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Alprazolam for Dogs (Side Effects & Dosage)

This is not medical advice. For medical advice regarding pets, see your veterinarian.

Alprazolam is a sedative used as adjunctive therapy to treat anxiety, panic attacks, or other disorders in humans and is commercially available as Xanax®, Niravam®, and Alprazolam Intensol®. This medicine is also used for dogs and is most commonly prescribed for anxiety (including separation anxiety), stress, panic attacks, depression, storm phobias, to induce sleep, and as a muscle relaxant.

Many dogs show up at the vet’s office with all sorts of fears or phobias, separation anxiety, agitation, or even depression. Most of the time the vet recommends giving dogs alprazolam for these disorders.

There is also the situation where the dog owner already takes alprazolam for their anxiety and tends to ask itself if this medicine is safe for his quadruped or not. 

In this article, you will find the answer to all the questions about alprazolam and dogs’, including alprazolam versus trazodone, what alprazolam is administered for, or what the right dose of alprazolam is for your dog.

What Is Alprazolam?

Alprazolam is a human drug, a sedative, which is usually prescribed to treat anxiety or keep seizures under control in dogs.

Alprazolam belongs to a group of medicines called benzodiazepines (tranquilizers). Benzodiazepines affect the chemical activity in the brain to support sleep and reduce anxiety and worry.

Alprazolam is used in adults for the treatment of anxiety, panic disorders, prophylaxis and treatment of delirium tremens, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

The exact mechanism for creating these effects remains unknown. The veterinary form for alprazolam does not exist.

dog on vet

Alprazolam for Dogs

Here are the main points to know about Alprazolam for dogs:

  • Alprazolam is a safe medication for dogs.
  • It is used for anxiety, phobias, and stressful situations.
  • The minimum dose typically used is 0.01-0.5 mg/lbs.
  • Alprazolam can cause side effects
  • Alprazolam can interact with other drugs
  • It is administered only on the recommendation of the veterinarian

Is Alprazolam Safe For Dogs?

Alprazolam is a safe drug that is recommended by veterinarians for anxiety in pets.

Dog owners are advised not to give alprazolam to their dogs without consulting the vet first, as it may cause various side effects. Pet owners should also pay attention to the interactions between alprazolam and other drugs!

This drug is safe if used on prescription, i.e. if recommended by your veterinarian. After examining your dog, your veterinarian may determine the appropriate dose of Alprazolam for its condition.

This drug should be used with caution in older, pregnant, or lactating pets, or in dogs with kidney diseases, liver diseases, or glaucoma.

veterinary checking on dog

Alprazolam Side Effects for Dogs

Even if prescribed by a doctor, alprazolam can cause side effects in some dogs. Keep in mind that each individual is unique, and if alprazolam works well for one dog, it can cause some side effects for another. 

The most common side effects that may occur from Alprazolam for dogs are:

  • Excessive sedation and loss of motor control (the dog no longer coordinates its movements well). These reactions occur at higher doses than necessary to treat anxiety.
  • Increased excitement or aggression – if alprazolam is used for sedation.
  • Increased hunger.
  • Persistent thirst.
  • Unusual breathing.
  • Jaundice (yellow mucous membranes and ocular sclera – changes that occur due to a liver complication).

Alprazolam should not be administered to dogs with hypersensitivity or an allergy to this drug.

Alprazolam Interaction With Other Drugs

Alprazolam should be avoided in dogs that suffer from:

  • Glaucoma
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems

In dogs with glaucoma, alprazolam can interact with carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (drugs commonly used for this condition) because it may lead to respiratory consequences.

Alprazolam can also interact with central nervous system depressants, such as:

  • Digoxin
  • Phenytoin
  • Theophylline

The combination of alprazolam with digoxin (a drug used for heart conditions) may increase the effects of digoxin.

Combining alprazolam with theophylline (a drug used especially for respiratory problems) may decrease the effectiveness of alprazolam. If the theophylline treatment suddenly stops, it may increase the effectiveness of alprazolam, which can lead to toxicity.

Alprazolam may also have a stronger effect in combination with:

  • Cimetidine (stomach antacid)
  • Erythromycin (antibiotic)
  • Ketoconazole (antifungal)
  • Fluoxetine
  • Clomipramine or amitriptyline (drugs for anxiety)
  • Propranolol (heart drug)[1]

Regarding the combination of alprazolam with cimetidine or other antacids, it is preferable to administer them at two hours or more apart.

Alprazolam may be addictive if used for a long time. If alprazolam is stopped suddenly, it can lead to unwanted behavioral changes.

sick dog on vet

Alprazolam vs. Trazodone

The main difference between trazodone and alprazolam is that trazodone has milder and less frequent side effects. Trazodone is a human antidepressant that is mainly used for anxiety in dogs.

