg/kg/hour) has been used successfully for this purpose in cats.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the medication and the development of any adverse effects.

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