This powerful medication can help dogs with heart or kidney disease live longer, healthier lives.
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woman kissing her white dog; enalapril for dogs
Credit: Brie Passano Goldman

As dogs age, a number of health concerns can crop up. Diseases of the heart and kidneys can develop at any age, but they're more likely to appear in our older companions. If your pup has a heart condition or a kidney disorder, your veterinarian might prescribe a drug called enalapril. This medication can improve quality of life and may even prolong life for some dogs. Here's what you should know if your dog is on enalapril.

What Is Enalapril Used for in Dogs?

Enalapril maleate is an ACE inhibitor that is often used as a vasodilator in the treatment of heart disease in dogs, making your pup's blood flow more easily. It may also be used to treat kidney disease or protein-losing nephropathy (a kidney disorder). Enalapril is often known by the brand names Vasotec (human form) or Enacard (veterinary form), but generic forms are available as well. All forms can be given to dogs with proper dosing.

Angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE) play a key role in the body's formation of the hormone angiotensin II, which narrows blood vessels (called vasoconstriction) and causes water and sodium retention. Although these are important functions in a healthy dog, they make it harder for the heart and kidneys to work properly when disease is present. ACE inhibitors like enalapril prevent the formation of angiotensin II and open the blood vessels, called vasodilation. This reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to the heart and kidneys to help them work more efficiently.

Enalapril has a few uses in veterinary medicine.

Heart Disease

Enalapril is commonly used to treat dogs with heart disease, including congestive heart failure. It increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart, alleviating some of the work the diseased organ has to do. Enalapril can prevent or minimize common signs of heart disease in dogs, including fluid accumulation in the lungs and exercise intolerance. It may also increase a dog's survival time with heart disease, especially when used with furosemide.

Kidney Diseases

Enalapril may be used in dogs with chronic kidney disease because it can increase blood flow to the kidneys and improve the kidneys' filtering ability. It can also reduce protein loss in the urine, a common occurrence with chronic kidney disease and a disorder called protein-losing nephropathy.

Blood Pressure

Enalapril is sometimes used to treat high blood pressure in humans, but it's considered less effective when used alone in dogs with hypertension. However, enalapril may be used alongside other prescription medications to manage blood pressure in dogs.

Side Effects of Enalapril for Dogs

As with any medication, side effects may occur while your dog is on enalapril. Possible gastrointestinal side effects include:

Less commonly, dogs may develop weakness, low blood pressure, kidney dysfunction, and elevated potassium levels. Contact your veterinarian if your dog is showing side effects from enalapril—they may want to adjust the dose or switch to a different medication.

Enalapril Dosage for Dogs

The recommended dosage of enalapril for dogs falls within a wide range. Most dogs are dosed at 0.25 to 1 milligram per kilogram of body mass every 12–24 hours. Enalapril is given orally as a pill and is only available with a prescription from your veterinarian. Your vet's office may carry enalapril, but you can also purchase it from a human pharmacy.

Can Dogs Overdose on Enalapril?

Enalapril overdose may occur if you accidentally give your dog too much or if your dog gets into the pill container. Toxicity usually occurs after extreme overdoses—about 10 times the recommended dose. The biggest concern after an overdose is low blood pressure which can lead to weakness, lethargy, collapse, and kidney failure. 

Contact your vet if your dog gets more enalapril than recommended. Be sure to tell them how much was ingested and how long ago, if known. You may need to induce vomiting or seek out emergency veterinary services.

Enalapril Warnings and Contraindications

Your veterinarian will need to monitor your dog periodically during enalapril treatment. This may include exams, lab work, and blood pressure checks. Although enalapril can help dogs with kidney disease, it should be used with caution in dogs with severe kidney failure.

In addition, there are several medications that should be avoided or used carefully in conjunction with enalapril. Be sure to tell your vet about all medication and supplements your dog gets.