Trazodone is a drug for human use and belongs to the antidepressants group. It is prescribed for people with major depressive episodes, mixed anxiety, and depression, with or without secondary insomnia.

In dogs, trazodone is used for anxiety or as a mild sedative. [2]

Unlike alprazolam, the side effects of trazodone are much less common and milder. Side effects include:

  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and/or diarrhea)
  • Ataxia (the inability to coordinate muscle activity)
  • Priapism (prolonged erections)
  • Increased anxiety
  • Aggressivity

If trazodone is used to relieve short-term stress and anxiety, its effect will be seen within 1-2 hours of administration. It takes several weeks for the effects to be seen in patients with long-term treatment.

Trazodone is eliminated from the body in approximately 24 hours in healthy dogs. The elimination may take longer in dogs with kidney or liver problems.

The usual dose of trazodone for dogs is between 1.7 and 19.5 mg/kg/day or as needed for immediate-acting tablets. Trazodone can be administered with food.

As with alprazolam in dogs, the interactions trazodone may have with other medicines should be taken into consideration. It is always recommended to give trazodone to your dog only after you have consulted your veterinarian.

General Guidelines For Using Alprazolam In Dogs

Alprazolam is mainly used for dogs to calm them in case of storms and fireworks, anxiety (including separation anxiety), and in several stressful conditions that can cause them discomfort.

According to the Manual of clinical behavioral medicine for dogs and cats, alprazolam is a drug that reduces the flight reflex in pets when faced with danger and can be used for dogs in three ways:

1. For dogs that are known to be stressed by certain triggers

Alprazolam is used as a true preventive drug. For example, if you know that your dog is scared of storms or fireworks, you can give it alprazolam preventively to calm it down before the stress trigger occurs.

2. For dogs that are in known difficult situations

Alprazolam helps them be less aware of the current circumstances. The dog won’t reach the same level of reactivity that is related to being afraid in certain situations. For example, if your dog is scared of other dogs in the park and can no longer enjoy the experience, or if your dog is afraid of visiting the vet.

dog in animal hospital

3. For dogs that are in a real frightening context

If there is a storm, and your dog is balling up, salivating, alprazolam can calm it down.

The use of preventive alprazolam entails the owner’s anticipation of the provocative stimulus. If you know in advance that there will be a storm, there will be fireworks, you are visiting the vet, you are leaving your home for longer, and so on, preventative measures can be used.

A good tip for pet owners who know their dog is afraid of storms is to use Doppler radar online. Some claim that it can predict storms with a small margin of error, so the owner knows what to expect.

In addition to these usages, alprazolam is also used to treat panic attacks for dogs, which are especially triggered when the owner leaves his dog alone (separation anxiety). 

Most dogs are already accustomed to their owner’s schedule and have no problem staying home alone, but some dogs experience a very difficult time when their owner leaves for a few hours.

Alprazolam may also be prescribed occasionally to treat painful muscle conditions in dogs.

sad dog

Alprazolam Dosage for Dogs (Chart)

The dose of alprazolam in dogs varies depending on the disorder. For most dogs, the initial dose is 0.01-0.5 mg/lbs (0.02 to 0.1 mg/kg) given at 12 hours intervals. Alprazolam should never be administered without consulting the veterinarian first.

Cause Typical Dose*
Anxiety treatment 0.01-0.1 mg/kg depending on the severity, but not more than 4 mg/dog/day.
Separation anxiety 1-3 times a day at a total dose of 0.25 mg – 2 mg
Storm phobias 0.02 – 0.4 mg/kg given every 4 hours. 0.02 mg/kg should be administered as needed one hour before an anticipated storm and repeated every 4 hours as needed
Phobias and insomnia/waking up at night 0.25 – 2 mg (total dose) every 6-12 hours

*Total dose per dog. Consult your veterinarian before administering Alprazolam. This information is not to be used as a dosage guide

Always start with half the dose to see how the dog reacts to this drug, and because the dose is cumulative. You may find that alprazolam works well after four days after administering it at 12 hours in case of storms.

As each individual is unique, it is best to follow the dog’s reaction to alprazolam and adjust the dose accordingly. This is mainly done by your veterinarian.

Conclusion

Alprazolam is a drug for human use that can be prescribed by a veterinarian for pets (dogs and cats) with anxiety or phobias (storms, fireworks). It is also administered to calm dogs in certain stress-triggering situations (i.e. going to the vet) or as a preventive drug.

This medicine is safe for most dogs, except those with hypersensitivity or a known allergy to alprazolam, elderly dogs, pregnant or lactating females, or dogs with kidney or liver problems.

When administering alprazolam to dogs, owners should monitor for side effects such as severe sedation, lethargy, lack of coordination, and confusion.

It is also important to consider what other medications the dog is taking to avoid interactions with alprazolam. Alprazolam should never be administered without the recommendation of a veterinarian.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.