When a dog owner notices their furry little friend isn’t feeling so well, often the first thing they do is open the old medicine cabinet. But, it goes without saying, dogs and people are different. Dogs’ and humans’ genetic makeup is drastically different and medicine that works on humans, doesn’t always have the same effect on pets. For instance, a single Tylenol pill can be lethal to cats; it’s not safe for dogs either.
Anxiety in dogs is a common condition. It may be the result of abuse, not being properly socialized, injury/trauma, or genetic. Xanax is a common drug used to treat human anxiety. The problem is that it was developed for humans and in short, it’s not safe for dogs.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine drug known as alprazolam (Xanax is the brand name). It’s usually used for treating anxiety. It works by enhancing natural chemicals in the brain and the result is an overall calming effect. If taken for an extended period of time, it can be very addicting, in both humans and dogs!
While it’s not entirely safe for dogs to take Xanax, it’s not uncommon for vets to prescribe it. There are special dog-altered doses which can actually be very effective in the treatment of anxiety.
Xanax Doses For Dogs
Without question, Xanax should only be administered to your dog through controlled veterinarian care. Usually you can expect a dose to be approximately 0.005 – 0.045 mg/lb. This is administered orally every 6 to 12 hours, or 1 to 2 mg for medium sized dogs, per day.
Dog owners need to be aware of the potential risks of giving their dogs Xanax. Although it has proven to be effective in reducing anxiety, it is much harsher on a dog’s liver and kidneys. Therefore, those with predisposed liver or kidney conditions should avoid Xanax.
What is Xanax Used to Treat in Dogs?
Xanax has been used to treat the following anxiety-related conditions and symptoms in dogs:
- Post-traumatic stress
- Separation Anxiety
- General Anxiety
- Muscle relaxant
- Appetite stimulation
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Depression related to grief
There is some controversy surrounding its use in the treatment of aggression in dogs, because there has been some proof that it works, and conversely some proof that shows it can actually result in increased aggression and hyperactivity.
Although it can work, it’s not advised to use Xanax as the first line of defense for trying to settle down a hyperactive dog. Dogs such as Collies and German Shepherds usually become destructive and/or hyperactive due to a lack of brain stimulation. Try a firm regimen of problem solving games and activity in order to exhaust their pent up energy.
Possible Side Effects of Xanax for Dogs
- Fatigue – Dog sleeps more than usual throughout the day
- Clumsiness – Loss of motor control
- Paradoxical effects – aggressiveness or overexcitement
- Dependency – excessive use can result in physical dependency. Weaning your dog off can be a challenging process riddled with withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, shakes, and sensitivity.
- Increased appetite
- Liver problems
If you’re worried your dog may have overdosed on Xanax here are some signs and symptoms:
- Extreme sedation – coma like state
- Mental denigration
- Slow reaction time
The risk of overdose, and other medical complications make Xanax a risky course of action, especially for a furry little member of the family. There are lots of other solutions you can discuss with your vet.
Natural Solutions for Dog Anxiety
- Exercise – Dogs are packed with fresh energy every day and their only real release is physicality. Therefore, creating a frequent exercise plan can really help them satisfy their daily needs.
- Distraction – Dogs who have phobias, such as thunder, would benefit from distraction during the event. Doing tricks, and simple obedience moves like ‘sit, stay and roll-over’ coupled with reward based training can really help get their mind of the stressful event. It will even change their associations with the stressor to something more positive.
- Massages – Everyone likes a good massage. It can help your dog’s muscles relax and ease their nerves. There are specially designed massage methods just for dogs, which can be very effective.
While Xanax has showed some ability to help dogs with anxiety, it still poses potential risks, especially if your dog already has health problems. It should never be used without professional physical care, but even more importantly it shouldn’t be your first line of defense against anxiety. There are lot’s of proven natural methods to help your dog overcome his anxiety. If at-home natural methods aren’t working, you can always seek professional help.