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Dogs, cats and horses
May Be Prescribed by Vets for:
Tranquilization, sedation, anti-anxiety and anti-emetic.
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Acepromazine maleate is a phenothiazine derivative that is used as a neuroleptic agent in veterinary medicine. It is a commonly used tranquilizer for dogs, cats, and horses. Phenothiazines decrease dopamine levels and depress some portions of the reticular activating system. Acepromazine is metabolized by the liver and excreted in the urine.
In addition to tranquilization, acepromazine has multiple other important systemic effects including anti-cholinergic, anti-emetic, antispasmodic, antihistaminic, and alpha-adrenergic blocking properties. Acepromazine causes hypotension due to decreased vasomotor tone. It may change heart and respiratory rate and thermoregulatory ability allowing for either hypo- or hyper-thermia.
Acepromazine may be given intramuscularly, intravenously, or orally. It provides no analgesia and the tranquilizing effect of the drug can be overcome unexpectedly, particularly by sensory stimulation. Acepromazine usually is less effective if given after the animal is excited. There is a great deal of individual variability in the response to acepromazine and despite being a very commonly used medication there are important species and even breed differences in response to acepromazine that need to be taken into consideration (see precautions).
Acepromazine is one of the most commonly used tranquilizers for dogs and cats. It decreases anxiety, causes central nervous system depression, and a drop in blood pressure and heart rate. It may be used in conjunction with atropine as a pre-operative medication for anxiety and for its antidysrhythmic effects. Oral acepromazine may be prescribed to prevent motion sickness, to temporarily reduce itching and scratching due to allergies, or prior to office visits, nail trimming, or grooming appointments if the animal is too fractious to handle safely without sedation. Some veterinarians are reluctant to prescribe acepromazine for travel anxiety when the animal may be exposed to temperature extremes, such as during plane travel or when there may be limited access to veterinary care. Other drugs used for travel anxiety/motion sickness include meclizine, diphenhydramine, and diazepam. Occasionally, animals (particularly cats) may have a paradoxical response to acepromazine and become excited or aggressive.
Acepromazine is one of the most commonly used tranquilizers for horses. It may be used alone or in combination with other sedative drugs such as xylazine, detomidine, or butorphanol. Because acepromazine lowers blood pressure by dilating small blood-vessels, it sometimes is prescribed in the early treatment of laminitis in order to diminish vasospasm, and possibly to improve circulation within the hoof.
Acepromazine is also used in horses that are prone to exertional rhabdomyolysis both as a preventive and as a part of the treatment due to its vasodilatory properties. When acepromazine is used to treat more severe cases of exertional rhabdomyolysis, intravenous fluids may be desirable to increase hydration and to support renal function.
Onset of action of acepromazine varies with route of administration; oral acepromazine may take 30 minutes to one hour. The effects of acepromazine will last from one to four hours, but this varies significantly with dose and among individual horses. Acepromazine is a prohibited substance in most sanctioned competition. Oral administration or long-term, repeated dosing may increase detection time.
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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