By Kayla Hyland, DVM; Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is amitraz?

Amitraz (brand name: Mitaban®) is a topical treatment primarily used to treat demodicosis, a type of mange. It is also used as a topical treatment for flea and tick infestations in dogs (brand names: Preventic®, Certifect®, Taktic®).

It is occasionally used as a general insecticidal and to treat sarcoptic mange in dogs. It is used off label to treat demodicosis in cats and small mammals (chinchillas, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, and rats).

How does the drug work?

While this medication begins working within 1-2 hours, it can take several months of topical treatments before the complete resolution of demodectic mange, and in chronic cases, it can take longer. Treatment must continue for 30 days after 2 consecutive negative skin scrapes are obtained.

How is amitraz given?

Amitraz for demodicosis is applied topically as a bath or dip, and this is typically done by a veterinary professional. When preparing the dilute dip, protect your exposed skin with rubber gloves and wash any areas of skin that contact the solution. Do not stress your pet for at least 24 hours after application of the dip. Flush unused solution down the drain, rinse the container, and wrap the container in newspaper before placing in the trash. Avoid inhalation of vapors.

For treating flea and tick infestations, it is applied topically in the form of a topical spot-on solution or as a collar that is worn around the neck. Wrap the used container or collar in newspaper before throwing away.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

Give the missed dose as soon as you remember and then wait the recommended amount of time between doses. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

The most common side effect is sedation. Other possible side effects include incoordination while walking, slow heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, low body temperature, and a temporary high blood sugar. Rarely, seizures may occur. Swelling, redness, and itchiness of the skin may occur at the site of application. The spot-on treatment has been associated with a pemphigus foliaceous-like disease (itchy, painful blisters).

To avoid eye irritation, apply an ophthalmic protectant such as a petroleum jelly-based ointment around the eyes prior to treatment.

The effects of this long-acting medication can last for 4 to 6 weeks, but most adverse side effects only last 24 to 72 hours after administration.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Amitraz should not be used in puppies less than 4 months old. Use caution in small-breed, debilitated, or geriatric dogs, as the side effects may be more severe; a half dose should be considered for these cases. Amitraz should be used with caution in patients with diabetes, as it can affect glucose levels.

Safety studies are lacking in pregnant and breeding animals, so it should be avoided or used only if the benefits outweigh the risks. Dogs with deep pyodermas, especially if they include draining tracts, should be treated with antibiotics and shampoo therapy prior to amitraz dips.

Amitraz is toxic to cats and rabbits at certain doses. Although cats have been successfully treated with very dilute amitraz solutions, use in cats with caution.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

Drugs that suppress the immune system should not be used in dogs with demodicosis, such as corticosteroids, azathioprine, and cyclophosphamide. Antidepressants, such as MAO inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants, should not be used with amitraz. Examples of these drugs include selegilline and clomipramine.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this medication?

Monitor for any side effects or for prolonged sedation and contact your veterinarian if this occurs. Your veterinarian will monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working by repeating skin scrapes throughout the treatment.

How do I store amitraz?

Amitraz should be stored in the original bottle at room temperature. Protect from light and store away from open flames or other heat sources, as the concentrated medication is flammable.

What should I do in case of emergency?

While animals may exhibit signs of sedation, contact your veterinary office if your pet cannot be aroused from sleep or if the sedation lasts for more than 72 hours.

Amitraz is toxic if swallowed, especially in the form of a collar, so contact your veterinary office immediately if this occurs. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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