Cerenia is a commonly prescribed medication used to treat and prevent vomiting and nausea in dogs. It can provide much-needed relief for dogs suffering from motion sickness, chemotherapy side effects, and other stomach issues.
However, some dog owners have concerns about the safety of Cerenia after seeing reports of Cerenia-related fatalities. So, can Cerenia actually cause death in dogs? Let’s take a detailed look at the risks and side effects associated with this medication.
What is Cerenia?
Cerenia is the brand name for maropitant citrate, a medication used to prevent vomiting and treat nausea in dogs. It works by blocking certain neurotransmitters in the brain that trigger vomiting. Cerenia comes in tablet or injectable form and is commonly prescribed for:
- Motion sickness – Cerenia is often given before travel to prevent car sickness or sea sickness.
- Chemotherapy – It helps control nausea and vomiting after cancer treatment.
- Post-surgery – Vomiting can be a side effect of anesthesia, so vets may prescribe Cerenia after operations.
- Chronic vomiting – For dogs who vomit persistently due to inflammatory bowel disease or other issues.
When given correctly, Cerenia can bring rapid relief from vomiting and nausea within 1-2 hours. It is usually well-tolerated with minimal side effects for most dogs.
Is Cerenia Safe?
Cerenia is generally considered very safe when given at the prescribed dose. The most common side effects are mild lethargy and diarrhea. More serious adverse reactions are possible but quite rare.
According to the FDA approval trials, Cerenia tablets have been shown to be well tolerated in dogs, with vomiting, inappetence, and diarrhea as the most common side effects. The injectable form may occasionally cause pain or swelling at the injection site.
Millions of doses of Cerenia have been administered to dogs worldwide since 2006 with very few reported major problems. However, as with any medication, there are some risks and cautions to be aware of.
Can Cerenia Cause Death in Dogs?
There have been some concerning reports of dogs dying shortly after receiving Cerenia. Autopsies often show no obvious cause of death. Does this mean Cerenia is directly responsible? Let’s analyze if and how Cerenia could potentially contribute to death in dogs:
1. Underlying Health Issues
Most alleged Cerenia-linked deaths involved dogs already suffering from advanced cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, or some other serious medical disorder. Many were in an end-of-life state or in very poor health before receiving Cerenia.
So it’s possible Cerenia played no direct role in these deaths – and the dogs passed away from the progression of their underlying condition. However, Cerenia’s side effects may have worsened their overall state and indirectly led to their demise.
2. Drug Interactions
Cerenia is known to interact with some other medications. If given concurrently, it can cause dangerously elevated drug levels in the body. For example, combining Cerenia with certain antidepressants, sedatives, or heart medications (like digoxin) can be hazardous.
Vets may accidentally prescribe incompatible meds together, inadvertently creating a life-threatening drug interaction. Always fully disclose ALL medications your dog takes to avoid problems.
3. Improper Dosing
A frequently cited reason for Cerenia-associated fatalities is accidental overdose. Cerenia dosage is based on the dog’s body weight – a larger dose than appropriate can cause toxicity. Errors in prescribing, dispensing, or administering an overdose could be catastrophic.
However, most vets are very careful to double check weight-based dosing to prevent medication mishaps. So while possible, overdose may not completely explain alleged Cerenia deaths.
4. Hypersensitivity Reactions
Rarely, dogs may experience anaphylaxis – a life-threatening allergic reaction triggered by a medication. The trachea and throat swell rapidly, blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Cerenia is considered a very low risk for allergic reaction but it remains a possibility.
5. Misdiagnosis of Underlying Cause
When a sick dog dies soon after receiving Cerenia, it’s easy to point the finger at Cerenia as the cause. However, the medication may be unfairly blamed when something else is responsible.
For example, a dog with untested, advanced heart disease may die from heart failure shortly after starting Cerenia. It’s coincidental timing – but Cerenia gets suspected as the culprit. A necropsy is the only way to confirm whether Cerenia contributed or not.
The bottom line is that while Cerenia does carry some risks like any drug, deaths specifically due to Cerenia appear extremely rare. Most alleged cases likely involve pre-existing health problems, errors in administration, or another underlying cause. Death is not a reported side effect with proper use.
