Medication - Amitriptyline (Elavil Rx)


Amitriptylline (Elavil Rx)

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, First off let me say that your column has been a valuable source of information, as well as interesting reading. We have a 7 month old mixed breed dog "Angel" which we adopted from our local animal shelter. She has good overall health, only vet visits have been for vaccinations, spaying, and allergies. However, we have always had a problem with separation anxiety which has gotten worse over the last month. Originally , her behavior would include crying, whining, barking and occassional property destruction when we left her alone. Lately, however, she not only exhibits her prior behaviors, but she now salivates excessively when we leave. We took her to our vet and explained the symptoms and they concurred that she is suffering from separation anxiety. They gave us training suggestions similar to tthe ones you have in your column and also prescribed Elavil. My question is: What, if any are the side effects of this medication in dogs. Our vet didn't have much information on that and the pharmacist was useless. Any information would be helpful. Thank you so very much. Lisa

A: Lisa- The most common side effect of amitriptylline (Elavil Rx) is sedation. Some dogs also experience "dry mouth" effects from a decrease in salivation and sometimes increase their drinking, which may be an effort to combat this effect. Low blood pressure (hypotension) is possible when using amitriptylline, as well. In severe instances, this could lead to symptoms like fainting when getting up or after exercise. Constipation and urine retention have been seen in some pets on amitriptylline. Serious side effects include seizure induction and blockage of conduction in the heart but these seem to pretty rare. I have not seen either one of these effects and we have used amitriptylline for several years in our clinic.

Hope this helps.

Mike Richards DVM

Thunderstorm Anxiety -amitriptyline with diazepam

Q: Dear Dr. Mike, A friend of mine has told me she has heard of a "new" medication for use on dogs with thunderstorm fears. I am familiar only with acepromazine and other tranquilizers which must be given 30 to 60 minutes before the storm. She said it is called something like "eltriplomean" or at least sounds like that. I cannot find anything on the internet because I am probably mis-spelling it. She said it has to be given to the dog daily for it to build up an immunity in its system over a 4 to 6 week period. Sounds quite strange to me, but if there is such a drug available, might be worth using for owners with dogs with this problem during the summer months. I have a boarding kennel and have probably a dozen or so dogs during the summer who have this phobia. We have always treated with tranquilizers the owners bring from their own vets. Are you familiar with anything like this? Thanks, Betsey

A: You are probably referring to amitriptyline (Elavil Rx) which is used in conjunction with diazepam (Valium Rx) or other anti-anxiety medications for thunderstorm phobias. It is used daily during the thunderstorm season and when storms actually occur diazepam is given as well, if needed. We have used this combination and it works better than most things for thunderstorms but it is not effective in all dogs. My guess is that it is helpful enough to satisfy the client in about 50 to 60% of thunderstorm phobia cases.

Mike Richards DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...