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Atenolol for Dogs and Cats

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General Drug Information and Indications

Atenolol is used to treat dogs and cats with heart problems due to an abnormal or irregular rhythm, and animals with high blood pressure. It is a member of the family of drugs called beta blockers. These drugs are commonly used for similar purposes in human medicine. Beta blockers slow down the heart rate and reduce the amount of oxygen that the heart muscle needs to function. The use of beta blockers can help the heart function better and more efficiently.

Like many other drugs in veterinary medicine, this drug is not FDA approved for use in animals and is not available from a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer. Instead, it is compounded by a specialty pharmacy.

How to Give this Medication

Give this medication to your pet exactly as your veterinarian prescribes. If you miss giving your pet a dose of atenolol, give the next dose as soon as you remember or, if it is close to the next scheduled dose, return to the regular schedule. Do not double dose to catch up.

Do not stop giving this drug abruptly. Usually your veterinarian will recommend decreasing the dose of atenolol gradually.

Wash your hands after giving your pet this medication.

Side Effects

Be sure to discuss any side effects with your veterinarian immediately.

Side effects are more common in older animals and in those that are having an acute episode of their underlying heart problem. The most common side effects are slow heart rate, low blood pressure, unusual heart rhythm, loss of energy and appetite, and diarrhea. Loss of energy and low blood pressure can occur within an hour of treatment with atenolol.


Keep this and all drugs out of reach of children. Atenolol is a prescription drug and should be used according to your veterinarian's directions. It should only be given to the animal for which it was prescribed. Do not give this medication to a person.

Atenolol should not be used when the heart is beating too slowly, in animals with low blood pressure, or in animals with circulatory problems or circulatory blockages.

Atenolol should be used with caution in animals that are unstable due to congestive heart failure. Usually your veterinarian will start treatment with other drugs, such as diuretics, before beginning atenolol.

Older animals and those with kidney problems or diabetes may need additional monitoring.

Atenolol crosses the placenta and is found in maternal milk. Tell your veterinarian if your pet becomes pregnant or is nursing.

Drug Interactions

Be sure to review with your veterinarian any medications or supplements your pet may be receiving. Animals that are being given atenolol usually have complex heart problems and may be receiving multiple drugs. There are a number of drug interactions for atenolol.

Atenolol may increase the effects of many drugs that are used for anesthesia.

Atenolol may block the effect of many drugs that are used to increase heart rate or increase blood pressure.


If you suspect your pet or another animal was overdosed accidentally or has eaten this medication inadvertently, contact your veterinarian or the A.S.P.C.A.'s Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435. Always bring the prescription container with you when you take your pet for treatment.

If you or someone else has accidentally ingested this medication call the National Capital Poison Center at 800.222.1222.


Different strengths or dosage forms of Atenolol may have different storage requirements. Read the labeling or ask your pharmacist for the storage requirements of the prescription you receive.

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About the Author

Dr. Barbara Forney

Dr. Barbara Forney is a veterinary practitioner in Chester County, Pennsylvania. She has a master's degree in animal science from the University of Delaware and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1982.

She began to develop her interest in client education and medical writing in 1997. Recent publications include portions of The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat, and most recently Understanding Equine Medications published by the Bloodhorse.

Dr. Forney is an FEI veterinarian and an active member of the AAEP, AVMA, and AMWA.