By Krista Williams, BSc, DVM, CCRP

What is clonidine?

Clonidine is a medication that is used to treat behavioral disorders, particularly anxiety or phobia-related, in dogs (e.g., separation anxiety, noise phobias, such as fireworks or thunderstorms, veterinary visits, hospitalization, and travel). It is frequently used as supplemental therapy in pets that do not respond to conventional therapies.

Its use in dogs to treat behavioral disorders is off-label. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off-label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

How is clonidine given?

Clonidine is given by mouth in the form of a tablet or liquid. It may be given with food or on an empty stomach. If your pet vomits or acts sick after receiving the medication on an empty stomach, try giving the next dose with food or a small treat.

This medication will take effect within one to two hours when used for short-term stress relief. For long-term treatment, it can take a few weeks before the full effects of the medication are observed. Dogs that are already nervous or agitated may show no effect with clonidine administration. Dogs should rest quietly before and after administration for better effect.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

Side effects in dogs are not well documented but are generally mild if present. Possible side effects include sedation, lethargy, agitation/excitation, aggression, and constipation. This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Clonidine is not recommended in pets with known hypersensitivity. This medication should be used with caution in pets with heart disease. This medication will transfer to the fetus and milk, so the risks of using this medication in pregnant and nursing pets versus the benefits will be considered carefully by your veterinarian.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following drugs should be used with caution when given with clonidine: antihypertensive drugs such as amlodipine, enalapril (Enacard®), benazepril (Fortekor®), and telmisartan (Semintra®), propranolol, diltiazem, barbiturates, opioids, digoxin, glucocorticoids, prazosin, and tricyclic antidepressants. 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?

Monitoring blood pressure as well as heart rate and rhythm is recommended with chronic use. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

How do I store clonidine?

Store this medication in the prescribed container at room temperature, protected from light.

What should I do in case of an emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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