When dogs experience anxiety triggered by fireworks, thunderstorms, or just being left alone, it can be a harrowing experience. Not only is it difficult for your dog, but it’s painful as a parent to watch them go through it.
To help them cope, many owners have the impulse to use the anti-anxiety medications that work for humans, like Xanax. That impulse isn’t wrong either. Xanax can be tremendously helpful for stressed pets, but it’s important to know exactly what the risks are and how to use it before even considering Xanax as an option. Likewise, always talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication to ensure that it’s the safest choice for your pet.
This article will detail what Xanax is, how to dose it for your dog, what the possible side effects are, and alternatives to assist in calming.
What is Xanax?
First things first, what exactly is Xanax? Most pet owners want to know exactly what they’re giving their dogs, and we don’t blame them. Xanax is a form of an anti-anxiety medication called alprazolam. It’s approved by the FDA to treat various anxieties and panic-disorders. It works by increasing the effects of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between cells in the brain to virtually slow brain activity. That may sound scary, but ultimately just provides your dog with an ultra-calming effect.
Xanax is a prescription medication and can only be authorized for use by a licensed veterinarian. Even if you can access Xanax that’s been prescribed for your or a family member’s personal use, always contact a vet before administering it to your dog.
How To Properly Dose Xanax
There is no exact science when it comes to dosing your dog with Xanax. In most situations, Xanax is only prescribed to pets with severe anxiety cases, and even then, the goal is to use as little as possible. Your Vet will likely want to start with a low dose followed by a period of monitoring your pet to see how it affects them.
From there, if there are relatively few effects, you can increase the dose as needed. That being said, the objective is only to use the amount that helps your pet achieve calmness and nothing beyond that to avoid adverse side effects. Although not recommended, if you are giving your dog Xanax without a vet’s advice, follow the recommended dosage below.
- .01mg -.05mg, per pound, every 6-12 hours as needed.
Xanax will take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to show effects, so plan ahead when administering it to your dog before an anxiety-inducing event like New Year’s fireworks or a plane ride.
What are the side effects of Xanax in dogs?
There’s a reason why dogs are typically only prescribed Xanax for severe situations. There are adverse side effects to be aware of. Excess use of Xanax can particularly affect your pup’s kidney and liver function, and overuse can ultimately lead to irreversible damage. Xanax can also cause loss of motor function, sedation, increased appetite, and diarrhea.
If your pet is on other medications, Xanax could interfere with its effectiveness or interact poorly with them, resulting in other side effects. Some medicines that may interact poorly with Xanax include antacids, fluoxetine, amitriptyline, vitamins, and supplements.
It’s also essential to remember that Xanax can create a dependency in your dog, and overuse can result in withdrawal symptoms. We can’t stress enough to use Xanax sparingly to avoid giving your dog an addiction.
Are there alternatives to Xanax for dog anxiety?
There is a multitude of alternatives you can test out to avoid using Xanax, both non-medicinal remedies and drug options.
- Distracting them. Playing fetch or giving your dog a distraction toy (like a kong) during an anxiety-inducing event.
- Give them plenty of exercise and stimulation, which may give them less energy to feel anxious.
- Massage your dog during an anxious event to relax them. It can reduce tension and improve their mood.
- Other pet anxiety medications, like clomipramine which may affect your pet differently than Xanax and have fewer side effects.
- CBD is an all-natural solution to anxiety. It’s extracted from the hemp plant but is THC-free, so it gives your dog a natural calming feeling but won’t get them “high.” It has relaxing effects but without the more dangerous side effects of typical pet anxiety medications.
The Bottom Line
Xanax can be an incredibly effective way to help your severely anxious pet, but it should be used sparingly and correctly dosed. Overuse can result in a multitude of side effects and give your dog a dependency on it. If you want to avoid Xanax for dogs, you have natural options to help. Always speak to your veterinarian first to determine which option is the best and safest for your dog.