You remember when Fluffy once pestered you incessantly if he was hungry and wanted to eat? Those were the days. Now, because of illness, he's lost his appetite and you expend great time and effort coaxing him to take a bite. Your vet can prescribe cyproheptadine for appetite stimulation.
Marketed under the brand name Periactin, cyproheptadine is an antihistamine. However, the drug also works as an appetite stimulant in felines. That's because it has an anti-serotonin effect. Decreased serotonin levels in Fluffy's brain give him the desire to eat. If your cat's suffering from cancer and going through chemotherapy, eating becomes a chore. Just when he needs his strength the most, he has no interest in food. Cyproheptadine can help him, and you, get through this difficult period.
Most cats have no problem taking cyproheptadine. The most common side effect is drowsiness, which, depending on the normal activity level of your cat, you might not even notice. Rarely, it causes the opposite effect -- excitability. Because it's an antihistamine, it can cause dry mouth, increased heart rate and urine retention. Those side effects generally happen only if Fluffy receives an overdose of the drug. Cats with glaucoma, heart or urinary tract issues shouldn't receive cyproheptadine. Don't give it to pregnant or nursing cats.
Give It Time
Cyproheptadine is not a miracle drug. You won't push a pill down Fluffy's little throat and 10 minutes later he's ravenously hungry. It takes several days of dosing -- anywhere from two to seven -- for the appetite-stimulating effects to kick in. In the meantime, ask your vet about temporary methods to get food into your cat, such as forced feedings. Your cat's body requires nourishment to fight his illness.
Because it's relatively safe and well-tolerated, veterinarians might prescribe cyproheptadine for other feline ailments and behavioral problems. If your cat suffers from asthma and conventional steroids and other medications aren't quite doing the trick, your vet might add cyproheptadine to the pharmaceutical arsenal. If Fluffy starts urinating elsewhere than the litter box, cyproheptadine might help him break this habit. If your cat experiences itching and hair loss from allergies, a condition known as atopic dermatitis, cyproheptadine might help. However, it's not the most effective medication for this purpose. Cushing's disease increases serotonin, so your vet prescribes cyproheptadine for its anti-serotonin effect.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.