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Using Xanax for Dogs with Anxiety

Why is Xanax prescribed for Dogs?

Xanax for dogs is primarily used to treat anxiety disorders on a short-term basis.  It is generally not considered appropriate for long-term use in dogs. One of the most common uses of Xanax for dogs is in the episodic treatment of noise phobias, including severe thunderstorm or fireworks phobia. Another widely accepted use of Xanax for dogs is to
provide mild sedation and reduce the severe anxiety that a small number of dogs
experience with veterinary visits, toe-nail trims, airplane flights, and necessary routine procedures. It may also rarely be used as an adjunct to behavior modification training to treat other canine anxiety disorders. Although Xanax is often used to treat the symptoms of anxiety in humans, do not treat your dog with Xanax prescribed for a human. The dosage and
safety of Xanax for your dog must be carefully discussed with a veterinarian, as there are special considerations when Xanax is used for dogs.

What is Xanax for Dogs?

Xanax is the trade name for a drug called alprazolam. This drug is a benzodiazepine tranquilizer, in the same family as Valium. Alprazolam is a controlled substance with human abuse potential, and is only available by prescription.

Dosage Information

Xanax, a.k.a. alprazolam, should never be administered to your dog without the supervision  of a veterinarian. Dosage and duration of treatment varies widely depending upon the condition being treated, and the sensitivity of the individual dog to Xanax. Xanax is available in 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg and 2 mg tablets, or in a solution. 

​Special Considerations and Side effects of Xanax for Dogs

​Xanax is not a substitute for training and behavior modification in dogs with problematic behaviors, but rather an adjunct to these therapies, as a last resort in dogs with severe disorders that have failed to respond to training measures and other pharmacological agents. The goal of Xanax for dogs in need of behavior modification is to aid in calming them so that they may gain more from their training sessions. However, because Xanax causes sedation, it may impair memory and learning, so behaviorists typically only recommend it when the behavior is so severe that initiating training is impossible without intervention. When Xanax is used intermittently as a sedative or for severe phobias, the goal is to prevent the dog from harming itself, and to reduce the anxiety caused by the event. 

Dogs with liver disease may not be good candidates for Xanax treatment, and for this reason, most veterinarians recommend blood testing to assess the liver prior to prescribing Xanax for dogs. In addition, Xanax can cause complications in dogs with concurrent glaucoma, early pregnancy, or disorders causing muscular weakness. It should not be given to dogs with known hypersensitivity to the drug, and it can interact with some medications, including certain antacids, antibiotics, anti-fungals, and heart medications. Be sure to tell your veterinarian what drugs, including over-the-counter medications, your dog is taking prior to starting a Xanax prescription for your dog.

​ The most common adverse effects of Xanax for dogs are excessive sedation and incoordination. If your dog seems excessively tired or has trouble with normal motor function, call your veterinarian. A reduction in dose can often be helpful in minimizing these side effects. Long-term use of Xanax is not recommended for dogs due to the risk of drug tolerance and physical dependence. To avoid this unwanted side effect, Xanax should always be used at the lowest effective dose, and for the shortest duration possible. In the rare cases in which Xanax is used for longer periods of time, gradual dosage reduction is usually recommended to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

For further information on using Xanax for dogs with anxiety disorders, contact your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist.