Anxiety doesn’t just affect humans – our dogs often suffer it in crippling ways as well. Some people might not be aware that our canine friends experience the condition, but recent studies have shown that more than 70 percent of dogs exhibit symptoms. While they cannot communicate what they are feeling, owners of anxious dogs know their behavior and moods often change when they experience stressors.
Common Anxiety Triggers in Dogs:
- Being away from their humans (separation anxiety)
- Car rides
- Fireworks, thunder, and other sudden loud noises
- Humans arguing and further stress in the home
- New animals, people, or places
Like us, these stressors can cause symptoms ranging from mild to full-blown panic attacks. Long-term anxiety can cause depression for humans and canines alike. Luckily, some medications can help our four-legged friends as it does for us, such as Xanax for dogs. The main ingredient, alprazolam, is highly effective at managing anxiety in dogs.
What Is Alprazolam?
Alprazolam is the ingredient in Xanax and several other medications to treat anxiety. Whereas Xanax is the brand-name drug, alprazolam is essentially the same drug in generic form. It is a tranquilizer in the benzodiazepine family, capable of relieving anxiety and relaxing muscles, somewhat resulting in behavior modification.
Anxiety often comes from an overstimulated central nervous system (CNS). Alprazolam suppresses the CNS and brings relief to the animal. Furthermore, it is helpful for restlessness and allows for better sleep.
What Does Xanax for Dogs/Alprazolam Do?
While we may equate alprazolam and medications like it with anxiety, they are useful for other conditions, too. For example, canines can experience grief, and we can treat their depression by using alprazolam. Other uses include a spastic colon and lack of appetite. Bear in mind that long-term use of these drugs can cause depression, so you should only treat dogs in this manner for a short time and under the care of a veterinarian.
Anxiety Symptoms in Dogs
As animal lovers, we are generally pretty tuned in to our animal’s normal behaviors and can tell when something is off. A dog will often let you know they are experiencing anxiety in the following ways:
- Hiding or other avoidant actions
- Barking, howling, and whining, mainly when left alone
- Being moody
- ‘Accidents’ in the home when house-trained
Your dog can experience anxiety for a multitude of reasons. Like people, some are naturally more nervous and have a hard time adjusting when there is a lot of stimulation. In dogs that experience causative symptoms, separation anxiety is often a key factor. As a puppy, they may have been taken away from their mother too soon, or they may be particularly attached to their owner and experience anxiety when the person leaves.
What is an Appropriate Dose of Alprazolam for Dogs?
There are different dosage sizes for pups, depending on their size and breed. Xanax for dogs is also available in liquid and tablets. Common dosages are 0.25 milligrams, 0.50mg, 1mg, and 2 mg. Your veterinarian will assess the dog’s weight and temperament to determine the correct dose. It is common to start with the lowest prescription, even for bigger animals, and only increase as necessary.
No matter the dog’s size or the dose prescribed, the maximum amount of the drug that can be administered within 24 hours is four milligrams. Tablets are more popular than liquid, but giving a dog a pill can be a pain, even more so if the pup is experiencing anxiety symptoms. You can speak with the vet about what is best for you. If you are given anti-anxiety medication in liquid form, you will likely receive it in a one or five-milliliter bottle. Take care to only administer the exact amount prescribed, so there is no danger of overdose.
How Does Alprazolam Work on Dogs?
Anxiety medications like alprazolam work on dogs and humans alike by managing the naturally occurring chemicals in the brain, mainly to treat anxiety. These drugs are fast-acting and can bring about calmness rather quickly, resulting in behavior modification as well. Xanax is best used on an as-needed basis for short-term symptom relief, although for issues like depression, it may be administered more regularly.
Human Alprazolam vs. Dog Alprazolam
Alprazolam was developed for use in humans, but they have been found helpful for dogs as well. As these anti-anxiety drugs are meant for humans, they are not always the most ideal for canines. You should never give your animal a drug prescribed for you, and this includes anxiety medications. Your dog can overdose too, and the last thing you want when trying to help Fido is for that to happen!
Benefits of Alprazolam for Dogs
Alprazolam can be beneficial in small doses short-term, not only for anxiety in dogs but depression, sleep or appetite issues, and spastic colon. If you have tried other methods of calming your dog that has not worked well, discuss the issue with your vet to determine if a prescription is warranted.
Should I Give My Dog Alprazolam?
Before seeking out a prescription as a quick answer for your dog’s anxiety, you should try natural methods. Alprazolam and other anti-anxiety medications should be used as a last resort when all else fails. Some animals may not tolerate the drug well, and it is always worthwhile to try safer methods before turning to prescriptions.
Side Effects of Xanax
If you are not convinced to try natural calming methods before using Xanax for dogs, consider that it can cause unpleasant side effects. Lethargy and sleepiness are the most common effects, but some dogs experience diarrhea, gas, and vomiting. If you have exhausted other resources and end up with a prescription for your dog, pay attention to their reactions. If you notice any of these side effects of Xanax, or if the animal becomes clumsy, speak with your vet. A lower dosage may be required.
