Xanax is the trademark for Alprazolam, a medication used for treating anxiety and panic disorders in humans. It belongs in the same family as Diazepam, Flurazepam, and Clonazepam. Can you give Xanax to a distressed dog?
In today’s post, we’ll clarify if this drug can be safely given to canines. We will take a look at its safety as well as the possible risks involved in giving this to our pets. As we know, certain human medications are okay for dogs but some are not. Read on to find out if Xanax is safe or not for animals.
What Is Alprazolam?
Alprazolam is a type of benzodiazepine, a class of drugs typically used for treating anxiety and several other conditions. Like most benzodiazepines, Alprazolam is known for its sedative-hypnotic and antianxiety effects.
Scientists believe that if there is a lot of activity in one’s brain, they are more prone to developing anxiety and other psychiatric conditions. By enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitters in the brain, the excessive activity of the nerves is reduced.
Alprazolam helps by increasing the effects of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This neurotransmitter is responsible for restraining activity in the brain.
In terms of duration of action, Alprazolam is much like lorazepam, estazolam, and temazepam, having a half-life of 11.2 hours on average.
Xanax is fat-soluble which means it undergoes chemical decomposition in the presence of lipids. Thus, it is stored in the fat cells. The fat solubility nature of Xanax is the reason why physicians only prescribe it in small amounts as it has the tendency to accumulate in one’s fat cells.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it back in 1981. The administration has not approved it for animal use but veterinarians can legally prescribe it. As stated by the law, vets can prescribe a non-FDA approved drug if there is no veterinary equivalent for it.
Is Xanax Safe For Dogs?
In humans, Xanax is a safe and effective medication if taken correctly. It is a high-potent medication for anxiety and panic disorders so it should only be taken under the guidance of a medical expert.
In dogs, Xanax can be used in treating panic-like plights of separation anxiety and phobia in certain things like thunderstorm and fireworks. It can also be dispersed if the pet is showing symptoms of extreme grief.
Do note that there are many things that cause sadness in dogs. They can go through distress over the loss of an animal companion.
It is no longer recommended for treating aggression because it can do more harm than good. There were instances when dogs were more aggressive after taking Xanax instead of the other way around.
There are various types of aggression in dogs. The aggression can be caused by fear, dominance, a dog’s territorial nature, or when there is a prey.
Owners should fully understand what’s causing their pet’s hostility before resorting to behavioral medications. It’s also better to work with a vet in such matters.
How to Spot Anxiety in Dogs
Dogs display anxiety in a variety of ways. Most dogs shake or pant to express their fears. Some dogs can be aggressive and would show it through excessive barking.
Identifying anxiety in dogs can be a complicated task if your pet appears normal in other circumstances. Some pet owners just dismiss the idea that their pet is experiencing anxiety, and would even assume that he is just acting out.
But if you suspect that your own dog is going through anxiety and needs help, here are the signs to keep an eye on:
- Your dog prefers to be alone than have any companion
- Clinginess or seeking more attention from you than before
- He licks and chews his fur obsessively
- It is difficult to calm him when he howls or barks
- He looks like he is trying to break free
There are cases when house-trained dogs excrete in the house all of a sudden. If a dog does it more than once or twice, this could be a sign that the pet is going through uneasiness. It’s also possible that he instantly becomes hyperactive.
Canines with separation anxiety would even dig and chew at doors and windows in an effort to look for their owners. They would show signs of depression whenever they see their owners getting ready to leave the house.
Do note that the peak absorption in the plasma happens 1-2 hours after ingestion. For dogs with separation anxiety, Xanax should be given an hour or two before the owner leaving the house.
The best thing you can to start is to see a behavioral therapist. He or she can help you figure out if your pet’s clinginess, untimely elimination, and harsh chewing are all signs of anxiety.
When Not to Give Xanax to Dogs
While this medicine is relatively safe for most dogs, it is not recommended for pets with liver and kidney issues. It’s also not advisable if a canine is suffering from muscular weakness.
Xanax is metabolized in the liver. If your dog has a liver problem, it will take longer for him to fully terminate Xanax. Likewise, pets suffering from renal failure will have a hard time eliminating the drug from their system.
Similarly, pregnant and nursing dogs should not be given any type of benzodiazepine drugs as they can cause abnormalities and deformities in their babies.
If your dog is pregnant or has health issues, natural remedies are more suitable for treating their anxiety. Herbs and homeopathy are just two of the common natural remedies for anxiety.
Natural and Safe Treatments for Canine Anxiety
There are many valid reasons for considering natural remedies first before administering Xanax to pets. First, Xanax is only meant for short-term use. In the long run, it can cause serious side effects. For owners who wish to address their dog’s behavior in a long-term manner, below are the best options.
- Thundershirt – this kind of garment helps doggies feel a little calmer during stressful situations. These snug-fitting shirts have soothing effects because they give gentle and constant pressure to the dog’s body.
