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Cats and Dogs
May Be Prescribed by Vets for:
Cats: Behavioral medicine, pruritus, idiopathic lower urinary tract disease
Dogs: Behavioral medicine, pruritus, neuropathic pain
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Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant drug (TCA). The name of the licensed human-drug is Elavil. TCA drugs have their largest effects on serotonin receptors, norepinephrine receptors, some adrenergic receptors, and some histamine receptors. Amitriptyline is a relatively nonspecific TCA. It has antihistaminic, anticholinergic, anti-alpha-adrenergic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and sedative actions.
Some of the other TCA drugs have greater activity on serotonin receptors. Based on studies in laboratory animals, amitriptyline does not affect either memory or learning ability. The active metabolite of amitriptyline is nortriptyline. Nortriptyline is an option for some animals that experience too much sedation with the parent compound.
Cats: Amitriptyline is commonly used for cats that spray or exhibit inappropriate elimination behaviors. It is used for either the victim or the aggressor for nonspecific anxiety due to social hierarchy. It is also used in the treatment of idiopathic feline urinary tract disease although this use is somewhat controversial due to the lack of controlled studies.
There are some issues with palatability in the cat, particularly for those animals on long term treatment. Transdermal patches are available and may be useful when oral medication is not possible or practical. It should be noted that in at least one study, the plasma levels of amitriptyline were undetectable with transdermal applications.
Dogs: Amitriptyline is used for the treatment of separation anxiety, pruritus, and neuropathic pain. Clomipramine is more commonly used for the treatment of separation anxiety and stereotypic behaviors because it has a higher specificity for serotonin receptors and is FDA approved for this use. Amitriptyline has sufficient anti-histamine properties to be used as an adjunctive treatment for pruritic dogs. There are also citations in the literature of use in dogs with osteoarthritis.
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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