Selegiline in Dogs - Dosage, Uses and Side Effects

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. May 16, 2022
Selegiline in Dogs - Dosage, Uses and Side Effects

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Selegiline, also known as L-deprenyl and marketed under the brand names Eldepryl and Emsam, among others, is a drug used in humans to treat Parkinson's disease and major depressive disorder. However, it is also approved as a veterinary drug for the treatment of cognitive dysfunction syndrome in geriatric dogs. It has been shown to improve short-term memory, reduce signs of cognitive dysfunction, and increase life expectancy in dogs with this disease.

Learn more about selegiline in dogs, its dosage, use, and side effects in the following AnimalWised article.

  1. What is selegiline?
  2. What is selegiline used for in dogs?
  3. Selegiline dosage in dogs
  4. Side effects of selegiline in dogs
  5. Contraindications of selegiline in dogs

What is selegiline?

Selegiline is a drug is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) used to treat symptoms due to cognitive dysfunction syndrome in dogs and cats and has the following effects:

  • By selectively inhibiting the enzyme MAO -B in the brain, it succeeds in increasing the levels of dopamine and other catecholamines in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are undersupplied in patients with dementia.

  • It has a mild antidepressant effect.

  • It suppresses oxidative effects associated with dopamine and reduces free radical exposure, providing a neuroprotective effect. The neuroprotective effect of selegiline is thought to be due to increased dopamine levels.

Selegiline does not cure cognitive dysfunction in dogs, but may improve the quality of life for both the animal and the owner.

Currently, selegiline is only marketed in tablet form for use in humans. However, selegiline is one of the many drugs commonly prescribed for off-label use in veterinary medicine. Follow your veterinarian's instructions and precautions very carefully, as the directions may differ significantly from those on the label.

If you suspect your senior dog is suffering from depression, read this other article on depression in dogs to learn how to recognize the symptoms of depression and how to treat it.

What is selegiline used for in dogs?

Selegiline is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) used to treat behavioral problems in middle-aged and older dogs, such as canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (senility) and Cushing's disease.

  • Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a degenerative disease similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans. It affects geriatric dogs and causes a variety of behavioral disorders. Despite the lack of an understanding of selegiline's mechanism of action in dogs with this disease, selegiline's beneficial effect in treating this disease is a proven fact. It is believed that its effectiveness is related to the increase of dopamine and other catecholamines in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus.

  • It is worth noting that the use of selegiline has been studied in the treatment of Cushing's disease. Selegiline causes an increase in dopamine levels, which is able to inhibit the increased production of ACTH that occurs in the pituitary gland in Cushing's disease. The results of these studies advise against using selegiline as the sole treatment for pituitary Cushing's syndrome because of its poor efficacy. However, it has been shown to be effective in combination with other drugs such as trilostane (sold under the brand names Modrenal and Vetoryl).

Read this other articles to learn more about canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome and Cushing's disease in older dogs.

Selegiline dosage in dogs

The dose of 0.5 mg per kg body weight per day has been shown to be effective in improving short-term memory, reducing signs of cognitive dysfunction, and increasing life expectancy in older dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

Similarly, the administration of selegiline is recommended for dogs in the morning, especially in dogs with cognitive dysfunction that exhibit changes in sleep-wake rhythm.

If your pet vomits when administered on an empty stomach, administer future doses with food. If stomach upset continues, discontinue the medication for several days and start again at a lower dose according to your veterinarian's instructions.

If you forget a dose, give it to your dog as soon as you remember, unless it is close to the next dose. In that case, skip the forgotten dose and give it to your dog at the next scheduled time. Then, return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or an extra dose.

It may take up to a few weeks for this medication to take full effect, but a gradual improvement is usually noticeable after just a few days.

Side effects of selegiline in dogs

At the recommended dose, adverse effects were noted in a few treated patients. However, as with any pharmacological treatment, it is important to be alert to the possible occurrence of adverse effects and to consult the veterinarian if they do occur. In the specific case of selegiline in dogs, the possible adverse effects that may be observed are as follows:

  • High blood pressure and rapid heart rate
  • Increased reflexes
  • Tremors
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Aggression
  • Repetitive movements
  • Fatigue
  • Drooling
  • Itching
  • Licking
  • Trembling
  • Loss of appetite

The effects of this short-acting medication should stop within 24 hours, although they may last longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Contraindications of selegiline in dogs

Although selegiline is an approved drug in veterinary medicine, there are some situations in which its use may be counterproductive. Below, we summarize the main contraindications for selegiline in dogs:

  • Selegiline should not be used in pets that are allergic to it or that are receiving other MAOIs, meperidine, tramadol, tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or alpha-2 agonists.

  • In dogs suffering from gastric or duodenal ulcers.

  • In dogs treated with tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, sympathomimetics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and/or opioids.

  • Selegiline should be used with caution in pets with debilitating diseases and very cautiously in pregnant or nursing pets, as safe use has not been established.

With all of the above medications, it is very important that selegiline be administered to dogs under veterinary supervision. We should never self-medicate our dog as we may aggravate his condition. Be sure to inform your veterinarian of any other medications (including vitamins, supplements or herbal therapies) your pet is taking.

If you suspect an overdose or adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinarian's office immediately.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Selegiline in Dogs - Dosage, Uses and Side Effects, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

  • Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS). Plurimen 5 mg Tablets technical data sheet. Available at:
  • Ginel, P.J., Lucena, M.R. (2002). Interest of selegiline in the treatment of canine hyperadrenocorticism of pituitary origin . Official magazine of AVEPA; 22(1):27-31
  • Ibanez, M., Morillas, S. (2014). Behavior problems in senile dogs. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome . Veterinary Faculty, Complutense University of Madrid
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Selegiline in Dogs - Dosage, Uses and Side Effects