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Acetylcysteine is a mucolytic drugs that is used in human medicine to thin respiratory secretions, particularly in patients with cystic fibrosis. It is also used in humans to treat acetaminophen toxicity. Acetylcysteine has a number of uses in veterinary medicine including: the treatment of acetaminophen toxicity in dogs and cats, intra-uterine treatment in mares, meconium impaction in foals, nebulization for foals in respiratory distress due to aspiration of milk or meconium, enemas for foals with severe meconium impaction, and topically in the eye for some types of corneal ulcers and keratonjunctivitis sicca (KCS).
Acetylcysteine is used intravenously and orally to treat acetaminohen toxicity. Acetaminophen is very toxic to dogs and particularly toxic to cats. They can develop severe liver damage and disruption of their red blood cells within hours of receiving acetaminophen. It is critically important to seek veterinary help as soon as possible, and in cases where a large quantity may have been consumed, your veterinarian may recommend starting with an intravenous dose of acetylcysteine.
Like many other drugs in veterinary medicine, this drug is not FDA approved for use in animals and is not available from a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer. Instead, it is compounded by a specialty pharmacy (What is compounding?).
Give this medication to your pet exactly as your veterinary prescribes. If you miss giving your pet a dose of acetylcysteine, give the next dose as soon as you remember or, if it close to the next scheduled dose, return to the regular schedule. Do not double dose to catch up.
Wash your hands after giving your pet this medication.
Be sure to discuss any side effects with your veterinarian immediately.
The most common side effects after oral administration include nausea, vomiting, and, rarely, generalized itching and rash. Oral acetylcysteine tastes terrible. In some cases, your veterinarian may start by administering through a stomach tube.
Side effects due to nebulization are rare but may include bronchoconstriction and ariway irritation.
Keep this and all drugs out of reach of children. This drug should only be given to the animal for which it was prescribed. Do not give this medication to a person. Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
Be sure to review with your veterinarian any medications or supplements your pet may be receiving.
Activated charcoal will decrease the absorption of oral acetylcysteine. In an acetominophen emergency, your veterinarian may choose to administer the charcoal orally and give the first dose of acetylcysteine intravenously.
If you suspect your pet or another animal was accidentally overdosed or has eaten this medication inadvertently, contact your veterinarian or the A.S.P.C.A.'s Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435. Always bring the prescription container with you when you take your pet for treatment.
If you or someone else has accidentally ingested this medication call the National Capital Poison Center at 800.222.1222.
Different strengths or dosage forms of acetylcysteine may have different storage requirements. Read the labeling or ask your pharmacist for the storage requirements of the prescription you receive.
Wedgewood Pharmacy, located in Swedesboro, New Jersey, is one of the nation's largest compounding pharmacies. We fill prescriptions for compounded medications for veterinary and human-health patients. All medications dispensed from Wedgewood Pharmacy require a prescription from a licensed prescriber. We ship throughout the United States.
Why might your physician or veterinarian prescribe a compounded medication for you or your pet? Compounded medications are prescribed when the practitioner determines that the appropriate treatment is not otherwise available from a pharmaceutical manufacturer or is not available in the strength, dosage form, flavor, or package size the practitioner thinks is necessary for treatment. When your physician or veterinarian calls a prescription into a compounding pharmacy, a pharmacist prepares a medication that meets the individual needs of you or your pet. To learn more about compounding, and when compounded medications might be prescribed, please visit Patients and Professionals for Customized Care
Dr. Barbara Forney is a veterinary practitioner in Chester County, Pennsylvania. She has a master's degree in animal science from the University of Delaware and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1982.
She began to develop her interest in client education and medical writing in 1997. Recent publications include portions of The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat, and most recently Understanding Equine Medications published by the Bloodhorse.
Dr. Forney is an FEI veterinarian and an active member of the AAEP, AVMA, and AMWA.
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This content is intended for counseling purposes only. This content is informational/educational and is not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or patient. No claims are made as to the safety or efficacy of mentioned preparations. The compounded medications featured in this content have been prescribed and/or administered by prescribers who work with Wedgewood Pharmacy. You are encouraged to speak with your prescriber as to the appropriate use of any medication. Wedgewood Pharmacy’s compounded veterinary preparations are not intended for use in food and food-producing animals. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.