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Treating Behavior Problems in Cats

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Tricyclic Antidepressants continued...

Health Issues

TCAs are metabolized in the liver and excreted through the kidneys of a cat, so if your veterinarian advises you to treat your cat’s behavior problem with a TCA, he should give your cat a simple blood test to make sure these organs are working well before beginning treatment. If your cat has had problems with her kidneys or liver, be sure to let your veterinarian know. It’s recommended that a recheck blood test be done every year (twice a year for older cats) to ensure that the medicine hasn’t damaged the liver or kidneys.

TCAs should not be used with MAOIs because the combination of these two types of drugs can increase serotonin to unhealthy levels.

Side Effects

TCAs can increase water retention, and water retention produces dry mouth. As a result, some cats might foam at the mouth, and they might also be extra thirsty. Because they’re thirsty, they might drink extra water. Water retention can also lead to constipation and even diarrhea. All of these effects can lead to house-soiling problems. TCAs can also cause a sudden increase in heart rate.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) work on similar neurotransmitters as TCAs, but they work differently and with less selectivity, so they have a more general effect on the brain. Selegiline (Anipryl®) is an MAOI that seems to mostly affect the neutrotransmitter dopamine. It’s used to treat cognitive dysfunction in older cats, and studies indicate that it can slow aging of the brain.

Health Issues

Some MAOIs can have dangerous side effects when cheese is eaten. Selegiline doesn’t fall into this category, but because some humans have reactions to cheese when taking it, pet parents should avoid giving their cat cheese when she’s taking selegiline.

MAOIs should not be used with SSRIs because the combination of these two types of drugs can increase serotonin to unhealthy levels.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

SSRIs affect the brain chemical called serotonin. Common SSRIs are fluoxetine (Reconcile® or Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®) and sertraline (Zoloft®).

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