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Digoxin treats several types of heart disease. A cardiac glycoside, this medication increases the amount of calcium available to the heart.

Digoxin for dogs can be used to treat congestive heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, and dilated cardiomyopathy. Keep reading for a complete guide to the dosage, efficacy, and side effects of digoxin.

Dosage

Digoxin for dogs comes in tablet, liquid, and injection forms. The typical dosage is 0.0025-0.005 mg/lb every 12 hours. Digoxin can be given with or without food. However, vets commonly recommend that the drug be given on an empty stomach as food can decrease drug absorption. Make sure you consult your veterinarian for dosage instructions for your dog.

When used to treat congestive heart failure, digoxin is often prescribed alongside other drugs, such as diuretics and ACE inhibitors.

Efficacy

Digoxin for dogs increases the amount of calcium in the heart cells. This strengthens heart muscle contraction, slows the heart rate, and increases the size of the heart, helping it function more efficiently.

Digoxin has a positive inotropic effect that increases the contraction strength of the heart, but this effect is weak. It’s been shown to decrease the heart rate of large-breed dogs with congestive cardiomyopathy, and is thought to improve vascular baroreceptor responsiveness. A combination of digoxin and diltiazem has also been shown to be more effective at controlling high ventricular rates in dogs with atrial fibrillation than either drug alone.

However, it’s difficult to set serum digoxin dosage amounts in the therapeutic, non-toxic range. The clinical use of digoxin in dogs has decreased in recent years as other medications perform similar functions but with a lower risk of toxicity.

Side effects

Digoxin can produce a number of side effects in dogs. These include:

While the effects of the medication wear off after a few days, symptoms may last longer in pets suffering from liver or kidney disease. If you notice any of the above side effects, seek veterinary attention for your pet as soon as possible.

An overdose of digoxin can result in cardiac glycoside poisoning, which can potentially be fatal.

Side effects

Digoxin can produce a number of side effects in dogs. These include:

While the effects of the medication wear off after a few days, symptoms may last longer in pets suffering from liver or kidney disease. If you notice any of the above side effects, seek veterinary attention for your pet as soon as possible.

An overdose of digoxin can result in cardiac glycoside poisoning, which can potentially be fatal.

Considerations

If your veterinarian wants to prescribe digoxin for your dog, it’s essential that they know about your pet’s allergies, sensitivities, and any other medication they may already be taking.

Drug interactions

Digoxin for dogs can potentially react with a wide range of other medications. Some drugs decrease the effects of digoxin. These medications include:

  • Antacids

  • Kaopectate

  • Metoclopramide

  • Some chemotherapy drugs 

Other drugs may increase the effects of digoxin and could potentially cause a toxic reaction. These medications include:

  • Benzodiazepines (alprazolam, diazepam)

  • Antibiotics (clarithromycin, erythromycin, tetracycline)

  • Blood pressure medications (verapamil)

With this in mind, it’s vital that your veterinarian is aware of all other medications your dog is currently taking before they prescribe digoxin.

Allergic reactions and sensitivity

Dogs who are allergic to digoxin, diagnosed with ventricular fibrillation and other heart arrhythmias, or already have too much digoxin in their bloodstream should not take this medication.

Use digoxin with caution in pregnant or lactating dogs, as well as dogs with kidney disease, severe lung disease, and some specific forms of heart disease, including pericardial disease and subaortic stenosis. It’s worth noting that Collie breeds may be more sensitive to the effects of digoxin on the central nervous system.

Finally, make sure you monitor your dog closely for any signs of an adverse reaction to digoxin and seek veterinary attention if required.

Frequently asked questions

Can I change my dog’s digoxin dosage amount?

No. Always give digoxin according to your veterinarian’s exact instructions. If you miss a dose, never give a double dose to your dog to try to catch up.

Which plant was digoxin originally produced from?

Digoxin was originally derived from the foxglove plant.

What should I do if I think my dog has had an overdose of digoxin?

Seek emergency veterinary attention for your pet immediately.

Is digoxin for dogs available without a prescription?

No. Digoxin is a prescription drug.

How should I store digoxin?

Store digoxin at room temperature in a sealed container away from excess light or moisture.

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