Is guanfacine safe for dogs? Expert Advice

What is Guanfacine?

Guanfacine is a medication that’s used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in humans. This medication is not a stimulant, like other ADHD medications. It’s not exactly clear how the medication works; however, scientists believe Guanfacine affects the receptors in the brain that are related to strengthening working memory, reducing distraction, and improving attention & impulse control.

While this medication is safe for humans, can Guanfacine make your dog sick?

What happens if my pet ingests ADHD medication?

ADHD is not commonly diagnosed in pets, and just a small amount of an ADHD medication could cause problems for our four-legged friends. ADHD medications are stimulants, and when dogs ingest stimulants you can see an increase in activity—such as pacing, walking in circles or unable to sit still—heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. In severe cases, these signs can become life-threatening. When cats ingest stimulant ADHD drugs, they may also show an increase in activity, or they may sit unusually still and stare for long periods of time. Internally, they will have an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, despite their lack of movement.

How soon problems develop after ingesting an ADHD medication and how long they last depends on the specific medication and formulation. Problems can develop very quickly, within 15 minutes of ingestion, or can be delayed by several hours. Once problems develop they can last 24 to 72 hours. If left untreated, these symptoms can worsen. It is important to address the issue as soon as it is discovered by calling APCC or your local veterinarian immediately.

Is ADHD medication exposure treatable?

The good news is that ADHD medication exposure in pets is treatable. Most often, pets showing signs from ADHD medications will need to stay in a veterinary hospital until they’ve fully recovered and the medication has left their system. Your veterinarian may give your pet medications for elevated blood pressure or medication to calm them. Therapies and treatments to help keep your pet at a normal body temperature may also be a critical part of treatment.

Organ damage from ADHD medications is rare but has been seen, specifically in the kidneys. Getting prompt veterinary care for your pet is an important step in limiting the amount of damage the medication can do to your pet’s organs.

Even though the beginning of the school year can be a hectic time, pet safety and prevention is key to helping reduce any additional stress for you and your pet. Remember to keep all ADHD medications out of paws’ reach, and if you believe your pet may have eaten an ADHD medication, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.

Dr. Byrne Talks About a Nonstimulant Medication for ADHD: Guanfacine