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Sedatives for Dogs

Pet owners need to have some basic knowledge about these drugs in order to effectively manage anxiety and nervousness in their pets. Read this article to find out some commonly used prescriptions, as well as herbal sedatives for dogs.
DogAppy Staff
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
A sedative is a class of drug that reduces excitation and agitation. Like humans, dogs too can get excited or nervous in certain circumstances, especially while traveling by air, visiting an unfamiliar place, meeting new people, hearing fireworks, and during a thunderstorm . Dogs are also given sedatives before a surgery and sometimes during a dog training session. However, all types of sedatives may not be safe for dogs. So, a pet owner should have some basic knowledge about the most commonly used and safe sedatives for dogs.
Sedatives Used for Dogs
Sedatives have been used for a very long time by pet owners to relax their pets, including dogs. However, before using any kind of medication for dogs, one should always consult a veterinarian, regarding the appropriate dosage, and the safety issues or side effects associated with such medications. The same thing is also applicable for sedatives, as overuse or prolonged use of sedatives can cause several side effects. The sedatives that veterinarians usually recommend for dogs are, acepromazine or promace, diazepam, Xanax, clomipramine, and medetomidine.
Acepromazine is a sedative that is most commonly recommended for anxious dogs prior to surgery and before a grooming session. Certain over-anxious dogs may also require this during air or car travel. It is generally considered a safe sedative for dogs. However, it should be kept in mind that this drug can lower the level of blood pressure, and so should be given in appropriate dosage, as suggested by the veterinarian. Diazepam or valium, on the other hand, is a medication that is generally recommended only for humans, but can be given to dogs in case of over-excitement and convulsions. However, a prescription from a veterinarian is required to administer valium in dogs.
Medetomidine is a drug that is administered intravenously, and used as a sedative and analgesic for dogs. Apart from these, Xanax or alprazolam and clomipramine are also used as effective sedatives. Xanax is a drug that is registered only for humans, just like valium. So do not use Xanax for dogs unless prescribed by a veterinarian. More commonly, it is recommended for anxiety relief, though dogs that suffer from thunderstorm phobia, convulsions, and separation anxiety can also be given Xanax, if suggested by a veterinarian. Clomipramine is a drug that is most commonly used to treat separation anxiety in dogs.
Natural Sedatives
Apart from the drugs mentioned above, certain natural and herbal sedatives for dogs also exist. One such example is the herb skullcap. Skullcap proves quite effective for treating excitability and nervousness in dogs. Similarly, chamomile too can work as a mild natural sedative that can calm an excited dog. It can promote better sleep and treat an upset stomach caused by nervousness and anxiety. Another excellent herbal sedative for dogs is valerian, which can effectively treat anxiety, nervousness, sleeplessness and separation anxiety. However, it needs to be given only in small doses, as overdose can cause side effects like gastrointestinal problems.
The hormone melatonin, which is secreted by the pineal gland, too can play an important role in treating dog anxiety. This hormone affects the level of neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, and the hormone cortisol, and thereby helps relieve anxiety. Though this natural sedative can be found over the counter, it should be given only with the approval of a veterinarian. This hormone is usually recommended by veterinarians to alleviate separation anxiety and noise and thunderstorm phobias in dogs. The advantage of using melatonin is that it does not cause drowsiness in dogs, unlike many other common sedatives.
In general, herbal or natural sedatives may not cause any serious side effects like prescription sedatives, if used judiciously. However, prolonged and continuous use of both prescription and herbal sedatives for dogs may give rise to certain health problems. The side effects can be more worrisome in the case of prescription sedatives. Many times, some sedatives have been observed to produce an opposite effect, instead of calming the anxious dogs. For this reason, dogs that have been administered sedatives should be monitored, especially if they will be in the company of children. Pet owners need to refrain from giving any medication, prescription or herbal, to their dogs, without informing their veterinarians. In the long run, anxiety, stress, and behavior problems in dogs can be managed with the help of exercises. Exercise is one of the safest ways to naturally calm and relax a dog and promote its health.
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