Ursodiol for Dogs and Cats : Uses, Side Effects, and Dosage

Ursodiol for Dogs and Cats : Uses, Side Effects, and Dosage
Ursodiol increases bile flow, decreases cholesterol production, and dissolves cholesterol already in your pet's bile so gallstones do not form.
Ursodiol increases bile flow, decreases cholesterol production, and dissolves cholesterol already in your pet’s bile so gallstones do not form. canvas

What is ursodiol and how does it work?

Ursodiol is a medication made from ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) in a microcrystalline cellulose filler. It is a type of bile acid available in liquid, tablet, or capsule form such as Actigall, Urso, or Ursofalk. It is also sold as a generic product.

This drug is a hydrophilic bile acid that was originally extracted from the livers of black bears. (Now it is made in a laboratory). When you give your pet ursodiol, their bile flow increases, they make less cholesterol, and the cholesterol already in their bile dissolves so gallstones don’t form.

This medication is not FDA-approved for dogs and cats, but it is a common off-label medication to treat liver disease. (An off-label drug is a drug that has not been approved by the FDA but is used to treat pets.)

What is ursodiol used for in dogs and cats?

Ursodiol is used to treat dogs with chronic hepatitis and cats with plasmacytic lymphocytic cholangitis. (1) It is used as complementary therapy in any inflammatory hepatobiliary disease and any other disease in which biliary toxicity is part of the pathology.

Other uses of ursodiol in veterinary medicine

Ursodiol may be effective in decreasing bile sludge before gallstones form. (2) Ursodiol reduces cholesterol production and is effective in dissolving gallstones, so it is also used as an alternative to surgery when gallstones have already formed. (3)

This drug is also prescribed for congenital portosystemic shunts, fatty liver disease, and various other liver diseases.

Ursodiol Dosage and Administration

The usual dose of ursodiol is 2.5 to 7 mg per pound twice a day. Ursodiol is administered orally and should always be taken with food. (Food increases absorption and makes the pet less likely to gag.) There are several capsules of different strengths available and a liquid formula for very small pets and those that do not accept pills.

What to do if your pet misses a dose

If you forget to take a dose of ursodiol, just take the next capsule at the usual time. Do not give two doses at the same time.

How long does it take for ursodiol to work in dogs?

Although ursodiol is absorbed within a few hours of taking it, you won’t start to see any improvement for a few days. If your dog is being treated for gallstones, human studies have shown that it will take 3-6 weeks for ursodiol to dissolve. (4) If your dog is being treated for hepatitis, liver enzymes may not show any change for at least 4 weeks.

How long should my dog ​​take ursodiol?

Dogs should continue treatment with ursodiol until liver enzymes are normal and all signs of liver disease have resolved. Even if the bladder stones resolve in 3 to 6 weeks, the veterinarian may decide to continue treating the dog for more than a year to remove the bile sludge.

If your pet begins to show signs of an allergic reaction after taking ursodiol (such as sneezing), contact your vet immediately.
If your pet begins to show signs of an allergic reaction after taking ursodiol (such as sneezing), contact your vet immediately. canvas

Ursodiol Side Effects

Ursodeoxycholic acid is a natural part of the body, and ursodiol is well tolerated. Some pets will have an upset stomach and diarrhea from this medication. Vomiting is rare, but has been mentioned.

Allergic reactions are rare. If your pet begins to show signs of an allergic reaction after taking ursodiol (such as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and sneezing), be sure to contact your vet immediately.

Can Ursodiol cause liver problems in dogs?

There have been a few reports of dogs developing mildly elevated liver enzymes, jaundice, and worsening of the liver when taking ursodiol. (5) However, since the dogs already have liver disease, there is no way to know for sure if this problem is primary or secondary to the medication. When healthy dogs were treated with ursodiol, no liver pathology developed and liver enzyme values ​​remained normal. (6)

Will Ursodiol harm my dog?

Most dogs with liver disease benefit from ursodiol, but no drug is 100% safe. Some other problems have been reported in humans but not in dogs (eg, immunosuppression and pneumonia). (7)

Dogs with obstructed bile ducts should not take this medication.

Risk factors and special precautions

There is very little risk in taking this medication. It may cause some side effects, but it is cleared from the pet’s body 3-6 days after treatment ends. (7)

Known drug interactions

Any medications your pet is taking should be discussed with your vet when ursodiol is prescribed. This includes traditional Chinese medicines, herbal supplements, medicated foods, and vitamins.

There are some reported drug interactions. (8) Drugs that interfere with ursodiol include:

  • Cyclosporine (Atopica and other brands)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Antacids (magaldrate and others)
  • estrogens
  • cholestyramine resin

Can my pet overdose on ursodiol?

Overdoses in humans or dogs have not been reported. High doses (10 grams/kg) were administered to mice, rats and dogs and no symptoms of overdose were observed. An overdose was observed in a hamster and the symptoms were excessive salivation, ataxia (disorientation with a wobbly gait), drooping eyelids, difficulty breathing, seizures, and coma. (9)

If you notice any of those symptoms after administering a dose of ursodiol, take your dog to an emergency vet immediately.

How much does ursodiol cost?

Dogs generally receive a dose of less than 7mg/pound daily, so it will generally cost about $1 to $2 per day to treat a small dog with ursodiol. Liver enzymes should be checked before this drug is prescribed to the dog and checked periodically thereafter, so the greatest expense in ongoing care will be examination and laboratory costs.

If you don’t feel like making a trip to the pharmacy, you can order this medicine online.

Ursodiol is a bitter medicine, so do not open the capsules to mix it with food.  If your dog tries it, he may resist taking the medication.
Ursodiol is a bitter medicine, so do not open the capsules to mix it with food. If your dog tries it, he may resist taking the medication. canvas

How to store ursodiol

Ursodiol should be stored in the original labeled container in which it was purchased. It can be kept at room temperature. Keep away from direct sunlight, away from heat sources and out of the reach of children.

Can Ursodiol capsules be opened?

Although there is no problem with opening the capsules, they should be given whole. Ursodiol is a bitter medicine, and if you open the capsule and the dog tastes it, it can become difficult to treat.

If the capsule is too large or your pet is difficult to treat, use the liquid formula compounded with flavors (beef, chicken, bacon, and peanut butter).

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