Xanax for Dogs: Know The Alternatives

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / February 25, 2019
xanax for dogs
Xanax for Dogs: Know The Alternatives
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If you’re a doting dog owner, you know first hand how sensitive (wo)man’s best friend truly is. In fact, dogs are often so in tune with their owner’s emotions that if something is bothering you, it’s likely that your furry companion is picking up on it and causing them to quite literally ‘feel your pain.’ Other times, external factors in your dog’s day-to-day life may be at the root of their anxiety. In any case, recognizing that your dog is experiencing extreme levels of anxiety can be terribly upsetting for a pet owner.

Many dog owners find themselves wondering how they can eliminate their pet’s worries and get them back to living their best life possible. In some instances, this may involve a trip to the veterinarian for additional help in the matter. Unfortunately, this vet trip often results in a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax for dogs.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know regarding Xanax for dogs and why you may want to reconsider when it comes to conventional anti-anxiety medications. Furthermore, we’ll discuss effective alternatives that are continuing to prove their effectiveness for countless dogs (and their owners). Let get started!

What is Xanax for Dogs

You may be familiar with the conventional medication, Xanax. Medical physicians often prescribe the drug to treat anxiety disorders in people. Scientifically speaking, Xanax is a benzodiazepine drug called Alprazolam. Xanax is the ‘brand name’ whereas Alprazolam is the generic name for the same medication.

With so many people experiencing the benefits of Xanax in their personal lives, veterinarians began to consider whether dogs may also be able to benefit from the medication. Enough studies proved the drug’s effectiveness and now, many veterinarians will prescribe a special, dog-altered dose of Xanax in order to treat your four-legged friend’s anxiety and help manage their stress levels. However, just because it is not ‘uncommon’ for vets to prescribe Xanax for dogs doesn’t make it entirely safe by any means. In fact, Xanax can have some pretty scary side effects that pet owners should understand before agreeing to the medication. More on that in a moment!

Additionally, like its use for people, Xanax for dogs is a prescription medication that requires approval from a licensed professional.  Additionally, pet owners should never give their dog Xanax without complete direction from their veterinarian. The dosage should never be estimated and you should never give your dog your own Xanax medication. Improper administration of a drug like Xanax can cause horrific adverse reactions.

What is Alprazolam for Dogs

To reiterate, Alprazolam is the generic name for Xanax. (Xanax is, therefore, the ‘brand name’ but they are essentially the same medication.

What Does Xanax Do

Before administering Xanax, we feel that it is important for dog owners to understand how the drug works.

Xanax works by enhancing the natural chemicals in the brain. This alteration creates a calming effect that helps to reverse certain negative feelings like fear and stress. It is important to note that Xanax should only be given under complete supervision from your veterinarian. It is a heavy drug that is not without potential risk. Pet owners must ensure that the potential benefits greatly outweigh the possible harm.

What is Xanax Used For

Veterinarians typically prescribe Xanax to treat anxiety in dogs. However, that’s not the only reason why your vet may recommend the drug. Let’s take a look at all of the ways the conventional medication works for our furry companions.

Xanax for Anxiety

If your veterinary behavioralist diagnoses your dog with anxiety, they may recommend starting them on Xanax. With that being said, it is imperative that pet owners (as well as their vets) make sure that the dog is, in fact, suffering from anxiety and not a behavior issue caused by a lack of training. In a moment, we’ll discuss the clinical signs of anxiety and how to make sure you don’t misunderstand the symptoms.

Separation Anxiety

One of the most common forms of anxiety in dogs is that brought on my being apart from their owner. The condition is referred to as separation anxiety. Sadly, separation anxiety can greatly affect your dog’s quality of life. It can also significantly affect the dog owner’s life as every time they leave the house, panic ensues.

Firework & Thunderstorm Phobia

Additionally, some dogs suffer greatly from noise phobias. Whether it’s thunderstorms, fireworks, or simply loud sounds, noise phobias can cause Fido to go into total panic mode. This can particularly be a large issue if you live in a part of the country that experiences months of heavy rain and thunderstorms. Additionally, holidays like the Fourth of July and New Years Eve can ultimately cause a lot of anxiety for dogs with noise phobias. Check here how to calm your dog from fireworks phobias.

Post-Traumatic Stress

Additionally, veterinarians may prescribe Xanax to treat behavioral issues that develop from post-traumatic stress. For instance, if you have recently adopted your dog from the shelter and once home they begin showing signs of trauma and associated anxiety, Xanax may be used in a temporary manner to ease the dog into their new, safe home.

Depression

Vets may recommend Xanax on a short-term basis in cases of severe depression. For instance, the death of another pet or family member can cause dogs to fall into a deep depression, loss their appetite, and barely get out of bed. Again, like their owners, dogs can be highly sensitive creatures.

Anticonvulsant

To reiterate, Xanax is a member of the benzodiazepine family. Drugs that fall into this category alter the brain in a specific way that can be useful in terms of controlling seizures as they happen.

