Xanax is the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States. It is a member of the benzodiazepine family of drugs. It’s mostly used for treating anxiety and panic attacks or PTSD.
it’s supposed to be used short-term but many people are on it for years. Xanax and other benzos act on the brain’s GABA receptors by causing them to release more GABA into the brain. GABA is how the brain calms down. Racing thoughts can be slowed down, which help treat anxiety very well.
Dogs can have anxiety issues that they need to be medicated for, perhaps from trauma or abuse. Sometimes dogs can genetically have behavioral issues that Xanax can help with, but Xanax is actually used for several other reasons in dogs.
How Is Xanax Used for Dogs?
Xanax can be given to dogs for mild to moderate anxiety but it is also prescribed for other reasons as it has shown to benefit dogs in other ways.
- Post-traumatic stress – PTSD
- Separation Anxiety
- Panic/Flight risk
- General Anxiety
- Muscle relaxant
- Appetite stimulation
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Seizure control
- Depression (dogs can have depression when they suffer a loss, such as a mate)
Some dogs have been prescribed Xanax for aggression issues but this is controversial in some circles. While it has been shown to help some dogs, it has actually exacerbated the symptoms in other dogs. Therefore, it can actually make your dog worse and you should understand that this is a possible outcome.
Medicating a dog for being high strung should never be the first resort. Exercise will typically stop the issues completely for most dogs. Some breeds, particularly hunting and herding dogs, have an abundance of energy and they need to run outdoors quite a bit. Without exercise, they become like a bottle of soda that is shaken with no relief. Bad behaviors are typically the first symptoms. Dogs who tear things up, whine and cry, race around the house, chew on things they shouldn’t, and start fights with other animals in the house, are typically lacking exercise and really don’t need medication.
A veterinarian has to be in control of giving your dog Xanax and telling you how much and how often to use it. Please, don’t ever give your dog Xanax from your own prescription. This can be very dangerous and could even result in death if you don’t know what you are doing.
Please, be aware of the potential risks. Just because Xanax has been shown effective for reducing anxiety, it is possible to cause damage to a dog’s liver and kidneys. If your dog has diabetes or any other potential liver or kidney issues, they should never be given Xanax.
Possible Side Effects of Xanax for Dogs
Only healthy animals should be prescribed Xanax for any reason. Those who have weakened immune systems and poor kidney or liver health, as well as those suffering from certain chronic conditions, should never take Xanax. Possible side effects of this drug can happen to even healthy dogs and may include the following:
- Lethargic and unwilling to get up and exercise. Sleepy all the time.
- Stumbling, tripping, seeming to have more clumsiness in general.
- Paradoxical effects – meaning they can actually get more hyper or aggressive.
- Drug dependency – they can become addicted to the Xanax and suffer from shakes, diarrhea, irritability, increased heart rate and all the same things that come with drug addiction in humans. They will suffer withdrawals when Xanax is taken away.
- Increased appetite
- Liver and renal system damage.
Natural Solutions for Dog Anxiety
- Exercise – Dogs have incredible stamina and they are true natural athletes. They need to run and have a chance to be wild – outside. Dogs do not get enough exercise from a walk most of the time. Most dogs need to RUN. Only when they run can they burn off the excess energy that gets them into so much trouble.
- Mental Stimulation – Dogs need to learn and be challenged. Teach them to solve puzzles by hiding treats and buying them puzzle toys. When they problem-solve, they expand their mental IQ. They also learn patience and how to occupy themselves without phobias and excessively barking and stressing out over other things.
- Massages – Massage is an incredible way to let go of stress. Most humans have had a massage and understand how relieving it can be. Dogs will also relax when they experience the gentle release of stress carried in their muscles. You can give them a massage while cuddled in front of the television. They’ll enjoy the bonding time with you and you’ll be amazed at how they respond to this after a few massages. Take a look at T-Touch Therapy for dogs. It’s incredible.
Xanax has shown to be effective in some cases but the bottom line is that it should not be the first thing you turn to. It should not be given to many dogs at all. It can make some dogs worse.= and Xanax doesn’t come without many risks. There is a possibility that it could shorten your dog’s life. Exhaust all of your natural options first.
Worry About Xanax Toxicity
If your dog has any symptoms that are out of character that match the list below, it is imperative that you seek help at a vet clinic immediately. It could make a difference between life and death for your dog. Your veterinarian will draw blood and possibly take a urine sample for tests that will determine if Xanax toxicity is the issue.
It depends on how bad the symptoms are if your dog will need to stay in the clinic for care or receive out-patient support. His prognosis will depend on how bad the toxicity is and how fast you got him to help. You really must pay attention to the symptoms and seek help quickly.
Symptoms of Xanax toxicity may include:
- Tired to the point of sedation
- Agitation – this can be mild irritation or inability to calm down.
- Aggression – especially in cases where aggression was the initial need for Xanax.
- Stumbling/loss of coordination
- Being too hot or too cold, possibly running a temperature
- Nausea and vomiting
- Having issues breathing
- Cardiovascular problems, irregular heartbeat, slowed pulse
Xanax work by increasing the release of neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) within the body. When used as directed, your dog should be calm and relaxed within hours to a few days. Typically this medication is very safe to take and it is considered difficult to overdose on. That said, it is possible to ingest too much. Be vigilant over the symptoms, keep the medication out of reach of children and pets and be careful to follow directions.
Blood work results will show the level of Xanax in your dog’s blood and the vet will know the cause of symptoms. Once diagnosed, your veterinarian will be able to treat your dog accordingly. In some cases, when the pills were recently swallowed, the vet may induce vomiting.
Sometimes an absorbent is used and that is typically activated charcoal. This will help prevent the dog’s body from absorbing any more of the Xanax in his stomach.
If your dog is suffering only a mild overdose, they will likely be treated with outpatient care. You will receive specific instructions from the doctor that tell you how to take care of your dog and what to watch for. If he’s simply tired and sedated, you will most likely be told to kennel him, keep him calm, and let him sleep it off. A dark room with little stimulation will be what is recommended, for less stimulation.
If the overdose is severe enough, they may keep your dog for treatment and observation at the clinic. The blood levels will determine this. Your vet may want to monitor him closely and keep checking his blood levels for kidney and liver function as well.
Your vet has many treatment options when they keep the dog in the clinic. When needing to acting quickly if necessary, they want the dog there for faster response time. He will be in the best of hands. Listen to the suggestions of the doctor. They know best how to treat this issue and the recovery of your dog depends on acting fast. T
They will probably keep your dog on an IV to ensure that he stays fully hydrated while he may not feel well enough to drink. They can also tube feed him if he needs it.
They have the ability to monitor his vital signs constantly and keep him warm or cool as he needs. If he needs medication, it will be handled right away. They’ll be keeping track of how productive his kidneys are and how his bowels are functioning.
Your dog’s prognosis depends on how bad the toxicity was. If it was a mild case, then complete recovery can surely be expected. Act quickly and get them to help to increase their chances.
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.