Fear and anxiety based problems are common in dogs. Alongside behaviour modification programmes, a range of psychopharmacological agents may be recommended to treat such problems, but few are licensed for use in dogs and the onset of action of some can be delayed. The low affinity partial benzodiazepine receptor agonist imepitoin (Pexion, Boehringer Ingelheim) is licensed for treating canine epilepsy, has a fast onset of action in dogs and has demonstrated anxiolytic properties in rodent models. This case series reports on the use of imepitoin in a group of dogs identified as having fear/anxiety based problems. Twenty dogs were enrolled into the study, attended a behaviour consultation and underwent routine laboratory evaluation. Nineteen dogs proceeded to be treated with imepitoin orally twice daily (starting dose approximately 10 mg/kg, with alterations as required to a maximum 30 mg/kg) alongside a patient-specific behaviour modification plan for a period of 11-19 weeks. Progress was monitored via owner report through daily diary entries and telephone follow-up every two weeks. A Positive and Negative Activation Scale (PANAS) of temperament was also completed by owners during baseline and at the end of the study.
The primary outcome measure was average weekly global scores (AWG) from the owner diaries. Average weekly reaction scores (AWR) for each type of eliciting context was used as a secondary outcome. Seventeen dogs completed the trial. Treatment with imepitoin alongside a behaviour modification programme resulted in owner reported improvement with reduced AWG and reduced AWR for anxiety across a range of social and non-social eliciting contexts including noise sensitivities. Significant improvement was apparent within the first week of treatment, and further improvements seen at the 11 week review point. There was a significant reduction in negative activation (PANAS) with 76.5 per cent of owners opting to continue imepitoin at their own expense after completion of the study.
This study provides initial evidence indicating the potential value of imepitoin (Pexion) alongside appropriate behaviour modification for the rapid alleviation of signs of fear and anxiety in dogs. Further research with a larger subject population and a placebo control would be useful to confirm the apparent efficacy reported here. The study is from the Animal Behaviour, Cognition and Welfare Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, UK.
McPeake KJ, Mills DS. BMC Vet Res 2017; 13(1): 173. doi: 10.1186/s12917-017-1098-0.