Is Xanax Safe for Dogs?

Anxiety is a terrible thing that doesn’t discriminate among species. A lot of people don’t realize that a large number of dogs suffer from anxiety just like humans do. Unfortunately, dogs with anxiety live a significantly decreased quality of life. If you’ve been wondering if there are viable treatment options for your anxious dog, there is hope!

Can I Give My Dog Xanax?

Xanax (alprazolam) is a tranquilizer/sedative that has been used in human medicine for many years. More veterinarians are realizing the benefits of Xanax in treating dogs that are anxious or panicked, actually preferring it over Valium (diazepam). Some vets use it to treat aggression in dogs, but it seems to have the opposite effect on some dogs, turning docile dogs into very aggressive animals.

Is Xanax Safe for Dogs?

Yes, Xanax is safe for many dogs, but there are safety precautions to consider if your dog has liver or kidney problems or they’re pregnant/nursing. While Xanax isn’t considered unsafe, it is a potent drug formulated for human consumption and the research done on Xanax for canines isn’t as extensive as work done on drugs made for dogs. Because of this, many veterinarians are very cautious when prescribing this.

When you talk to your vet about a Xanax prescription, they’ll want to hear your dog’s symptoms in depth. There might be a better option than Xanax, perhaps a drug that isn’t as strong as Xanax is. Some dogs can successfully have their anxiety treated with behavior modification, so your vet may recommend that as a first resort. You’ll discuss any drugs your dog’s currently on because some can react badly with benzodiazepines, including any natural remedies they might be currently taking for anxiety.

How Much Xanax Can I Give My Dog?

Xanax is considered a controlled substance, meaning it’s very unlikely–if not impossible–that you’ll have access to it unless your veterinarian has prescribed it for your dog. Your vet will give you the proper dosage for your dog, so there shouldn’t be any instances where you have to calculate the dosage on your own. As it is, the oral dose given depends on what condition is being treated. A minor phobia of loud noises will require a different dose than a dog with destructive separation anxiety.

The daily dose should not go over 4 mg per day for any dog, regardless of size, age, or the condition being treated. Doses are actually very small; for example, a dog with general anxiety will get 0.005-0.045 mg/lb, while a dog with separation anxiety will get as much as 0.09 mg/lb up to three times per day.

When your dog is given a prescription for Xanax, how much they get in the beginning will be lower than the amount they should eventually be on. Your vet may start them on 1 mg per day (for a medium sized dog) to see how they react to the drug. Some dogs experience marked side effects, so it’s important to start at lower doses to ensure they aren’t extremely sensitive to it.

What Happens if My Dog Takes Too Much Xanax?

Overdoses happen. Whether you miscalculated the dose, different members of the family gave your dog a pill, or your dog got into their stash, overdoses are unfortunate but possible. If your dog has had too much Xanax, their central nervous system becomes severely depressed, leading to extreme sedation, confusion, or sluggish in reacting to stimuli. Some dogs experience the opposite effect and become extremely hyper during an overdose. The safest thing to do is ensure your dog seeks veterinary care immediately if you notice their behavior has changed at all.

For families where various members give the dog their dose, always double check with everyone else before giving them their pill. Keep the pill bottle in areas where dogs and children can’t reach them, and never give more than your vet has prescribed.

What Can I Give My Dog for Anxiety?

When Xanax isn’t a good fit for your dog, there are other options to treat them. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a viable option if they have minor anxiety. Usually 1 mg/lb is safe for your dog and works well to treat loud noise phobias or anxiety over infrequent experiences like car rides. It has a very mild sedative effect that wears off within four to six hours.

Zylkene is a natural product derived from casein that has been shown to relax newborns after nursing. It’s best for temporary use, typically given to dogs that are going to be boarded, welcoming a new family member, or moving to a new home.

Some people swear by acupuncture or massage therapy to target their dog’s anxiety. Some owners use it in conjunction with medication while others say it helps their dog on its own.

When your dog has severe anxiety, you love them enough to find something to help relax them. Not only does anxiety lead to weight loss, hair loss, and vomiting/diarrhea, anxious dogs are also destructive. To save both your dog and your house, don’t be afraid to talk to your vet about an anti-anxiety medication. It will make everyone in your household happier!