Appetite Stimulant

In other cases, veterinarians may prescribe Xanax for dogs as a means to boost their appetite. Often times, severe anxiety and depression will be accompanied by a total loss of appetite. This can lead to weight loss and the development of even more stress on the body. In these cases, dogs may benefit from conventional medication like Xanax.

Muscle Relaxer

Finally, Xanax for dogs has muscle relaxant properties and is sometimes prescribed to treat a condition called spastic colon. The condition causes the muscles in the intestinal tract to contract in an abnormal way.

Xanax Side Effects | Alprazolam Side Effects

Dogs with anxiety can have a significantly affected quality of life. Therefore, it only makes sense that pet owners would want to reverse their stressors and relieve their anxiety as soon as possible. However, dog owners must fully recognize that a conventional mediation like Xanax doesn’t come without a slew of potential adverse reactions.

Sedation

One of the most common side effects of Xanax is sedation. This side effect may be beneficial when it comes to calming your dog down on New Year’s Eve if they have a noise phobia. However, consider what it would be like for your dog to experience the side effect on a regular basis. For many pet owners, the thought of ultimately altering their dog’s personality to such a degree isn’t worth the possible benefits of the drug.

Additionally, the magnitude of sedation that Xanax causes can inhibit a service dog or working dog to be able to fulfill their necessary tasks. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, these dogs should never take the drug.

Finally, the sedation doesn’t wear off once the dog is no longer stressed. Therefore, Xanax is not a good choice for dog owners who want to take their pup for a trip in the car, but hope to have a stress-free car ride. Yes, your dog will not be stressed in the car, but they will be completely out-of-it and dopey for the rest of the day.

Depression

First, we want to reiterate that Xanax should only be prescribed in cases of deep depression that is negatively affecting the dog’s life. Mild anxiety should always be treated in an alternative way. Additionally, experts warn that prolonged use of Xanax can actually cause depression to develop. Therefore, limiting the use of the medication is imperative in order to prevent the development of additional issues.

Learning Difficulties

Additionally, another trouble with Xanax is the way in which it inhibits learning. For many pet owners, retraining may be a better way to reverse certain anxieties rather than long-term use of a drug like Xanax.

Weight Gain

We mentioned that Xanax can be used to boost the appetite. In some cases, this can pose a new problem: weight gain. Xanax has the ability to create ravenous appetites. So, if your vet recommends using the medication for an allotted period of time (i.e over the holidays), it is important to properly monitor your dog’s food consumption in order to avoid excessive eating and thus, weight gain.

Liver Damage

Finally, as with all conventional medications, long-term use can pose serious issues for the vital organs, especially the liver. All conventional medications (prescription drugs) are chemically-based. Therefore, when used consistently, they can cause an enormous amount of toxicity to flood the body. If during this period the dog faces a sickness that weakens the immune system, the toxins can accumulate quite quickly and ultimately cause liver damage.

Xanax Addiction

It is as well known fact that Xanax poses potential addiction problems for humans. While dogs seem to tolerate the drug much differently (and better), they are not completely immune to its addictiveness. When using Xanax long-term, the dog’s body will break down the drug at a faster rate. Therefore, over time, pet owners will likely have to increase the dosage of Xanax in order for their dog to experience the same effects of the medication.

Additional Precautions to Understand

Additionally, even if pet owners are comfortable with the potential adverse reactions of Xanax, it is important to understand that some dogs should not take the drug due to pre-existing health conditions.

For instance, pregnant dogs should not take Xanax as it may cause fetal abnormalities. Experts also do not recommend giving Xanax to lactating dogs as it can move through the breast milk and affect the newborn puppies.

Also, in some cases, Xanax can have opposite effects on dogs can cause them to experience heightened levels of excitement (and sometimes heightened levels of anxiety). Whenever starting a new medication, particularly a mood altering medicine like Xanax, it is imperative that you keep a close eye on any and all behavioral changes. Understand the possible side effects of Xanax and report any clinical changes to your veterinarian right away.

Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

As a responsible dog owner, it is imperative that you understand the signs of anxiety. Only after recognizing that your dog is feeling anxious can you work to help relieve their stress.

Barking, Howling, Destroying

One of the most common signs of anxiety, particularly separation anxiety is barking and/or howling as soon as their owner leaves the house. Many pet owners may not even realize that their dog is persistently barking until they receive a noise complaint from an upset neighbor.

Additionally, digging, chewing, and overall destruction are also signs of anxiety. However, when it comes to being vocal and destroying the home, it is important that pet owners recognize whether it is out of anxiety or simply a lack of obedience training. Anxiety and boredom are two very different things. While Xanax may be able to help with anxious behavioral issues but it will not solve a lack of training.

Hiding and Pacing

An anxious dog will also pace incessantly and often hide whenever they are experiencing high levels of stress. These symptoms are common when it comes to noise phobias and people phobias.

Additionally, escape attempts are common signs of noise phobias and can be extremely dangerous, particularly on a night like the Fourth of July. If your dog experiences noise phobias it is extremely important to keep a close eye on them during these holidays.

Aggression

Heightened levels of anxiety can also cause even the sweetest dog to become aggressive. This is often solely out of fear.

