Reasons for the use of sedatives would include the following:
- Travelling and/or flying
- Bad weather e.g. thunder
- Guy Fawkes
- Parlour treatment
- Bringing difficult animals to the vet
- Moving house (especially for cats)
It must be remembered that these drugs are sedatives and not anaesthetics. Their effects are thus limited. You cannot expect them to do what a full anaesthetic would do.
Sedations can be divided into two groups: those that reduce anxiety and calm the mind (which would include natural or herbal remedies) and those that simply cause muscle relaxation and sleepiness. The latter has little effect on reducing the anxiety of an animal in a stressful situation. Some sedations are therefore used alone and some in combination with others.
The choice of sedatives would depend on the following:
- The age of the animal
- The period for which the sedation is needed
- The reason for sedation i.e. noise phobias, travelling, aggression etc.
- The weight of the animal
- Existing medical conditions
- The normal personality/behaviour of the animal i.e. nervous, aggressive, hyperactive or relatively calm
- Lastly in the case of travelling where car sickness plays a role
Adverse side effects and considerations to take into account:
- Drugs are normally broken down and excreted through the kidneys and liver. In cases where these organs are compromised we would strongly discourage their use. This would include the very young and the very old.
- Certain drugs may cause poor circulation and depression of the respiratory system. Care should be taken when given to short-nosed dogs like Boxers, Bulldogs, Persian cats and animals with heart conditions.
- Certain drugs can bring on seizures in epileptic animals. Make sure to tell your vet if your dog has a history of seizures.
- Some sedatives can also interfere with temperature regulation in the body, in other words animals can’t warm up in cool temperatures or cool down in warm temperatures. This is normally a problem when travelling with pets in mid-summer.
Sedatives are all scheduled drugs. The use of these drugs is thus controlled.
Written by Sr Adri Nel