By Kayla Hyland, DVM; Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is buspirone?

Buspirone (brand names: BuSpar®, Bustab®) is an anti-anxiety medication used to treat behavior disorders such as fears, phobias, and social anxieties. It has also been used in cats for urine spraying, psychogenic alopecia, and motion sickness.

Its use in cats and dogs to treat behavior disorders is “off label” or “extra label”. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off-label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their direction may be significantly different from those on the label.

How is buspirone given?

Buspirone is given by mouth in the form of a tablet and may be given with or without food. If your pet vomits when dosed on an empty stomach, give future doses with food or a treat. This medication should be used in conjunction with behavioral therapy. Do not give buspirone while using a flea and tick collar without consulting with your veterinarian.

This medication can take up to a few weeks before full effects are noted, but gradual improvements are usually noticeable.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember; however, if it is close to time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed, give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

Common side effects include increased affection or friendliness (especially in cats), increased aggression, sleepiness, decreased appetite, nausea, or a slower heart rate. Serious side effects include persistent vomiting, small pupils, stumbling, or weakness. Stereotypical behaviors such as pacing, excessive grooming, or excessive sleeping may also rarely occur.

This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Do not use buspirone in pets that are allergic to it. It should be used with caution in pets with liver disease, kidney disease, or aggression. Because it may have a sedative effect, it should be used with caution in working or service animals. Use with caution in pregnant pets; although it appears safe, adequate studies are lacking. Do not use in lactating pets or consider milk replacer if needed.

As previously mentioned, if your pet is using a flea and tick collar, do not give buspirone without first consulting your veterinarian.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with buspirone: alpha-2 agonists, amitraz, anesthetic agents, antihistamines, antihypertensive agents, ACE inhibitors (e.g., enalapril), apomorphine, azole antifungals, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, bromocriptine, carbamazepine, cimetidine, clarithromycin/erythromycin, danozol, dexamethasone, diazoxide, diltiazem/verapamil, diuretics, divalproex, felbamate, fenoldopam, flavoxate, flea/tick collars, gabapentin, grapefruit juice powder, ifosfamide, ketamine, levetiracetam, lithium, magnesium sulfate, methylene blue, metoclopramide, IV minocycline, mirtazapine, mitotane, MAOIs, muscle relaxants, opioids, phenothiazines, pergolide, phenoxybenzamine, phenylbutazone, phenytoin, prazosin, prednisone/prednisolone, pregabalin, procarbazine, rifampin, rufinamide, serotonin antagonists (e.g., ondansetron), SSRIs, Tamsulosin, telmisartan and other ARBs, tramadol, trazodone, tricyclic antidepressants, valproic acid, vasodilators, and zonisamide.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this medication?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Monitor for serious side effects. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

How do I store buspirone?

Buspirone tablets should be stored at room temperature in tight containers and protected from light.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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