If your dog suffers from anxiety, you might have considered giving him medication to help him cope with stressful situations. Anxiety medications for dogs can be prescribed by your veterinarian or bought over the counter, and they can help with various behavioral problems, such as separation anxiety, aggression, compulsive behaviors, or phobias.
However, before you give your dog any anxiety medication, you should be aware of the possible side effects and risks that these drugs can cause. Not all dogs react the same way to these medications, and some might experience adverse reactions that could harm their health or worsen their anxiety.
In this article, I will explain what anxiety medications are, how they work, and what dog anxiety medication side effects are. I will also give you some tips on how to use these medications safely and effectively for your dog.
What are Anxiety Medications for Dogs?
Anxiety medications for dogs are drugs that affect the brain and nervous system of your dog, and alter his mood and behavior. They work by increasing or decreasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, that regulate emotions, pain, appetite, sleep, and other functions.
There are different types of anxiety medications for dogs, depending on their mechanism of action and their intended use. Some of the most common ones are:
- Antidepressants: These are drugs that increase the levels of serotonin and/or norepinephrine in the brain, which are neurotransmitters that affect mood and anxiety. Some examples of antidepressants for dogs are fluoxetine (Reconcile or Prozac), clomipramine (Clomicalm), amitriptyline (Elavil), and trazodone (Desyrel).
- Benzodiazepines: These are drugs that enhance the effects of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that inhibits anxiety and induces relaxation. Some examples of benzodiazepines for dogs are alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin).
- Buspirone: This is a drug that acts on serotonin receptors in the brain, and has anti-anxiety and anti-aggressive effects. It is less sedating than benzodiazepines, and has fewer interactions with other drugs.
- Alpha-2 agonists: These are drugs that act on alpha-2 receptors in the brain and spinal cord, and have sedative and analgesic effects. They can also reduce fear and anxiety in dogs. Some examples of alpha-2 agonists for dogs are dexmedetomidine (Sileo) and clonidine (Catapres).
What are the Dog Anxiety Medication Side Effects?
Anxiety medications for dogs can have various side effects on your dog’s health and behavior, depending on the type of drug, the dose, the duration of use, and your dog’s individual sensitivity. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Sedation: This is a state of reduced alertness and activity, which can make your dog sleepy, lethargic, or unresponsive. This can affect your dog’s quality of life, especially if he is a working dog or needs regular exercise.
- Ataxia: This is a loss of coordination and balance, which can make your dog stumble, fall, or walk unsteadily. This can increase your dog’s risk of injury or accidents.
- Increased appetite: This is an increased desire to eat, which can lead to weight gain and obesity in your dog. This can also affect your dog’s health and metabolism.
- Agitation: This is a state of increased nervousness and restlessness, which can make your dog hyperactive, irritable, or aggressive. This can worsen your dog’s anxiety or cause behavioral problems.
- Gastrointestinal problems: These include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or loss of appetite. These can affect your dog’s digestion and nutrition.
- Cardiovascular problems: These include changes in heart rate and blood pressure, which can affect your dog’s heart and circulation. These can be dangerous for dogs with heart or kidney disease.
- Dry mouth: This is a reduced production of saliva, which can cause your dog to drink more water, or have difficulty swallowing or chewing. This can also affect your dog’s oral health and hygiene.
- Serotonin syndrome: This is a rare but serious condition that occurs when the levels of serotonin in the body become too high, due to an overdose or interaction of drugs that affect serotonin. This can cause symptoms such as confusion, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, and increased body temperature. This can be fatal if not treated promptly.
How to Use Anxiety Medications for Dogs Safely and Effectively?
Anxiety medications for dogs can be helpful for some dogs with anxiety disorders, but they are not a cure-all. They should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes behavioral modification, environmental enrichment, and other therapies. Here are some tips on how to use anxiety medications for dogs safely and effectively:
- Consult your veterinarian: Before giving your dog any anxiety medication, you should consult your veterinarian and get a proper diagnosis and prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best type of medication for your dog, and determine the appropriate dose, frequency, and duration of use. Your veterinarian can also monitor your dog’s response to the medication, and adjust it as needed.
- Follow the instructions: You should follow the instructions on the label or the prescription carefully, and give your dog the exact amount of medication at the right time. You should not change the dose or stop the medication without consulting your veterinarian. You should also store the medication in a safe place, away from children and other pets.
- Watch for side effects: You should monitor your dog for any signs of side effects or adverse reactions to the medication, and report them to your veterinarian as soon as possible. You should also watch for any signs of serotonin syndrome, especially if your dog is taking more than one type of medication that affects serotonin, or if he ingests something that contains serotonin, such as cheese or L-tryptophan. If you notice any symptoms of serotonin syndrome, you should seek emergency veterinary care immediately.
- Combine with other treatments: You should not rely on medication alone to treat your dog’s anxiety. You should also use other methods to help your dog cope with stress and fear, such as training, socialization, desensitization, counterconditioning, calming aids, supplements, or alternative therapies. You should work with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to design a suitable treatment plan for your dog.
Is it bad to put dog on anxiety meds?
While anxiety medications for dogs are usually well received, the side effects can differ based on factors such as the specific medication, dosage, duration of treatment, and the individual dog’s sensitivity to the medication.
Can dogs take anxiety meds daily?
Dogs can take anxiety medication daily, but it should only be done under the guidance and supervision of a veterinarian. The dosage and duration of the medication should be determined by a professional based on the dog’s specific needs and condition. It’s important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the treatment.
Anxiety medications for dogs can be beneficial for some dogs with anxiety disorders, but they can also have side effects and risks that you need to be aware of. Before giving your dog any anxiety medication, you should consult your veterinarian and get a proper diagnosis and prescription. You should also follow the instructions carefully, watch for side effects, and combine the medication with other treatments. By doing so, you can help your dog overcome his anxiety and live a happier and healthier life.