Precautions and Contraindications for Cerenia Use
While Cerenia seems generally safe for most dogs, there are some important precautions to follow:
- Carefully check the dosage and administer it precisely.
- Avoid in very young, old, or debilitated dogs who may tolerate side effects poorly.
- Monitor for adverse reactions like lethargy, decreased appetite, or facial swelling.
- Use with caution alongside other medications; watch for drug interactions.
- Confirm Cerenia is not contraindicated for any health conditions your dog has.
- Report any concerns or reactions to your veterinarian immediately.
Cerenia should also be avoided in certain situations per the FDA label:
- Dogs with known Cerenia hypersensitivity.
- Animals with hepatic impairment or severe kidney insufficiency.
- Puppies less than 2 months old or dogs less than 2 lbs body weight.
- Concurrent use of drugs associated with QT interval prolongation (certain heart medications).
Talk to your vet about any precautions needed if your dog falls into one of these categories before using Cerenia.
See also: How to Calm Down a Horny Dog?
Is Cerenia Ever Necessary? Alternative Options
While Cerenia can be very helpful for preventing acute nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness, it may not always be essential. Some veterinarians use Cerenia liberally as it is an easy, convenient medication for controlling vomiting. Others prefer to reserve its use for cases when it’s critically needed to avoid unnecessary medication exposure.
There are a number of alternative options that can be tried first before turning to Cerenia:
- Dietary modifications – Bland diets, smaller meals, probiotics, and supplements can improve upset stomachs.
- Antacids – Neutralizing stomach acidity can relieve nausea. Pepcid, Tagamet, or Carafate help many dogs.
- Anti-nausea supplements – Natural supplements like ginger, chamomile, and CBD have anti-emetic effects.
- Acupuncture – This non-drug therapy can control nausea and vomiting quite well in dogs.
- Behavioral training – Desensitization and calming signals can prevent motion sickness in some dogs.
Discuss if these kinds of therapies are possibilities before deciding if Cerenia is truly warranted. The benefits and potential risks should always be carefully weighed. Have an open dialogue with your vet on when Cerenia use is essential – and when alternative approaches could be reasonable.
Warning Signs to Watch For With Cerenia
While most dogs tolerate Cerenia without issues, be vigilant for any of these signs of a reaction:
- Excessive lethargy, tiredness, or lack of energy
- Decreased or no appetite
- Vomiting, diarrhea, or dark stool
- Facial swelling or hives
- Difficulty breathing
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Yellowing of gums, skin, or eyes
- Collapse or loss of consciousness
If you notice any unusual symptoms following Cerenia administration, call your vet or seek emergency vet care right away. Prompt action is crucial if a dog is having an adverse drug reaction.
Ask Your Vet These Key Questions About Cerenia
If your vet recommends Cerenia for your dog, have an open discussion to determine if it’s the right medication in your pet’s situation. Here are some important questions to ask:
- Is there an underlying health issue causing the vomiting that needs to be addressed?
- Would any alternative treatments be appropriate to try first?
- What dosage of Cerenia is safe based on my dog’s exact body weight?
- Does my dog take any other medications that could interact with Cerenia?
- Are there any contraindications or precautions I should know about?
- What are the side effects or adverse reactions I need to watch for?
- When should I call you if I notice any concerning symptoms?
- Could you please explain the risks and benefits for my specific dog?
Don’t hesitate to speak up with any concerns or hesitation you have about using Cerenia. Your vet should take the time to address all your worries and explain their recommendation fully.
Cerenia can be a very useful drug for controlling vomiting and nausea episodes in dogs when used properly. It provides fast-acting relief with minimal side effects for most patients. However, as with all medications, there are some potential risks to be aware of like drug interactions, dosing errors, and hypersensitivity.
Alleged links between Cerenia and dog fatalities appear quite rare according to existing evidence. But take precautions like carefully monitoring your dog, reporting any reactions promptly, and having open dialogue with your vet about the pros and cons of use. With judicious use under veterinary guidance, Cerenia offers important relief to dogs suffering from unpleasant nausea and vomiting symptoms.
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