Urinating and Defecating

Additionally, urinating and defecating in the home are two additional signs of separation anxiety. Again, it is imperative that dog owners recognize whether Fido is using the bathroom inside due to anxiety or because they haven’t been properly trained.

Excessive Salivating and Licking

Dogs with anxiety may also experience excessive drooling and licking. Ultimately, excessive licking can lead to hot spots and bacterial infections. Trust us when we say that you’ll want to avoid these issues at all cost.

Xanax Dosage for Dogs

Xanax for dogs is available in tablet form as well as a concentrated liquid form. Your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate dose based on your dog’s weight. Your vet will also take into consideration the level of anxiety (or depression) that your dog is facing.

Alprazolam 0.25 mg | Alprazolam 0.5 mg | Xanax 1 mg | Xanax 2 mg

Xanax (Alprazolam) is available in 0.25mg, 0.5mg, 1mg, and 2 mg tablets. Typically, vets will start the dog at the lowest dose possible and increase the dosage when necessary. Starting at the lowest dose will help reduce the possibility of side effects and overdose.

Additionally, it is important for pet owners to understand that Xanax isn’t as effective if the dog is already experiencing anxiety. Therefore, experts recommend administering Xanax approximately one hour prior to a stressful event.

Xanax Alternatives

For so many pet owners, the potential risks associated with Xanax for dogs are simply not worth the possible benefits… particularly when the benefits are not guaranteed. Therefore, dog owners everywhere began actively seeking Xanax alternatives that are equally effective but without the slew of potential adverse reactions. What they found continues to change the ways that pet owners can now treat their dog’s ailments.

CBD for Dogs

The answer? CBD oil for dogs. Derived from the hemp plant, CBD oil is making a name for itself for the countless ways it can benefit not only people, but our furry companions. It is truly negating the need for several conventional medications that were once considered to be the only answer to treat certain ailments. In terms of Xanax for dogs, CBD oil is proving to be a highly effective alternative when it comes to the treatment options we have available.

Managing Anxiety with CBD Oil

One of the most highly studied uses of CBD oil is for reducing and managing anxiety in both people and dogs alike. Every day, more and more dog owners are eliminating the need for anti-anxiety medications and, instead, using the all-natural substitute. CBD oil proves to be effective at managing present anxiety as well as serving as a preventative. Furthermore, CBD oil can treat not only generalized anxiety, but more specific stressors such as separation anxiety and phobias from loud noises (i.e thunderstorms and fireworks).

Boosting the Appetite with CBD Oil

CBD oil is also an effective way to boost your dog’s appetite. For dogs undergoing certain treatments (such as chemotherapy), CBD oil is highly beneficial. You can imagine why so many pet owners are choosing CBD to help with their dog’s appetite loss rather than a drug that may cause gastrointestinal upset.

Treating Seizure Disorders with CBD Oil

Furthermore, countless studies are continuing to prove CBD oil’s effective at lessening the severity and frequency of seizures in dogs. Remarkably, CBD oil also proves to be effective in cases where the dog was resistant to conventional anticonvulsant medications. Yes, you read that correctly! All-natural CBD works when harsh, chemically-based drugs did not.

Reducing Pain and Inflammation

Last, but certainly not least, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD oil are incredibly effective at reducing muscle pain. In fact, CBD works so well that experts are considering it to be a new drug class for treating chronic pain in dogs and people.

ZERO SIDE EFFECTS! 

Ready for the best news of all? CBD oil for dogs has virtually zero side effects. As you can imagine, pet owners prefer the hemp derived supplement over a medication that may have horrific adverse reactions.

Xanax for Dogs: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, recognizing that your beloved four-legged friend isn’t feeling their best can be really upsetting for any doting dog owner. Furthermore, high levels of stress can greatly affect your dog’s overall quality of life. Just like in humans, excessive amounts of stress can also lead to the development of a slew of health issues. For these reasons (among many, many others), it is imperative that the root of your dog’s stress is fully addressed and eliminated whenever possible. If the underlying cause of your dog’s anxiety cannot be eliminated, it is paramount that you seek out an appropriate remedy to ease their stress levels.

Here at Simple Wag, we are all dog owners, so we know that jumping to a “miracle” pill may be tempting. You want your furry companion to get back to feeling like their best self as soon as possible. However, we want to stress that Xanax may not be the right choice or even an option that you should consider. When there is an all-natural, safe alternative that is just as effective, wouldn’t you rather choose it over a chemically-based drug that comes with a laundry list of potential side effects?

When all is said and done, a life full of stress is no way to live. Let CBD oil help. From all of us at Simple Wag, we hope Fido feels better soon!

Sources

Xanax for Dogs: Dosage and Side Effects

Read This Before Giving Your Dog Xanax!

Xanax For Dogs (A.K.A Alprazolam) – An Overview

https://www.honestpaws.com/blogs/pet-care/separation-anxiety-in-dogs

https://www.thesprucepets.com/common-dog-fears-and-phobias-1117897

Common Fears and Phobias in Dogs and How to Help Treat Them

https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/14-medications-dog-anxiety

Medications for fear & anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dog-days/201612/canine-phobias

 

 

About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for Honestpaws.com.


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