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Ursodiol for Veterinary Use

If your pet is showing signs of increased thirst and urination, loss of appetite, jaundice, vomiting or diarrhea, excessive drooling, and changes in her behavior, then you should make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. With symptoms like these, there is a risk that she could potentially be suffering from liver disease or another hepatobiliary condition.

If liver disease is the diagnosis, then ursodiol is one of the medicines commonly used by veterinarians to treat it.

What Is Ursodiol?

Ursodiol is a naturally occurring bile acid that is used for treating liver disease in dogs and cats.

Why Ursodiol Is Prescribed in Veterinary Medicine
Ursodiol is a popular drug prescribed to treat pets with chronic liver disease because it increases the flow of bile acids. This helps prevent the build-up of toxic bile acids in the body, a major contributing factor to the disease.

Other Uses for Ursodiol in Veterinary Medicine

Ursodiol is also used by veterinarians to treat pets diagnosed with gallstones. The drug not only effectively reduces the uptake of cholesterol, but it also lowers the synthesis and production of cholesterol. Because gallstones contain mostly cholesterol, ursodiol has been shown effective at dissolving them.

This medication is also seeing more use in the treatment of other hepatobiliary conditions, such as fatty liver disease, chronic hepatitis, acute hepatic failure, primary portal vein hypoplasia, congenital portosystemic shunts, and juvenile fibrosing liver disease.

Dosage and Administration of Ursodiol

Ursodiol is given orally in a tablet or capsule form and should be administered to the pet exactly as prescribed by your veterinarian. The usual dosage for dogs is 2.5 to 7 mg per pound of body weight given twice a day. Ursodiol should be given with food, as this not only increases its absorption but also helps reduce the risk of nausea.

If you miss a dose of ursodiol, then give the next dose as soon as you remember. Or, if it is close to the next scheduled dose, wait and resume with the next regularly scheduled dose. Do not administer a double dose to catch up on a missed dose. After administering ursodiol, wash your hands thoroughly.

Special Precautions for Using Ursodiol

Ursodiol should only be administered to the pet it has been prescribed for. The medication should be kept well out of reach of children and pets.
Ursodiol should not be prescribed to pets with known biliary obstruction, fistula, or other complications associated with gallstones or pancreatitis unless the benefits outweigh the risks. While this drug has been shown to be effective at treating small animals, it should not be administered to rabbits or other hindgut fermenters.

In some patients diagnosed with chronic liver-disease, ursodiol can cause increased difficulty with bile acid metabolism, so careful monitoring is required. It is currently unknown if ursodiol is excreted in breast milk, so it should be used with caution in pregnant or nursing pets.

Possible Side Effects of Ursodiol

Ursodiol is generally well-tolerated by animals, but some side effects can occur. The most common side effects include upset stomach and diarrhea. In rare cases, ursodiol can cause the liver disease to worsen.
If your pet starts to exhibit signs of an allergic reaction after taking this medication, such as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and sneezing, then be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Known Drug Interactions With Ursodiol

If your pet is taking other medications, vitamins, herbal remedies, or supplements, you should let the veterinarian know about them, including the dosages and administration schedules, to help avoid any potential risk of interaction with ursodiol.

Ursodiol has been shown to have interactions with estrogens, acetaminophen, antacids, and cholestyramine resin.

Proper Storage and Disposal of Ursodiol

Ursodiol should always be stored at a controlled room temperature away from moisture, heat, and sunlight in a tightly closed container. Do not store it in the freezer or the refrigerator. If your veterinarian discontinues the ursodiol treatment, the remaining medication should be disposed of in the trash.