- Canine Formula – some dog treats are intended to lessen a dog’s worries. A diet that supports their health and well-being can be very beneficial for dogs as it helps them to be more content and calm. The usual ingredients are colostrum, thiamine, and the amino-acid L-Theanine.
- Dog Appeasing Pheromones – mother dogs naturally release this chemical to calm their puppies. They secrete it when they are lactating and nursing their offspring. It is considered safe for dogs of all ages and works best for chronic and low levels of anxiety.
- Chew toys and flip boards – there are toys that can keep your pet occupied or soothed when you are not around. Some toys are even infused with chamomile and other soothing scents for more calming power.
- Essential oils – aromatherapy or essential oils can work wonders in keeping your pet calm. For starters, you can use one essential oil. Lavender is a top choice of all the essential oils, but you can also choose from cedarwood, chamomile, bergamot, and frankincense. As you go along, you can pair them up or even create your DIY spray.
Aside from these, it is also recommended for owners of anxious dogs to practice lifestyle changes. If your dog does not socialize enough, think of ways to give them more social interaction and companionship. The need to feel included is natural for dogs because they are pack animals.
Exercise can also tremendously help anxious dogs as it allows our pets to burn the excess energy. Exercise is also known for its capability to release endorphins in the brain. The release of endorphins can help your dog feel better.
Is Xanax Effective in Treating Canine Anxiety?
Xanax may or may not work on your dog. There are instances when it is not very effective in treating panic attacks in canines. If you believe Xanax is not working on your own dog, better tell your vet immediately so he/she can inform you on how to gradually stop the medication.
Xanax is one of the more modern benzodiazepines. Compared to Valium, it has a less powerful hypnotic effect. However, it is more powerful as an anxiolytic. In medical terms, anxiolytics refer to anti-anxiety medications usually prescribed for short-term use.
Xanax Dosage for Dogs
How much Xanax is alright for canines? The dosage will actually depend on two things: your pet’s weight and the specific condition you are trying to address.
The recommended dosage of Xanax for dogs is 0.005 – 0.045 mg for every pound of body weight. This is equivalent to 1-2 milligrams if your pet is a medium-sized dog.
That amount of Xanax can be given to dogs during panic attacks, when they have phobias or night-waking disturbances. It is taken orally every six to 12 hours.
There are cases when vets prescribe a higher dose. For instance, dogs can take 0.12 – 0.9 mg of Xanax per pound of body weight during separation anxiety. For storm anxiety, a typical dose is 0.01 – 0.18 mg per pound of body weight.
A dose higher than 4 mg per day should never be given. When the recommended amount is exceeded, it can cause mild to severe levels of toxicity in canines.
If you suspect your pet has ingested high amounts of this drug, keep an eye for the following symptoms:
- Respiratory Decline
- Intense sedation
What to Do If Your Dog Ate Xanax
If your pet accidentally ate Xanax and you’re not sure just how much he ingested, keep an eye on him for the next 24 hours. Monitor for any vomiting and intense sedation.
When the ingestion happened 30 minutes to an hour before, it’s safe to induce vomiting. If it happened more than two hours ago, it is no longer advisable to force your pet to throw up.
A 3% Hydrogen Peroxide can be used for inducing vomiting. It can be administered using a syringe. Before proceeding, though, it is crucial to inform a vet or pet poison control center first. If they allow you to proceed, simply follow their directions and reminders.
Can You Use Xanax For Dogs Without A Prescription?
No. While there are retailers legally selling Xanax without a prescription, it’s still strongly advised that you get your vet’s approval before administering it to your dog.
Giving Xanax to dogs without an advice from your vet can be pretty risky. Benzodiazepine overdose can lead to extreme sedation and aggression. In excessive amounts, it can cause fatal side effects to dogs.
Side Effects of Xanax to Dogs
Some dogs reportedly experienced paradoxical excitement after taking the drug. Paradoxical reactions are among the most common side effects of benzodiazepines.
A paradoxical reaction involves restlessness and agitation. Sometimes, dogs can be too excited or overly responsive to noise. Other side effects of Xanax include:
- Difficulty sleeping
Important Reminders for Dog Owners
In case your pet was prescribed Xanax, don’t skip doses because this will put him at risk of withdrawal-induced anxiety. According to the “Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Ninth Edition”, this is because Xanax has a short elimination half-life.
Also, remember that Xanax tablets are only ideal for treating short-term relief of symptoms of anxiety. If you want to address your dog’s fears without resorting to behavioral medications, seek help from a behavioral therapist or a holistic veterinarian.
Xanax is relatively safe for dogs but it should always be administered with the help and advice of a veterinarian. It’s best to have your pet properly checked before beginning the treatment. Before prescribing the drug, your vet will first ask important questions, like if your dog has an allergy to benzodiazepines or if he is currently taking other medications.