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Desmopressin Acetate for Veterinary Use

by Barbara Forney, VMD

Basic Information

Desmopressin acetate is a synthetic vasopressin analogue that is used both diagnostically and therapeutically in cases of central diabetes insipidus in dogs and cats. Less common uses for desmopressin acetate are the treatment of type 1 Von Willebrand’s disease, and peri operatively in cases of canine mammary gland cancers. Desmopressin acetate is frequently referred to in the literature by the acronym DDAVP®, which is the registered trademark of a human drug.

Desmopressin acetate decreases urine production and increases urine osmolality by increasing water reabsorption in the kidneys. At routine doses, it does not affect urinary sodium or potassium excretion. Desmopressin also causes a dose-dependent increase in certain clotting factors. Desmopressin acetate is destroyed in the GI tract and consequently is given intravenously, subcutaneously, or topically in the conjunctival sac

Dogs and Cats

Desmopressin acetate is the treatment of choice for central diabetes insipidus in both dogs and cats. It is also used diagnostically to differentiate between central and nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. As a diagnostic test, desmopressin acetate may be used instead of a water deprivation test. The onset of action in the dog is within one hour of administration. When it is used to treat central diabetes insipidus it is generally given once or twice a day in the conjunctiva.

Desmopressin acetate may be used peri-operatively to treat surgical patients with type 1 Von Willebrand’s disease. The onset of action is 15 to 30 minutes and the duration of action is between three and four hours. Repeated doses within 24 hours are unlikely to prolong response.

Side Effects

  • Conjunctival irritation


  • Desmopressin acetate should not be used in animals that are susceptible to thrombosis.
  • Desmopressin acetate should not be used in animals with type II b or platelet type Von Willebrand’s (pseudo). German Short Hair Pointers are a sub population that is more likely to have this form of Von Willebrand’s.
  • Desmopressin acetate becomes less effective with repeated administration over a short period of time, an administration technique that might be used when attempting to stimulate Von Willebrand’s factor.
  • Desmopressin acetate has not been studied in pregnant companion-animals. Large doses have been given to pregnant laboratory animals without apparent harm to the fetus.

Drug Interactions

  • The following drugs may increase the antidiuretic effects of desmopressin acetate: fludrocortisone, Chlorpropamide and urea.


  • Overdose may cause fluid retention and sodium depletion.
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Therapeutic Class
Hormone analogue

Dogs and Cats

May Be Prescribed by Veterinarians for:

Central diabetes insipidus, Von Willebrand’s disease

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About the Author

Dr. Barbara Forney

Barbara Forney, VMD

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.