The Side Effects of Amitriptyline (Elavil) in Dogs

Amitriptyline is prescribed to dogs to treat anxiety and other behavioral disorders. This medication should be administered with care because of the side effects associated with the medication. 

An Overview of Amitriptyline®

Amitriptyline is a tri-cyclic anti-depressant that helps increase the amount of serotonin in a dog's brain. Veterinarians will prescribe this medication to canines that have psychiatric problems such as separation anxiety, obsessive grooming or are afraid of loud noises. Amitriptyline is also prescribed to dogs with behavioral problems and should be used in conjunction with behavior training. This medication is also used to help treat neuropathic pain due to a nerve injury, chronic cystitis, chronic purities and skin irritations that cause a dog to itch.

Side Effects of Amitriptyline 

The main side effects seen with amitriptyline are sedation (extreme drowsiness), followed by dry mouth. Amitriptyline can cause a dog to salivate less, which will cause him to lick his lips a lot, feel thirstier, pant, have dry eyes and increase his water intake.

A dog may have an upset stomach or a loss of appetite while taking this medication. Amitriptyline can also cause a dog's blood pressure to lower, increase his heart rate, or alter his blood-sugar levels. Urine retention, constipation, headaches, slight behavior changes, nausea and weight gain have also been reported in dogs using amitriptyline.

In rare cases, a dog will faint after exercising or standing up, and can experience muscle weakness or stiffness while being treated with amitriptyline. Other serious side effects include seizures and heart problems. Dogs with a liver condition may not tolerate amitriptyline well as this medicine is filtered and removed through this organ.

Periodic blood tests will need to be done to check the condition of a dog’s liver. Other things a veterinarian will test for is indications of bone marrow suppression and a low platelet count. Amitriptyline can also cause endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism so a veterinarian may do a blood test to check a dog’s T3, T4 and TSH levels.

Side effects of amitriptyline can last for up to 7 days after treatment has stopped.

Other Precautions

Precautions should be made for dogs that are taking other medications that have also been prescribed amitriptyline. These medications include serotonin reuptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, anti-thyroid drugs, barbiturates, epinephrine and cimetidine. A dog's veterinarian should be made aware of all the medications a dog is taking, particularly pain killers, other anti-depressants, sedatives, muscle relaxants and antihistamines.

Dogs with liver problems, diabetes, that are pregnant, have seizure disorders or heart problems should not take amitriptyline. Dogs that have an allergic reaction to this medication should discontinue their use.

Amitriptyline can be a helpful medication to help a dog calm his nerves or learn to focus and behave better. The medicine should be given to a dog exactly as prescribed by a veterinarian. A pet owner also needs to make sure she keeps the scheduled follow-up appointments with the veterinarian to report how her dog is responding to the amitriptyline and to make sure the dog is tolerating the medication well.