Managing Motion Sickness in Dogs with Acepromazine

Acepromazine was once widely used as an antipsychotic drug, however its main purpose currently is for use as a sedative in dogs. Helping to quiet and calm anxious animals can alleviate symptoms of motion sickness when traveling in the car. This drug has strong anti-nauseal properties making it a good choice for use as a tranquilizer in this situation. Acepromazine works by modifying chemicals in a dog's brain to change behavior. It's believed that this drug blocks the receptors of dopamine, thereby depressing the central nervous system.

Use of Acepromazine

Acepromazine can be given orally, intravenously or by injection, with or without food. Some evidence is present to suggest that a better effect can be obtained through injection, as oral administration results in inconsistent absorption into the bloodstream, however for prevention of motion sickness, it is commonly given orally. This means that some dogs will experience heavy sedation while others may appear barely tranquilized. A loud noise or sudden motion may quickly jar the dog from sedation, and there is evidence that this drug may heighten the sense of hearing.

Acepromazine may also stabilize the heart rhythm helping to calm dogs that may be prone to such a degree of fear that they could actually experience a heart attack. This drug is long-lasting and under normal circumstances, should be expected to last between 6 and 8 hours. It has been reported that sedation is much more effective if given prior to an event causing anxiousness. Administer the medication at least 45 minutes to 1 hour prior to travel.

Concerns When Using Acepromazine

There are some things to keep in mind when deciding if acepromazine is a proper choice for you and your dog. Acepromazine dilates blood vessels which may lead to a decrease in blood pressure. If your dog has circulation issues, injuries or is in shock, this drug is not recommended. Other conditions which should avoid exposure to acepromazine are epilepsy, anemia and liver disease.

Certain breeds are particularly sensitive to the effects of this medication. These breeds include greyhound, whippet, saluki and wolfhound. There is some debate regarding adverse effects in boxers, as there have been reported cases of sudden death. For all of these breeds another form of sedation may be more appropriate. 

Side Effects of Acepromazine

Common side effects that may accompany use of acepromazine include hypotension and a slowing of breathing and heart rate. Unconsciousness, pale gums, decreased pulse rate or sudden collapse due to cardiovascular reaction may occur. Rarely, fatalities associated with this drug have been reported. Urine may appear pink several hours after use. Occasionally, acepromazine produces the opposite effect, therefore it should not be used to treat aggression in dogs.

Be aware that often the dog's third eyelid will appear when sedated. This is common but poses no additional problems. Aging dogs should avoid use of acepromazine, but if administration is necessary for an older dog, you may find typical results in a much smaller dose than is generally recommended.