Separation anxiety is a serious issue that affects many dogs. This type of anxiety can be managed using multi-modal therapy which may consist of medications such as Clomicalm®. Knowing whether or not Clomicalm® may be an option for your dog, how this drug works, and what potential side effects you may see is helpful if your dog experiences separation anxiety.
What Does Clomicalm® Do?
Clomicalm® is the brand name for a drug called clomipramine hydrochloride. In humans, this drug is branded as Anafranil™ and is known as a tricyclic antidepressant. It is in the dibenzazepine class of drugs and works by increasing serotonin in the brain by binding to the serotonin uptake receptor. This helps to create happiness or overall positive emotions in dogs and may help those that excessively bark, inappropriately eliminate or soil the house, exhibit destructive behaviors, or have other symptoms of separation anxiety.
Clomicalm® is to be used as part of a multi-modal treatment plan for separation anxiety that includes behavioral modification such as training, pheromones, supplements, and wearable calming solutions like the Thundershirt®. It comes as an oral tablet in a 5, 20, 40, or 80 mg strength in order to appropriately dose variously sized dogs and is best absorbed when given with food. It is a prescription medication so it must be prescribed by a veterinarian.
What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Separation anxiety occurs in dogs when they are separated from their owners. Anxiety, fear, and stress occurs because of this separation and the result is often destructive or annoying behavior. Chewing on door frames, destroying furniture, urinating or defecating in the house, and excessive barking are common signs of separation anxiety. It can have varying degrees of severity and be difficult to manage but with persistance and appropriate behavioral management approaches it can be treated.
Side Effects of Clomicalm® in Dogs
Clomicalm® has reported side effects that most commonly include vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhea with vomiting occurring in 20% of the dogs that received it in the product's safety study. Less commonly, a decrease in appetite, an increase in water intake, increased liver enzyme levels, and hepatobiliary disease have been reported. On rare occasions, growling behavior, seizures, dry mouth, tremors, constipation, an increase in urination, a change in the size of one pupil in the eye, and an increase in body temperature have been reported. In the event of an overdosage, seizures, stumbling, heart beat issues, and vocalizations may occur.
Considerations Before Using Clomicalm® for Dogs
Clomicalm® is not recommended for dogs that have known aggression issues or those that have a sensitivity to other tricyclic antidepressant medications such as amitryptilline. Diagnostic tests should be performed to rule out underlying diseases before starting Clomicalm® and it should not be used in breeding male dogs since it may shrink testicles if given at high doses. Clomicalm® should also not be administered to dogs before they are at least six months old.
Dogs that have a history or seizures, heart disease, increased eye pressure, glaucoma, urinary retention issues, decreased gastrointestinal motility, and liver disease are not recommended to take Clomicalm®. Pregnant and lactating female dogs have not been studied for Clomicalm® safety. Finally, if a dog is taking anticholinergenic, sympathomimetic, CNS-active, MAOI inhibiting, or seizure threshold lowering drugs, Clomicalm® is often not advised to be given.
Other Therapies for Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Separation anxiety often requires more than just a drug like Clomicalm®. For example, training techniques are often necessary alongside Clomicalm® to help a dog with separation anxiety to help it learn that it is alright if its owner leaves the home. Trainers often need to visit the home to see exactly what happens when your dog experiences separation anxiety and can then help formulate a plan to desensitize your dog to your departure. Calming diets and supplements containing ingredients that may reduce anxiety and stress are also often used as part of a multi-modal treatment plan for separation anxiety. Additionally, pheromones can be sprayed or diffused into a home to help produce a calming sensation and pressure wraps like the Thundershirt® can be worn to increase your dog's feelings of security.
If your dog is experiencing symptoms of separation anxiety, talk to your veterinarian to see what options may work best for it. Separation anxiety can be a difficult behavior to manage but thankfully there are ways you can treat it.