Xanax For Dogs and Cats: Dosage, Side Effects, And Alternatives
Nali Macklin - April 9th 2020
When your dog or cat suffers from situational anxiety (i.e., car rides, fireworks, thunderstorms, vacuum cleaner), it can be extremely debilitating to them and heartbreaking for us.
After you’ve exhausted all your resources (positive reinforcement training, playing music, Thundershirt, etc.), your vet might suggest prescribing doggie downers like Xanax.
Table Of Contents
Can Dogs And Cats Take Xanax?
How Does Xanax Work?
Xanax Dosage For Dogs And Cats
Xanax Side Effects In Cats And Dogs
How Does Xanax Interact With Other Drugs?
Are there any natural alternatives to Xanax?
Xanax is a brand name for a drug belonging to the class of medications called benzodiazepines (tranquilizer/sedative).
This common drug treats anxiety and panic disorders in humans. Still, it can also be used for the same purpose in dogs and cats to treat moderate to severe situational anxiety.
Xanax works by enhancing the effects of a natural chemical in the body called GABA - a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain—virtually slowing brain activity.
By slowing brain activity, this will result in a relaxed and calm effect.
If possible, it’s most effective to give this drug to your pet 30 to 60 minutes before the triggering event, or at the earliest sign of anxiety.
Your vet will determine the proper dosage of Xanax specifically for your pet based on their anxiety issues.
Xanax is available in tablet form, and you can administer it with or without food.
- For dogs, the typical dose of Xanax is 0.01 – 0.05 mg per pound, every 12 hours, or 4 - 6 hours as needed.
- For cats, the typical dose is 0.125 – 0.25 mg per cat, every 12 - 24 hours as needed.
You should NEVER exceed more than 4 mg per day regardless of your pet’s weight.
The common side effects of Xanax include:
- Increased appetite
- Clumsiness, uncoordinated walking
- Vomiting or gas
Some pets may be allergic to Xanax. It’s crucial to monitor your pet carefully and contact your vet immediately if you notice any of the following side effects:
- Bleeding, especially in the facial area
- Breathing problems
- Facial swelling
- Sudden diarrhea
There are also cases where your pet will have the opposite reaction than expected. This reaction is known as “paradoxical reaction.” Rather than calm, your pet may become aggressive or hyper after taking Xanax.
It’s also possible for your pet to experience withdrawal symptoms when taken off this drug after prolonged use.
Xanax can make your dog very sick and even fatal if taken in high enough doses.
Keep in mind that while Xanax is FDA approved for human use, it has not been FDA approved for pets.
When taking Xanax, do not combine with Barbiturate (seizure control) drugs such as Phenobarbital, because it can exacerbate the sedative effects.
Do not combine Xanax with antifungal drugs such as ketoconazole. The combination can make the sedation effects last longer than intended.
Xanax, when combined with antacids, can slow down the absorption rate. There should be at least a two-hour separation when taking these two medications.
Pets with kidney disease, liver problems, glaucoma, or that are elderly or pregnant should take special precautions when taking Xanax.
You should thoroughly discuss with your vet all medications your pet is taking to avoid any potential interactions.
Many studies are exploring CBD's potential to influence anxiety, mostly in humans, but as dogs and cats also have an endocannabinoid system, it works the same way for them.
Though there is not enough evidence to make a full conclusion, CBD oil may help the body to recover from anxiety and stress by bonding with the cannabinoid receptors when it enters the body. This bonding stimulates and boosts the endocannabinoid system which may result in a more relaxed and calmer body and mind.
So far, research has not shown any serious side effects from CBD, so we recommend discussing it with your vet as a potential alternative to drugs like Xanax, which are known to have some potentially serious side effects.
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