You know the feeling...that queasy discomfort in the pit of your stomach...and whatever the cause, we don't have to tell you how awful it feels. Dry heaving. Stomach pains. Being sick is no fun for anyone, including your furry friends... And just like people, dogs and cats can experience nausea and vomiting for a number of reasons.
Luckily, experts in the veterinary field have realized that dogs and cats shouldn't have to face the unpleasant realities of acute vomiting any more than we should; thus, they have developed the drug, Cerenia® (Maropitant citrate). In this article, we'll cover all the important facts about the medication and how it may be able to help your pet through their bout of distress. We will also discuss the potential side effects, as well as alternatives you may want to consider. Let's get to it!
What is Cerenia (Maropitant citrate)
Cerenia is the first (and only) FDA-approved medication that veterinarians prescribe to treat vomiting in dogs and cats. Cerenia is also prescribed to prevent vomiting in dogs, resulting from motion sickness.
We will first discuss the ways in which Cerenia can help your dog and then move on to how your feline may also benefit from Cerenia. Although Cerenia serves as a treatment for vomiting in both dogs and cats, there are a few important differences that pet owners should understand.
Why is Cerenia Used in Dogs
When it comes to your canine, there are a few ways in which Cerenia can help to alleviate vomiting and nausea, as well as prevent the uneasiness even before it starts.
Cerenia for Motion Sickness
Many dog owners cannot bear the thought of leaving Fido behind as they travel the world. We understand, at Honest Paws, we are also dog owners and love taking our four-legged companions on every road trip possible. Unfortunately, some dogs don't necessarily love to travel as much as we might. In fact, studies show that an estimated one in five dogs suffers from motion sickness. In these cases, your veterinarian may prescribe Cerenia to ease the associated symptoms that may arise from traveling.
Signs of Motion Sickness in Dogs
Dogs aren't necessarily going to warn you before they throw up all over the back seat of the car. Furthermore, dogs are notorious for hiding pain and distress, which makes it even more difficult to foresee the messy event. With that being said, it is important to be aware of a few tell-tale signs of motion sickness in dogs.
Of course, the most obvious sign of motion sickness is vomiting. Many pet owners feel that if they withhold food (water should not be withheld) before a car ride, they can eliminate the possibility of vomiting. However, vomiting can occur even on an empty stomach.
Furthermore, vomiting is certainly not the only sign of motion sickness.
If you notice that your dog is drooling excessively, they are likely experiencing motion sickness. Additionally, dogs are highly sensitive animals and can show signs prior to the onset of active motion sickness. In some cases, the drooling may begin even before the car is moving, especially if the dog could anticipate what's in store.
Your dog may also begin dry heaving and/or panting once in the car. Again, this is a sign that can occur prematurely if your dog equates a car trip with feeling ill.
Many dogs will also show general signs of uneasiness, as well as a fear of cars. If your dog is whining, pacing, or showing that they are scared of what is to come, they are likely among the one in five dogs that experience the unfortunate signs of motion sickness.
Which Dogs Are Affected By Motion Sickness?
As we previously stated, studies show that one in five dogs experience motion sickness, yet many pet owners wonder whether or not their dog may be more prone to it. Unfortunately, there are no real ways to determine whether or not your dog may be more likely to experience motion sickness other than taking them for a car ride and finding out. All breeds are susceptible, as well as all ages and sizes.
Luckily, Cerenia has shown to effectively alleviate, as well as prevent nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness in dogs.
Acute Vomiting in Dogs
Veterinarians also prescribe Cerenia to alleviate acute vomiting in dogs. Acute or short-term vomiting can occur for a number of reasons (which we will discuss momentarily) and can alarm many pet owners. One reason veterinarians may prescribe Cerenia is to put a stop to the vomiting so that they are able to get to the bottom of whatever is causing it. Persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration and further gastrointestinal upset. Cerenia can help to alleviate the distress and prevent additional issues from arising, as well as provide comfort for your dog and peace of mind for you, the dog owner.
While there may be a slew of reasons why Fido may be vomiting, we want to cover a few of the most common. The more information you are able to provide your veterinarian, the quicker they will be able to accurately diagnose and treat the underlying reason for the acute vomiting.
Environmental toxicity and poisoning are among the most common reasons for sudden bouts of vomiting. Many dogs are known to be quite mischievous and get into things that can ultimately cause them harm. They are also equal opportunity eaters and are known to feast on just about anything. One of the first signs that your dog may have ingested something that they shouldn't have is sudden, acute vomiting.
