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Oxymetazoline (Afrin®)

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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  • Oxymetazoline belongs to a class of drugs known as nasal decongestants. The drug works by stimulating receptors in blood vessels, leading to constriction (narrowing) of the small blood vessels within the nasal passages. This vessel constriction reduces blood flow and congestion within the nasal passages.
  • Oxymetazoline is used as a temporary nasal decongestant and should only be administered for no more than three days.
  • This drug is not approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration but it is prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.
  • Oxymetazoline is available over the counter but should not be administered unless under the supervision and guidance of a veterinarian.

    Brand Names and Other Names

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Afrin® (Schering-Plough)
  • Veterinary formulations: None

    Uses of Oxymetazoline

  • The primary use of oxymetazoline is for temporary treatment and relief of nasal congestion.
  • In animals, the drug is typically used to reduce symptoms associated with upper respiratory infections.

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, oxymetazoline can cause side effects in some animals.
  • Oxymetazoline should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Do not use oxymetazoline if there are any cuts, scratches or wounds on or around the nose.
  • Oxymetazoline should be avoided in animals with heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disorders or high blood pressure.
  • The most common adverse effects associated with oxymetazoline are burning of the nasal passages or a mild increase of nasal secretions following administration.
  • If used for longer than a few days, oxymetazoline may cause recurrence and worsening of the nasal congestion.
  • Particularly in cats, the taste of oxymetazoline may be unpleasant and often results in profuse drooling.

    How Oxymetazoline Is Supplied

  • Oxymetazoline is available in a 0.05 percent nasal spray or nasal pump.

    Dosing Information

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • Small-sized animals typically are dosed at one spray in each nostril twice daily.
  • For larger animals, two to three sprays per nostril, twice daily.
  • Do not exceed three sprays twice daily unless instructed by your veterinarian.
  • Oxymetazoline should not be administered for more than 3 days.

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