Furthermore, some dogs may be allergic to alprazolam. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction are:
- Bleeding (especially around the face)
- Swelling of the face/head
Any of the above symptoms warrant an emergency trip to the vet.
You may also find that your dog becomes aggressive instead of calming down. A reaction like this is known as a paradoxical effect. You will need to let your veterinarian know if this occurs as well.
If you have been administering Xanax to your dog for a long time, you will need to watch for withdrawal signs when stopping the medication. Dogs can become dependent on these drugs, which is why you do not want to rely on them long-term.
Alprazolam Withdrawal Symptoms:
- Extreme sensitivity to light (photophobia)
If you and your vet agree that it is time to try Xanax, speak with him about the possible side effects and what can occur with extended use. This way, you will be well-informed of what to look for and are clear on how often to use the medication. Bear in mind, too, you never want to double up a dose if you think the first one isn’t working.
Precautions for Alprazolam Use For Dogs
Certain dogs will not be able to tolerate anti-anxiety medications like alprazolam. For instance, problems with the liver or kidneys would be contraindicated. Likewise, if your pup suffers from muscle weakness, you do not want to give her a drug that relaxes the muscles further.
Elderly, disabled, or pregnant animals and those suffering from glaucoma should only take alprazolam as a last resort.
Alprazolam Drug Interactions
It is also essential to consider any other drugs your animal may be taking, as they could cause negative interactions. If you see a new vet, they must know your dog’s entire medical and prescription history.
Medications to consider when considering alprazolam include:
- Antifungal medications like Ketoconazole
- Barbituates like Phenobarbital
Mixing medications like this with alprazolam can cause increased sedation, decreased metabolism, or diminish the effects of the drug. Xanax in itself can kill your beloved pet if given in too high of a dose, as can medicine interactions. Always speak with your vet before administering anything!
As previously mentioned, Xanax is a drug for humans, and the Food and Drug Administration does not recognize it for dogs. However, in small doses, it can be an effective tool for short-term anxiety relief.
What are Some Natural Anti-Anxiety Remedies for Dogs?
Prescription medications come with side effects and are not always tolerated well. Luckily, there are a number of natural ways to help your dog calm down.
You would be surprised how well soothing music can calm your dog. In cases of separation anxiety, it is helpful to leave the radio or television on so the dog doesn’t feel alone. If you choose the TV, try to tune it to a calming music station. After all, you don’t want to leave an action movie with loud explosions on for an already anxious pup!
For situational anxiety, such as that caused by fireworks or a thunderstorm, move your dog as far away from the noise as possible. Then put on calm music or other soothing sounds, and if you can, stay with her to make her feel safe.
Excess energy can be problematic in dogs, especially if prone to anxiety and restlessness. The beauty of making sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise, even by simply letting him run around in the yard, is that you will benefit as well!
Exercise releases serotonin, which is a natural feel-good hormone. When combined with wearing the dog out, this hormone will go a long way in avoiding anxiety and depression for you both. The chemical balances mood, and when their energy is used up from exercising, they will be less likely to worry.
Humans have discovered that weighted blankets can ease anxiety symptoms and promote better sleep. Thundershirts are the canine equivalent. Some people have claimed these have been absolute lifesavers for their anxiety-ridden dogs, while others have found they have no effect. However, they are worth trying before medication.
CBD for Dogs
Cannabidiol (CBD) is becoming increasingly popular for both humans and dogs. While controversial in some circles, it is a safe option to help avoid the potentially dangerous side effects of other anti-anxiety meds like Xanax.
CBD can help balance an animal’s serotonin levels and keep their emotions balanced like prescription anxiety meds. Today, numerous CBD oils do not have the psychotropic element of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Therefore, you can safely give CBD to your dog without worry about getting him ‘high.’
Hemp oil is one option. With the oil, you can provide the exact amount you want to administer and go up if necessary. You can also find CBD treats for dogs. These are great for simple dosing, and your pup will love them as much as any other treat!
Xanax for Dogs: FAQ
How much alprazolam can my dog take?
Many factors are considered when deciding how much alprazolam to give a dog, like a breed, temperament, health, and weight. Consult with your veterinarian, and never give an animal a prescription meant for you.
Can dogs take Xanax to calm down?
Xanax may be prescribed to a dog to help them relax, ease their grief, or overcome separation anxiety. However, it is imperative to consult with your veterinarian to determine if this is a suitable choice for your animal.
How much Xanax can you give a 50lb dog?
Once you discuss your situation with a veterinarian, she can determine what the proper dosage of Xanax is right for your pet.
Can you give Xanax tablets to a dog?
If your veterinarian prescribes Xanax to help with your dog’s anxiety or depression, it will either be in tablet or liquid form. Never give an animal a drug prescribed to you, even if you think it is the same thing. Doing so may cause adverse reactions, an overdose, or death.
In short, alprazolam can be safe for dogs, but only in small doses over a short amount of time. Dogs may become dependent and experience withdrawal symptoms if used for long periods. Be sure to try the natural, safer options before resorting to Xanax for dogs, and only give it under a vet’s supervision.