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Medication details

  • Medication type: Antiemetic (prevents vomiting)
  • Form: Tablet, Injection
  • Prescription required? Yes
  • FDA approved? Yes
  • Life stage: All
  • Brand names: Cerenia
  • Common names: Maropitant citrate
  • Available dosages: 16 mg, 24 mg, 60 mg, and 160 mg tablets; 10 mg/ml injection
  • Expiration range: 2 years for tablets

If you have ever had a dog that suffered from motion sickness or a sensitive stomach, you’re probably familiar with canine vomiting! Whether your dog is prone to vomiting or only does it when he fishes something gross out of the trash can, vomiting is a challenge that most dog owners will have to deal with at some point in their dog’s life. While some cases of vomiting are short-lived and resolve on their own, dogs with prolonged or recurrent episodes of vomiting may benefit from an antiemetic, or anti-vomiting medication. Cerenia is the most commonly used antiemetic in dogs, and the only drug that is FDA-approved for the treatment of vomiting in dogs. 

What is Cerenia for Dogs?

Dog looking nauseated

Cerenia was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007 for the treatment of vomiting and motion sickness in dogs. Prior to this time, any medications that veterinarians used to treat canine nausea were used “off label,” meaning they were human drugs that were not specifically approved for use in dogs. With the development of an FDA-approved nausea treatment for dogs that was also highly effective, most veterinarians shifted to using this drug exclusively to treat canine nausea and vomiting. 

Cerenia is available in both an injectable and oral formulation. Both forms of this medication are stocked in nearly every veterinary clinic throughout the United States. Cerenia injection for dogs is often used to treat nausea and vomiting in hospitalized patients, and in the initial management of a vomiting dog that is unable to keep pills down. Oral tablets may be sent home with owners for the treatment of motion sickness, or for the ongoing treatment of nausea.  

What Does Cerenia Look Like?

Cerenia tablets are relatively small and have an oval shape. These tablets are scored down the middle, so they can easily be halved if a pet needs a half-tablet dose. The letters “MPT” and the dose in milligrams (mg) are also stamped onto the surface of each tablet. 

Injectable Cerenia is a clear liquid medication, which comes in an amber-colored bottle.  

How Does Cerenia Work in Dogs?

Dog looking sick on the ground on tile

Cerenia works by blocking the effects of Substance P, a key neurotransmitter (brain chemical) involved in vomiting. 

When something occurs in the body that triggers nausea, whether that is fear, anxiety, motion sickness, gastrointestinal disease, or exposure to a toxin, Substance P is released to trigger vomiting. Cerenia prevents Substance P from binding in the brain, which prevents vomiting. Because it acts in this way, Cerenia can be used to prevent vomiting attributable to a wide variety of causes. 

Interestingly, Substance P is also involved in coughing. By blocking the effects of Substance P, Cerenia can also be used to control coughing in dogs.  

What Is Cerenia Used for in Dogs?

Dog looking motion sickness ill

Cerenia is primarily used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by a variety of conditions, ranging from motion sickness to gastrointestinal viruses and even organ failure. Common causes of vomiting that may be treated with Cerenia include: 

  • Motion sickness
  • Gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea due to a variety of causes)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Parvovirus
  • Chronic kidney disease 
  • Cancer 

Additionally, Cerenia’s anti-cough effects have led some veterinarians to use it in the treatment of chronic bronchitis in dogs. Although Cerenia is not labeled for use in this manner, there is enough evidence of its benefits that some veterinarians will use it off-label for challenging cases of chronic cough. 

Cerenia for Dogs Side Effects

Dog looking up to camera looking sick

Cerenia is rarely associated with severe side effects in dogs. 

The most common side effect associated with injectable Cerenia is pain at the injection site; many dogs act as though the injection stings or burns. Most veterinarians store Cerenia in the refrigerator, which appears to decrease the stinging sensation associated with injection. 

Uncommon side effects associated with Cerenia (in its oral or injectable form) include: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia (no appetite)
  • Lethargy
  • Incoordination
  • Allergic reactions (swelling of head/face, anaphylaxis)

Cerenia has a wide margin of safety. Even with doses exceeding the recommended dose, side effects are rare. Additionally, this medication only remains in the body for 24 hours, so side effects are typically short-lived. 

If your dog experiences any side effects or new signs of illness while taking Cerenia, contact your veterinarian. 

Reactions With Other Drugs and Medications

There are no known drug interactions between Cerenia and other drugs that are commonly used in dogs. If your dog is taking any other prescription or over-the counter medications or supplements, talk to your veterinarian before giving Cerenia. 

Cerenia Dosage for Dogs

Box of cerenia tablets for dogs

Your dog’s Cerenia dosage is determined by the goal of treatment and your dog’s weight. High doses of Cerenia are required to treat motion sickness, while lower doses can often be used to treat other causes of vomiting. 

When used to treat motion sickness, Cerenia should be given approximately two hours prior to travel, on an empty stomach. 

Dogs receiving Cerenia for other causes of vomiting and nausea often take this medication once daily, every 24 hours. When used to manage coughing and bronchitis, Cerenia may be administered as little as every other day, or every 48 hours. 

Your veterinarian will determine the optimal Cerenia dosing regimen for your dog, based on your dog’s weight and the medical condition that is being treated. 

What if My Dog Misses a Dose of Cerenia?

If your dog misses a dose of Cerenia, you may see a recurrence of your dog’s nausea or vomiting. Give the missed dose as soon as possible, then resume your regular dosing schedule by waiting the recommended amount of time between doses. Do not give two doses at once. 

Contact your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Cost of Cerenia for Dogs

Cerenia can become expensive, especially in large dogs requiring high doses of medication. Unfortunately, there is no generic version available at this time. 

Cerenia tablets for dogs typically cost $5-$10 each. Your dog’s daily dose may range from one-half to two tablets per day, depending on their weight.

The cost of a Cerenia injection may vary from $20 to $50, depending on your dog’s weight. 

Cerenia Storage Instructions

Cerenia tablets should be stored at room temperature. Each tablet is contained in an individual foil-wrapped blister pack; once the foil for a tablet has been opened, that tablet should be used within two days. 

Injectable Cerenia is stored at room temperature until it is opened, and then is typically refrigerated. The entire bottle of medication must be used within 90 days of opening.