While Cerenia may help reduce the bouts of vomiting, additional treatment will likely be necessary to rid the body of the poisonous toxin.
Additionally, if a new medication has been recently prescribed for your dog, acute vomiting may ensue as your dog's body adjusts. If this occurs, it is extremely important to make sure your veterinarian is aware of the reaction. Acute vomiting due to medications may also be a sign that your dog is having an allergic reaction or a negative interaction, in which case, administration of the drug should be stopped.
In many cases, vomiting is considered to be a non-specific sign of disease in dogs. Non-specific signs are those that may occur with many different underlying causes. For this reason, it is extremely important that your veterinarian rules out the possibility of disease to prevent additional issues from arising. While Cerenia can alleviate the signs of disease, it merely acts as a band-aid. It will not cure the disease.
Changes in Diet
While many dogs love to eat things they shouldn't, they can be very picky eaters when it comes to their own food. For this reason, dog owners find themselves constantly switching things up and adding variety to their pup's diet. However, if you find yourself doing this, it is imperative that you make the transition slowly! Switching up your dog's food too quickly can lead to acute vomiting that can be easily prevented.
Acute vomiting can also be a telltale sign of intestinal parasites. As you can see, while vomiting can be something that is a rather "easy fix," it can also be a major cause for concern. This is when Cerenia can help to alleviate the discomfort while your veterinarian uncovers the underlying issue at hand.
Finally, acute vomiting may occur as a result of different forms of stress, including separation anxiety. For some dogs, the idea of their owner leaving the house for any length of time can mean a full-on panic attack. The sad reality can leave many pet owners not knowing how to proceed (let alone have any semblance of a social life!). Luckily, in such cases, Cerenia can help.
What Else Should You Look For
Again, the more information you are able to provide your vet, the sooner they will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
If acute vomiting occurs, make sure you also look for whether the following additional signs are also present and let your vet know as soon as possible:
- Diarrhea (with or without blood)
- Blood in the vomit
- Excessive lethargy
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in behavior
- Changes in the urine or stool
Prevention of Vomiting Before Surgery
Cerenia also works to prevent vomiting prior to surgery in cases where opioids are used as a pre-anesthetic. In such cases, Cerenia is given prior to surgery and helps to prevent an adverse reaction to the opioids.
Cerenia Side Effects in Dogs
Like all conventional drugs, Cerenia does have potential adverse reactions that dog owners should be aware of.
While studies show that most dogs have no adverse reactions to the drug, the following side effects of Cerenia have been reported over the last 10 years:
- Lethargy and drowsiness
- Lack of appetite
- Excessive drooling
- Pain at the injection site (when it comes to the injectable form of Cerenia)
In terms of treating motion sickness in dogs, experts recommend giving the medication an appropriate "trial run" before committing to it for a long trip. The last thing that you want to do is rely on Cerenia to prevent vomiting, only to find that it causes other unpleasant side effects, such as diarrhea.
Additionally, Cerenia should not be administered to dogs under 16 weeks old or those who have pre-existing liver conditions. As always, it is extremely important to make sure that your veterinarian is aware of any allergies or pre-existing health issues before prescribing any new medication.
Administering Cerenia to Dogs
Cerenia can be administered to dogs in two forms: tablet and injectable form.
Cerenia Tablets for Motion Sickness
Unlike cats, dogs can take Cerenia tablets to prevent the associated symptoms of motion sickness. Experts recommend giving your dog the appropriate dosage of Cerenia 2 hours prior to getting into the car. Make sure to give the medication with a small amount of food to prevent an upset stomach. Dog owners can give Cerenia to their pup once a day for up to 2 days in a row for the prevention of motion sickness. As always, your veterinarian should be the one to tell you the exact dose that will suit your dog's individual needs.
Cerenia is also available in injection form for acute vomiting in both dogs and cats. The injection should only be administered by a trained veterinary professional.
Cerenia for Cats
Now, let's get into Cerenia for cats. While it can also be used to treat acute vomiting in cats, there are some notable differences from its administration in dogs.
Like its major benefit for our canine friends, Cerenia is also the one and only FDA approved medication to treat acute vomiting in cats.
Similar to dogs, vomiting in cats can be due to several reasons and can range in severity. It is very important to get to the bottom of what is causing your cat to have sudden, acute bouts of nausea and vomiting. While the underlying cause may be something mild, it could also be a sign of infection, disease, or parasites.
