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Electrocardiographic assessment of antianxiety medication in dogs and correlation with serum drug concentration

Marsha R. Reich DVM1, Dan G. Ohad DVM, PhD2, Karen L. Overall VMD, PhD, DACVB3, and Arthur E. Dunham PhD4
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Studies,School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.
  • | 2 Department of Cardiology,School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Studies,School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.
  • | 4 School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Department of Biology,School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.

Abstract

Objective—To determine effects of tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) on the ECG of dogs treated for behavioral conditions and to examine correlations between ECG findings and serum concentrations of these medications.

Design—Repeated-measures study.

Animals—39 client-owned dogs with behavioral problems.

Procedure—Two groups of dogs with behavioral problems were evaluated. In group 1 (n = 20), ECG tracings were recorded before starting treatment with TCA and again after treatment for ≥ 1 month. Dogs in group 2 were already on long-term maintenance amounts of antianxiety medication when ECG tracings were recorded and serum concentrations of medications were obtained.

Results—Significant differences were not detected for dogs in group 1 between ECG values measured before and after TCA administration. The ECG values for dogs in group 2 did not differ significantly from the mean of group-1 dogs before receiving medication or from the reference range used at our facility. Duration of the P wave had a significant positive correlation with serum concentrations of clomipramine but significant negative correlation with serum concentrations of amitriptyline. The QT interval corrected for heart rate had a significant negative correlation with serum concentrations of amitriptyline.

Conclusion and Clinical Relevance—Amitriptyline and clomipramine administered at standard dosages apparently do not cause ECG abnormalities in healthy dogs with behavioral problems. These medications should be used cautiously in dogs with conduction abnormalities, and clinicians should periodically monitor ECG and use good clinical judgment to weigh risks and benefits of medications for the safety of each dog. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216: 1571–1575)

Abstract

Objective—To determine effects of tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) on the ECG of dogs treated for behavioral conditions and to examine correlations between ECG findings and serum concentrations of these medications.

Design—Repeated-measures study.

Animals—39 client-owned dogs with behavioral problems.

Procedure—Two groups of dogs with behavioral problems were evaluated. In group 1 (n = 20), ECG tracings were recorded before starting treatment with TCA and again after treatment for ≥ 1 month. Dogs in group 2 were already on long-term maintenance amounts of antianxiety medication when ECG tracings were recorded and serum concentrations of medications were obtained.

Results—Significant differences were not detected for dogs in group 1 between ECG values measured before and after TCA administration. The ECG values for dogs in group 2 did not differ significantly from the mean of group-1 dogs before receiving medication or from the reference range used at our facility. Duration of the P wave had a significant positive correlation with serum concentrations of clomipramine but significant negative correlation with serum concentrations of amitriptyline. The QT interval corrected for heart rate had a significant negative correlation with serum concentrations of amitriptyline.

Conclusion and Clinical Relevance—Amitriptyline and clomipramine administered at standard dosages apparently do not cause ECG abnormalities in healthy dogs with behavioral problems. These medications should be used cautiously in dogs with conduction abnormalities, and clinicians should periodically monitor ECG and use good clinical judgment to weigh risks and benefits of medications for the safety of each dog. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216: 1571–1575)