By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is ephedrine?

Ephedrine (brand names: Akovaz®, Corphedra®) is a medication used to treat low blood pressure due to shock or anesthesia. It has also been used to treat certain types of urinary incontinence.

Its use in cats, dogs, and horses to treat low blood pressure or urinary incontinence is ‘off label’ or ‘extra 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 ephedrine given?

Ephedrine is given by injection in the hospital setting. It may also be available as a tablet, but do not use this form unless instructed by your veterinarian. This medication should take effect quickly, within 1 to 2 hours.

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?

The most common side effects include restlessness, fast heartbeat, and high blood pressure. Occasionally, lack of appetite may occur. Severe side effects include collapse, or coma.

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?

Ephedrine should not be used in pets that are allergic to it. Do not use ephedrine in pets with severe heart disease or abnormal heart rhythms. It should be used cautiously in pets with glaucoma, enlarged prostate, increased thyroid hormones, diabetes mellitus, general heart disease, or high blood pressure. Use cautiously in pets that are pregnant or nursing as safety has not been established; use a milk replacer if this medication is necessary in nursing pets.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with ephedrine: acepromazine, alpha-blockers, beta-blockers, cyclosporine, digoxin, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), sodium bicarbonate, sympathomimetic agents, reserpine, theophylline, tricyclic antidepressants, or urinary alkalinizers.

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?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working. Monitor your pet at home for serious side effects.

How do I store ephedrine?

Store this medication at room temperature and protect from light.

What should I do in case of 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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