Alprazolam (Xanax) for Dogs: Uses and Side Effects

Alprazolam (Xanax) can be helpful to relieve anxiety problems in dogs. However, prolonged use of Xanax in dogs is not recommended as it may cause physical dependence and lead to withdrawal symptoms.
DogAppy Staff
Caution!
Alprazolam (Xanax) being a strong sedative, make sure you consult your veterinarian before giving it to your pet.
It is a common knowledge that dogs become anxious and stressful after hearing loud noises. For instance, the high-decibel noises of fireworks, thunderstorms, and gunshots are some of the causes of noise-related anxiety. Car rides and even separation from pet parents or guardians can cause anxiety, panic attacks, and even depression in dogs. Such behavioral problems in dogs may be treated with alprazolam (Xanax).
Xanax provides a feeling of calm, which can be helpful to treat anxiety in dogs. Xanax is classified as benzodiazepine tranquilizer, meaning it depresses the central nervous system to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Xanax also displays anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant properties. Hence, it may be used to treat spastic colon, a condition in which intestinal muscles contract abnormally. It may also be prescribed to increase your pet's appetite.
Dosage
Alprazolam is available in the form of tablets. 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg strength alprazolam may be prescribed to treat anxiety in dogs. It is also administered in liquid form of 0.5 mg or 1 mg concentration of the drug in 5 ml and 1 ml of liquid, respectively.
The weight of the dog is the deciding factor in determining the dose of alprazolam. The twice-a-day dosage will vary from 0.01 to 0.05 mg for every pound of your pet's weight. Also, ensure that the dose does not cross the '4 mg a day' mark. Usually, a 100-pound German shepherd is given 1 mg of alprazolam daily.
Is it FDA Approved?
Alprazolam (Xanax) is an off-label drug, meaning it has not been endorsed by the U.S. FDA for the treatment of anxiety in dogs. Although the drug has received approval for human use only, it is found to be safe in dogs. However, the drug has to be given under veterinary guidance. In other words, you need to take your pet to the vet, discuss the issue, and then let the vet decide about the need to prescribe Xanax for your pet. You should not buy the drug by showing a prescription that recommends Xanax for humans. To put it simply, a vet prescription is very important when purchasing Xanax for your pet.
Side Effects
Sleepiness is the most commonly observed side effect of Xanax in dogs. So your pet if put on this antianxiety medication may become too sleepy. However, this excessive sleepiness can make your pet somewhat clumsy. However, this sedative effect in your pet may indicate that it has been administered in higher doses than prescribed. Xanax, when given at a lower dose, can help relieve anxiety without causing any sedation. So make sure that the drug is administered in the right dose. Other side effects that may occur include gastrointestinal upset, which may cause vomiting, gas, and diarrhea.
Dogs allergic to this medication are likely to suffer from severe side effects. Skin problems such as hives, facial swelling, sudden diarrhea, seizures, and breathing problems are all symptoms of allergic reactions that require immediate medical attention.
Also, dogs suffering from kidney or liver problems, muscle weakness or glaucoma are deemed unfit for Xanax dosage. In any case, talk to your vet about your pet's pre-existing condition, and discuss whether it would be appropriate to administer the drug in such circumstances.
Paradoxical Effect
The drug may cause a paradoxical reaction, meaning the effect is opposite to what it is intended for. So instead of feeling sleepy and calm, your pet may become hyperactive and show signs of aggressive behavior. However, this paradoxical effect of Xanax that causes overexcitation in dogs, is a rarity.
Drug Interactions
Xanax can interact with certain drugs such as barbiturates, which may exacerbate its sedative properties. Also, antifungal agents like ketoconazole and itraconazole can slow down the metabolism of Xanax, making its sedative effect last longer. So, inform your doctor if your pet is put on any other medication.
Also, your pet may experience withdrawal symptoms if Xanax is given for an extended duration. The withdrawal symptoms of Xanax in your pet may manifest in the form of photophobia, shaking, and vomiting. To avoid these withdrawal effects, it is best to put your pet on minimal dose of Xanax that too for a shortest possible duration.
Keep in mind that Xanax is not a first line of treatment for anxiety in dogs. Scheduling your pet for behavior/training sessions from a veterinary behavior technician, is recommended to address his behavioral concerns. Let your vet decide whether it is necessary to prescribe Xanax along with behavior therapy.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian.
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