Xanax For Dogs and Cats: Dosage, Side Effects, And Alternatives
Nali Macklin - April 9th 2020
Accuracy Review & Edit: Nicole Wanner, DVM - June 30th 2021
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.
While we don’t know exactly how Xanax works to reduce anxiety, it does enhance the effects of a natural chemical in the body called GABA. This neurotransmitter slows impulses between nerve cells in the brain, creating a calming 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. Always give your dog’s medications exactly as prescribed by your vet.
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 6 to 12 hours as needed.
- For cats, the typical dose is 0.125-0.25 mg per cat, every 8 to 24 hours.
If your dog or cat is small, your vet may prescribe a liquid preparation of Xanax to make dosing easier.
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:
- 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. Your pet will display paradoxical reactions through body language and behavior.
It’s also possible for your pet to experience withdrawal symptoms when taken off this drug after prolonged use. However, these symptoms are less common in animals taking Xanax compared to humans.
Xanax can make your dog sick or even result in death at high enough doses. These effects are extremely uncommon at normal doses, but it’s good to know in case your pet gets into the medicine cabinet.
If you are worried that your pet received too much of this medication, contact your vet’s office or call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) for assistance.
Keeping a list of all of your pet’s medications and discussing them with your vet are the best ways to avoid potential medication interactions. Your medication list should include the name, dose in mg, and frequency (how often it is given) for each drug.
Combining Xanax with barbiturate seizure control drugs like Phenobarbital can increase the risk of dangerous complications. If your pet needs both medications, your vet will help you monitor them closely and adjust doses as needed.
Do not combine Xanax with certain antifungal drugs like ketoconazole. The combination can make the sedating effects of Xanax too strong.
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.
Scientists are still catching up when it comes to CBD’s effects for anxiety. Early studies in humans and smaller animals like mice are promising, but no studies of CBD for dog and cat anxiety have been performed yet. Still, we know that CBD impacts the endocannabinoid system, which dogs, cats, and humans all share. The endocannabinoid system helps regulate stress and fear responses.
CBD oil for dogs may help the body recover from anxiety and stress by interacting with cannabinoid receptors. We don’t know exactly how CBD’s calming effects work yet. But, working with the endocannabinoid system may help your pet stay calm in stressful situations.
So far, research has not shown any serious side effects for CBD in dogs and cats. We’re still learning about how CBD works in animals, though, so it’s best to discuss trying CBD with your vet. Never change, replace, or stop your pet’s medications without your vet’s approval.
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