If your veterinarian has prescribed Acepromazine for your dog, you might be worried and wondering whether it’s a safe option.
People have strong feelings about the safety of this drug and, unfortunately, some have had unpleasant experiences.
Some of their stories can be alarming, but remember that they’re anecdotal. There could be many underlying reasons why their dog had unexpected side-effects.
Calculating a safe acepromazine dosage for dogs is important for a number of reasons. Too little and it may not work. Too much and it may cause excessive sedation, slow down your dog’s breathing and heart rate, and possibly cause unconsciousness, seizures, and death.
Under normal circumstances, and when dosed appropriately, acepromazine maleate is considered safe for dogs.
This post will help you determine a safe acepromazine dosage for dogs. You’ll also learn why the medication is prescribed, situations when the medication might not be safe and common side-effects to watch for.
What is Acepromazine Used for in Dogs
Acepromazine maleate is a tranquilizer that can last several hours. Although it has the effect of relaxing dogs, it’s not necessarily good at relieving anxiety. In other words, the dog’s body looks relaxed but the dog’s mind may still be over-stimulated.
It’s main use is as a pre-anesthetic or to chemically restrain a dog for his safety and the safety of others. Of course, there are other reasons why a veterinarian might prescribe acepromazine, including the following:
Read next: Dog Tranquilizers – What You Need to Know
Acepromazine for Motion Sickness in Dogs
Your veterinarian may have prescribed acepromazine for motion sickness and that’s because of the drug’s antiemetic properties. Antiemetics work by triggering certain neurotransmitters in the body. In other words, they work on the impulses that trigger things like nausea and vomiting.
Allergies, Itching, and Acepromazine
Acepromazine is occasionally prescribed as a temporary stop-gap to reduce severe itching due to allergies in dogs. The reason for this might be to give a secondary infection (caused by excessive itching) time to heal or for short-term, seasonal allergies.
Relieving Anxiety with Acepromazine
Acepromazine has been prescribed for dogs with intense fears including the fear of fireworks, thunder, loud noises, etc. There’s some controversy with this because it’s thought the drug may sedate the body but not necessarily the mind.
If your dog suffers from anxiety of any type, there may be alternatives to consider.
Alternatives might include:
- Other medications including meclizine, diphenhydramine, or diazepam
- Relax & Roll Supplement Bars
- Thundershirt for dogs
The use of acepromazine to sedate a dog prior to surgery is complicated and typically involves the use of other medications to off-set any unwanted side-effects.
Hypotension (low blood pressure) appears to be the biggest concern when using acepromazine for pre-anesthesia sedation.
When used as a sedative prior to surgery, acepromazine is injected in small doses and sometimes combined with an opiate.
Using acepromazine prior to surgery can help reduce the need for higher doses of anesthetic agents.
To Enhance the Effects of Other Drugs
In a post-operative setting, acepromazine (used in small doses) can enhance the effects of pain relievers.
Is Acepromazine Really Safe for Dogs?
Any prescribed (or over-the-counter) drug has the potential to induce side-effects.
A good veterinarian should always choose the best medication for the situation and that includes assessing whether the side-effect risks outweigh the benefits.
Acepromazine isn’t taken on an ongoing basis and is typically used on an as-needed basis.
Your veterinarian may have deemed it safe for your dog at the time of prescribing it.
If you’ve had the drug in the cabinet for a while and you’re thinking about giving some to your dog, be aware that just because it was safe for your dog back then, doesn’t mean it’s safe right now.
The best place to get unbiased information on acepromazine and what it can do is through a textbook like Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook.
Situations When Acepromazine Might Not Be Safe
If your dog has developed chronic conditions like heart disease, liver disease, or has hit his/her senior years, the medication may have unintended consequences.
New medications or underlying conditions could have a dramatic impact on the safety of the drug.
Other situations in which acepromazine may cause more harm than good include:
- Dogs with very low blood pressure
- Dogs with epilepsy or a history of seizures
- Heart Disease
- Acepromazine in certain breeds like boxers (and other brachycephalic breeds) may be dangerous. These flat-nosed breeds may not be able to tolerate slowed respiration.
