Dog anxiety medication can be useful, but is generally thought of as a last resort. In itself it is unlikely to cure dog anxiety completely, but combined with a behaviour modification training programme can be effective.
The medication will need to be prescribed by your vet and should be monitored throughout because of the possible side effects that the medication could have on your dog. Usually, your vet will prescribe one of the three types of anti-anxiety medications that are discussed below.
The Use of Clomipramine
Clomipramine is approved for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs and comes from a group known as tricyclic antidepressants. These drugs act to raise the levels of serotonin produced by the brain, which will in turn decrease feelings of anxiety.
In studies, Clomipramine has been shown to have the side effects of vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, lethargy or depression and elevation in liver enzymes, so its use should be monitored closely.
Clomipramine may interact with other medications, so always mention anything else your dog is taking to your vet. There are other health issues where this drug should not be used such as hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug, and others where caution should be taken such as in dogs with a known seizure disorder or glaucoma.
The medication can be given in tablet or capsule form and it could take up to a month before you notice improvements. It is recommended that Clomiphramine be used in conjunction with dog behavioural training which will help them to learn new, positive behaviours.
Fluoxetine or ‘Doggie Prozac’
Fluoxetine comes from the group of drugs known as SSRI, (commly referred to as Prozac), which were originally used in modifying human behaviour and has now been adopted for animal use.
It is usually prescribed for short-term use, to be used alongside behaviour modification training, although it is thought that dogs need to receive Fluoxetine for 6 to 8 weeks before it can be determined that the medication is ineffective.
The main side effects of Fluoxetine are gastrointestinal upset, and others include lethargy, panting, hyperactivity, shaking, and restlessness, excessive noise such as barking, aggression and loss of appetite.
As with Clomipramine, the drug can have negative reactions with other medications, so always mention anything else your dog is taking with your vet. The same is also advised with any health issues your dog has. If large quantities of Fluoxetine are taken by accident it may cause seizure so any overdose should be treated by your vet right away.
Fluoxetine is administered daily and is available as tablets, capsules or in liquid form.
Dog Sedative Alprazolam
Alprazolam is a mild tranquilizer from the same class of drugs as Valium, and is reported to be an effective sedative for dogs, quickly reducing anxiety feelings.
It can be prescribed for short or extended lengths of time. For instance it can be effective with dog anxieties such as fear of storms or fireworks when given half an hour before the event. Alprazolam can also be used for longer periods of time so that owners can work with the dog on behavioural change, but should be used with care as high doses and extended use can cause addiction.
The drug can cause adverse side effects, the most common being clumsiness and lethargy, and should not be given to dogs with health issues such as glaucoma, liver damage, or to dogs that are pregnant or lactating. It is also known to interact with other medications, so always tell your vet about any other drugs your dog is being given.
The medication comes in tablet or liquid form and yet again, is not recommended as a substitute for training, but can help dogs be calm long enough to take part in behaviour training sessions.
Making Decisions About Dog Anxiety Medication
I am not a vet and so the information given above is only intended as a guide to some of the different types of dog anxiety medications available. There are upsides and downsides to all the medications mentioned, so before you decide what dog anxiety treatment is best for your dog, make sure you are well informed by consulting with your vet.
If you would like to know more about dog anxiety and how to deal with it read this article, or sign up in the box on the top right of the page for a free video series on dog anxiety.