Medications Used to Treat Anxiety in Dogs

Medications Used to Treat Anxiety in Dogs

Many families are all too familiar with the anxious dog and how disruptive canine anxiety can be.  An anxious dog can be a lot for any family to handle, so it is no surprise that many pet owners seek medication to address their dog’s anxiety.  However, before reaching for the pill bottle, it’s essential to understand the benefits and limits of medication for dogs with anxiety.

Symptoms of Canine Anxiety

Dogs with anxiety can exhibit a wide range of symptoms.  Sometimes the symptoms are subtle and may be dismissed as simply “bad behavior”.  However, most dogs with anxiety are not misbehaving on purpose – they are acting in response to the stress and fear they are experiencing.  Common signs of anxiety in dogs include:

  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Hiding
  • Hypervigilance
  • Excessive barking
  • Trembling
  • Destructive behavior
  • House soiling
  • Aggression
  • Attempting to escape

If your dog experiences these symptoms, the first step is to visit your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian will take a detailed history and will perform a full physical examination to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could contribute to your dog’s behavior.  If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with anxiety, there are several medications that may be prescribed to help.

Situational Medications for Dog Anxiety

Some dogs are happy and confident the majority of the time, but get frightened by specific events, such as thunderstorms or fireworks.  These dogs typically do not need to take medication every day or long term, but they could benefit from something to “take the edge off” during these stressful events.  Medications used on a situational or as-needed basis typically have anti-anxiety effects and a mild sedative effect, which helps your dog relax during the stressful event.  Commonly used medications for situational anxiety include Trazodone, Gabapentin, Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonidine, and Dexmedetomidine (Sileo).  These medications are typically administered 60-90 minutes before the stressful event and may need to be administered again for longer events – like the 4th of July.



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