Vomiting: What Else to Look For
It is important for cat owners to give their veterinarian as much information as possible, in order to quickly diagnose and treat their cat's condition.
Cat owners must also take note of whether the following symptoms are present:
- Diarrhea or changes in the stool
- Persistent vomiting
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Decreased energy
How to Administer Cerenia for Cats: Cerenia Injectable
Cerenia for cats is only available as an injectable solution. It is imperative that pet owners who have both cats and dogs do not mistakenly give both animals the same medication, even if they are both experiencing the same symptoms. The Cerenia injectable should only be administered by a trained veterinary professional.
Cerenia Tablets = Not for Cats!
According to Cerenia's website, the tablets should not be given to cats. Cerenia tablets have only been approved for dogs, whereas the injection can be used for both cats and dogs. With that said, there are veterinarians who may still prescribe Cerenia tablets for cats. We just want you to be aware of what the manufacturer recommends. At the end of the day, you need to take the necessary precautions for the well being of your cat.
Cerenia Side Effects in Cats
The side effects of Cerenia in cats are comparable to those in dogs. However, because the only form of Cerenia that is safe for cats is the injectable, the main side effect is pain at the injection site.
Alternative Treatment Options for Dogs and Cats
While Cerenia for dogs and cats can effectively treat and prevent nausea and vomiting, it is certainly not the only option available to pet owners.
Preventing Motion Sickness in Dogs
When it comes to treating our four-legged friends, we truly believe that prevention is the best medicine. Keeping all of the aforementioned information in mind, we have some good news. There are ways to help prevent motion sickness in dogs.
Experts have found that the following approaches can do wonders for a dog prone to motion sickness.
- First, make sure that your dog feels secure. We recommend purchasing a safety seat for your dog so that they aren't sliding across your back seat with every turn. Additionally, if your dog is going to be sitting in the front passenger seat, make sure that the seat is buckled in as far away from the dashboard as possible. You may also want to consider disabling the passenger side airbag as it can potentially cause a significant amount of harm to your dog.
- Next, make sure that the car is kept cool during rides, regardless of the distance. Dogs can quickly become overheated (or hyperthermic) on car trips, particularly if they are experiencing symptoms of motion sickness. It is important to keep your dog as cool and comfortable as possible.
- Also, rolling down the windows a few inches will help to equalize both inside and outside air pressures.
- Experts also recommend limiting the amount of food given just before a car trip. Of course, if you are administering Cerenia 2 hours before, then it should be given with food.
- Next, treats and toys are key! You want to create positive associations with taking rides in the car. Many times, treats and your dog's favorite toy can make a great difference.
- Speaking of positive associations, take your dog on trips to places they enjoy, like the dog park. If a car trip always results in going to the vet, it's no wonder they aren't jumping for joy at the thought of it.
- Finally, start slowly. Ease your dog into the idea of a long car ride by starting off with short rides around the neighborhood that end up back home.
Cerenia: Not A Cure for Acute Vomiting
Again, we want to reiterate that using Cerenia to alleviate acute vomiting, would not cure the underlying condition at hand. Many pet owners want immediate relief for their pet's vomiting (which we totally understand); however, it is imperative that you treat the condition that is causing the vomiting to occur in the first place. Cerenia cannot cure something like intestinal parasites or renal disease. It is up to you and your veterinarian to get to the bottom of the bouts of acute sickness your dog or cat may be experiencing.
Cerenia: A Final Thought
At the end of the day, we can all agree that nausea and vomiting are no fun for anyone, including our beloved fur babies. Cerenia has been proven to make a substantial difference in the lives of many cats and dogs who experience sudden episodes of vomiting. With that said, we want you, our readers, to understand that while medication can certainly be useful, there are alternative ways to not only treat vomiting but also prevent it from occurring in the first place. The more you know about your options, the better equipped you can be at ensuring you make the best decisions for the wellbeing of your pets.
Petal Smart is a veterinarian who, after a brief stint in clinical practice, has been a medical, veterinary, and science editor for the past four years. She has edited hundreds of research studies that have been published in various academic journals, and more recently, she has been editing blog articles on pet health. She holds a DVM (Hons) from the University of the West Indies - St. Augustine. Her pets in the past have included dogs, fish, birds, and a turtle. At times, she also likes to think of herself as a horse whisperer. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.
*This article has been edited and updated for publication by Petal Smart, DVM.