- Collie-type breeds are thought to have a genetic mutation that may make them more sensitive to side-effects.
Side-Effects of Acepromazine in Dogs
Not all dogs will have obvious side-effects and some dogs may have more severe side-effects than others.
- Over Sedation
- Low Blood Pressure
- Slow Heart Rate
- Depressed respiration
The Following are Some Alternatives You Might Try:
- Weighted Vests for anxiety.
- Regular exercise that is appropriate for the dog breed and size.
- Nutritious food and weight control.
- Engage in regular play with the dog.
- Regularly grooming a mildly anxious dog can help lower and relieve symptoms and provide a bonding experience for you and the dog.
- Holistic calming treats available at most pet stores work great for short-term stress. Note: Might not be appropriate for some dogs.
- Gauging your reaction to stress. Dogs pick up on your energy and vibe. If you are demonstrating signs of anxiety and stress, it will be very hard to work with your dog to bring their levels down.
- Moderate and frequent anxiety may need a full examination by the veterinarian to rule out underlying disease. Certain conditions like pre-diabetes and thyroid disease, for example, could be causing some of the problem.
- Fear biting and fear aggression may not be something you can deal with on your own. In some cases, working with a canine behaviorist is the best way to work with your dog.
- Gradual desensitization to the anxiety triggers may help. It might also remove the need to prescribe acepromazine for dogs. Again, working with a professional in the beginning may be the best option.
- Antidepressants in combination with behavioral therapy is something to think about. You would need a prescription from the veterinarian for this. Keep in mind that all medications have some side-effects. It takes a while for the medication to work, but when it does, it might allow you to work with the dog’s relaxed mind until he/she is better able to handle stressful situations. It is possible to successfully wean dogs from antidepressants.
Safe Acepromazine Dosage for Dogs
If administering acepromazine as a sedative for fear-inducing situations, it’s thought to work best when given approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour before the event. You can expect the sedative effect to last for several hours
According to Medi-Vet.com, acepromazine (only sold to licensed veterinarians and pharmacies) dosage is calculated based on the dog’s weight and whether the medication is being given orally or by injection.
Safe Acepromazine Dosage for Dogs Via Injection
It’s unlikely that you will be in a position to give your dog injections of acepromazine. If the veterinarian prescribes this for short-term use, you would likely be administering the drug orally (tablets).
Acepromazine can be used via injection directly into the muscle (intramuscular), into a vein (intravenous) or under the skin (subcutaneously).
When given as an injection, the dosage typically decreases as the weight of the animal increases.
Acepromazine Dosage for Dogs via Tablet
A safe acepromazine dosage for dogs is calculated based on the amount of sedation required given the circumstances and the size of your dog.
Generally speaking, dosing is calculated as 0.25 – 1.0 mg/lb of body weight.
Keeping Your Dog Safe and Healthy
At the end of the day we all want our dogs to be happy, safe, and healthy.
Never give your dogs medication that’s been sitting in the medicine cabinet for a long time without the veterinarian’s okay.
Remember that a safe acepromazine dosage for your dog six months ago might not be safe anymore.
Any underlying conditions that may have developed, the use of supplements, or other medication your dog is now on could affect how well the medication works and may throw off the dosage.
Plan ahead for holidays and car trips when you suspect your dog will find it stressful.
By planning ahead you can have your dog seen by a veterinarian for a reassessment.
You can discuss whether acepromazine is still an option or whether there might be something else being used successfully.
Once again, don’t stress out over the number of personal horror stories regarding acepromazine.
Some dogs may very well have had bad or serious side-effects, but the truth is that when you have a good licensed veterinarian who is familiar with your dog’s health background, you’re in good hands. Never hesitate to ask questions or suggest other possible treatments.
If your dog has begun acepromazine, you can probably except him/her to be a little groggy and possibly a little clumsy.
Make sure your dog is safely inside, in a crate, or cordoned off to a safe place in your home. Baby gates are perfect gadgets to keep your dog safe in an enclosed space.
I want to thank you for reading this post. Please remember that these are very general guidelines and are only to be used for information.
Take the information you have and talk to your veterinarian about a plan to keep your dog happy, healthy and side-effect free.
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