Fact checked

How Safe Is Alprazolam For Dogs?

Dog Care
6 minutes read
A veterinarian might prescribe Alprazolam for your dog to help with certain health symptoms or concerns. But how safe is it?
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

Alprazolam for dogs is considered safe when given under the strict supervision of a qualified veterinarian. Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine, or tranquilizer, and is commonly used as an anti-anxiety or anti-seizure medication in dogs. In addition, alprazolam can be pretty effective in calming dogs' anxiety during thunderstorms and in several other stressful conditions that cause canine stress.

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What is Alprazolam, and Why is It Given to Dogs?

Also known as Xanax®, alprazolam works by altering certain activities in areas of the brain that help produce the wanted outcomes. In addition, alprazolam for dogs helps decrease symptoms of panic attacks that may be present not only during thunderstorms but on the Fourth of July when fireworks are being set off and for separation anxiety. 

Although dogs typically get used to their owners coming and going, certain dogs have a challenging time during short periods of separation, especially if they have had traumatic experiences.

What Are Other Uses of Alprazolam?

Occasionally, alprazolam is prescribed to treat painful muscle conditions in dogs, but other, less sedating medications are often tolerated better. These medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). In addition, when using this medication, veterinarians must warn owners that the medication might have the opposite effect, causing excitement.

Alprazolam may also be given to dogs to increase appetite, relieve irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon symptoms, and treat depression. The veterinarian may be able to identify signs of canine depression or refer the dog to an animal behaviorist who can further evaluate the dog and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

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What are the Side Effects of Alprazolam?

When alprazolam for dogs is given, owners should watch for side effects like pronounced sedation, lethargy, and confusion. In addition, persistent thirst, coordination problems, and dry mouth can occur. 

Side effects may be more pronounced when the medication is taken with certain antibiotics, beta-blockers, and antacid medications. If the veterinarian is not familiar with the dog, the owner needs to tell him which drugs or dietary supplements the dog is currently receiving.

Like humans, alprazolam for dogs can cause dependence and withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include shaking, vomiting, extreme photophobia, or light sensitivity. To avoid dependency, dogs, like humans, should not take alprazolam for extended periods, and the medication should never be abruptly discontinued but tapered off gradually.

In rare cases, giving alprazolam to dogs with anxiety and other problems can lead to liver problems. If the veterinarian suspects liver problems, he may recommend a simple blood test to determine if liver enzymes are elevated. If they are, the dosage may be lowered, or the medication may be discontinued. However, this medication is generally safe and well tolerated, even in most miniature dogs.

How Should Alprazolam Be Administered?

Alprazolam is administered orally as a pill or liquid solution. It can be given with or without meals 30 to 60 minutes before an anticipated triggering event. If vomiting happens when the next dose is taken on an empty stomach, take it with food or a treat. The first time you give this medication to your pet, keep an eye out for any side effects. This medication will take effect fast, within 1 to 2 hours, where clinical symptoms will be seen to improve.

What Are Alprazolam Interactions I Should Be Aware Of?

Alprazolam is a highly reactive drug with several negative interactions with other substances. Use the following medications with caution when administering alprazolam to your dog

  • Amiodarone, 
  • Antacids, 
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, 
  • Fluoxetine, 
  • Hepatic enzyme inducers and hepatic enzyme inhibitors, 
  • Lithium, 
  • Nondepolarizing neuromuscular blockers, 
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, and
  • Divalproex.

This list is not exhaustive. So, be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications such as vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies your pet takes. If possible, take the medicine container with you to the vet.

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What Are Non-Medicinal Alternatives of Alprazolam?

Are you still not sure about giving your pup alprazolam? This decision is best made with the professional guidance of a vet, especially if you try other methods and they do not work. So, here are some things you can consider if you would prefer something milder:

Exercise 

Keeping your pet active and stimulated might help combat boredom and keep your dog from misbehaving. Just as in humans, exercise in pets can release feel-good hormones that promote good mental health and a feeling of stability. 

This behavior change is beneficial for dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. By keeping them occupied with toys and activities, your pet will have less time to be nervous or destructive, thus helping them maintain a cheerful disposition.

Massage

Massage is a simple yet effective method of calming your dog's anxiety. A gentle massage is enough to release the tension in your dog's muscles, enhance calm, reduce stress, and boost your dog's mood. Loving contact from you will make your pet feel safe and secure since they have formed a bond with you. However, if you think you do not know how to start massaging your pet, you can get a specialist to do it for you and even learn from them.

Dog Calming Chews

Dog-soothing chews containing relaxing substances such as CBD oil, valerian root, and chamomile are also effective anxiety relievers. These herbs may provide comparable soothing effects to alprazolam without undesirable side effects.

However, the research is still inconclusive; the chews may work for some dogs and not others. It would be best if you also spoke with your vet before giving your pet any chews because CBD sometimes interacts poorly with other drugs. Therefore, only use chews if they give you the green light, your dog responds to them, and there are no alternatives.

Distraction During Triggering Events

When one of your dog's anxiety triggers is out of your control, such as loud noises outside, you can try distractions such as games to take their minds off it. Your pet won't become agitated about a stressful situation if you keep their attention on something else.

Many prefer not to give their pets medication for mental health issues before working on external triggers. This decision is valid because adjusting your dog's environment often helps alleviate symptoms and even trigger recovery. However, if symptoms persist, it is safer not to rule out medical intervention.

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Mental Health vs. Medication

Just as in humans, many people are torn about what the best treatment for mental issues could be. Many people prefer avoiding drugs, while for others, it's their first option. However, your dog could thrive more with external and internal interventions. Always consult your vet when in doubt.

For more insightful posts about how to give your pet the best life, visit Pettable's blog.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.