breed

10 Medications for Dog Anxiety

Reviewed for accuracy on July 17, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

Dogs can suffer from different types of anxiety, some of which can be truly debilitating. As pet parents, we want to help, but we’re faced with many confusing treatment and medication options.

Your veterinarian paired with an experienced dog trainer that focuses on positive reinforcement are your best resources. Once your veterinarian has given your dog a clean bill of health, they might prescribe a medication for dog anxiety as part of your pet’s treatment.

Using Dog Anxiety Medications Effectively

No matter which medication your veterinarian chooses, you will also need to put behavior-modification protocols in place in order to help your dog work through their anxiety.

Moderate to severe anxiety often responds best to a prescription anti-anxiety medication and behavior-modification training. These are not quick fixes, however.

Dogs usually need to be treated for about four weeks before the effectiveness of the medication becomes fully evident, and treatment needs to continue for at least two months after an adequate response is observed.

Some dogs can eventually be weaned off of anti-anxiety medications while others require lifelong treatment.

List of Anxiety Medications for Dogs

Here are the most commonly prescribed medications used to treat dog anxiety.

Jump to a specific medication:

Alprazolam (Xanax)

Type of Anxiety: Moderate to severe situational anxiety

Alprazolam is often prescribed to help dogs who become anxious during thunderstorms, but it may also be used for other types of situational anxiety.

It is a member of the benzodiazepine class of sedatives, which work by depressing activity in certain parts of the central nervous system (the exact mechanism of action hasn’t been identified). It is typically used as an anti-anxiety medication, sedative, muscle relaxer or suppressor of seizure activity.

The drug is most effective when given at the earliest sign of anxiety or even beforehand, if possible.

Alprazolam is dispensed in the form of tablets that are given with or without food.

Amitriptyline

Type of Anxiety: Separation anxiety or more generalized anxious tendencies

Amitriptyline may be given to help dogs with separation anxiety or more generalized anxious tendencies.

It is a tricyclic antidepressant medication that works, in part, by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, which affect mood. It should not be used with pets that have diabetes.

Amitriptyline is dispensed in the form of tablets that are given with or without food. Dogs should be gradually tapered off of amitriptyline if they have been on the medication for more than a week or two.

Buspirone

Type of Anxiety: Generalized anxiety

Buspirone is typically prescribed to help dogs who become anxious in social situations—for instance, in their interactions with other dogs.

Buspirone is a member of the azaperone class of anxiolytics. This medication requires continued use to be effective, so it is not helpful for dogs that suffer from situational anxieties like thunderstorm phobias.

It appears to work as a mild anti-anxiety medication because it, in part, activates serotonin receptors within the brain.

Buspirone is dispensed in the form of tablets that are given with or without food.

Clomipramine (Clomicalm)

Type of Anxiety: Separation anxiety and situational anxiety

Clomipramine is the first FDA-approved treatment for separation anxiety in dogs. It can also be prescribed for other types of anxiety.

It is a tricyclic antidepressant medication that works in the same way as amitriptyline. Several weeks of use are needed in order for a therapeutic effect to be seen—up to two months is needed to determine whether it is beneficial or helpful for a dog.

Clomipramine is dispensed in the form of tablets that are given with or without food. 

Dexmedetomidine (Sileo)
 

Type of Anxiety: Situational anxiety (noise phobias and aversions)

Sileo has been approved by the FDA to help dogs with noise aversion.

It is an alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist that works, in part, by depressing activity in certain parts of the brain, which results in reduced anxiety levels, among other effects.

The drug works best when given at the earliest sign that a dog is becoming anxious or before the triggering noise event, if possible.

Sileo is dispensed in a multidose tube as a transmucosal gel. The medication shouldn’t be swallowed—it is absorbed through the mucus membranes when applied between the cheek and gums.

You will need to wear waterproof disposable gloves when handling the syringe and administering the medication.

Diazepam (Valium)

Type of Anxiety: Situational anxiety

Diazepam has a variety of uses in dogs, but it is most effective as an anti-anxiety medication, muscle relaxant, appetite stimulant and seizure-control drug. For anxiety, diazepam is used to help with panic disorders like severe noise aversion or phobia.

Whenever possible, diazepam should be given to dogs in advance of an event that is known to cause anxiety. The drug can also be given at the earliest sign that a dog is becoming anxious.

It is a member of the benzodiazepine class of sedatives, which work by depressing activity in certain parts of the central nervous system (the exact mechanism of action hasn’t been identified).

To treat anxiety, diazepam is usually dispensed in the form of oral tablets or liquid (given with or without food) but may also be given by injection or via other routes.

Fluoxetine (Reconcile or Prozac)

Type of Anxiety: Separation anxiety

Reconcile is FDA-approved for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs. It can also be prescribed for other types of anxiety and behavior issues (compulsive chewing, circling and self-mutilation, and even aggression).

Fluoxetine is a member of the selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of medications, which work by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

In order for this medication to be effective, it should be used in conjunction with a behavior-modification program.

Fluoxetine is available in the form of tablets, capsules or liquid to be given orally, either with or without food.

Lorazepam (Ativan)

Type of Anxiety: Situational anxiety

Whenever possible, lorazepam should be given to dogs in advance of an event that is known to cause anxiety. The drug can also be given at the earliest sign that a dog is becoming anxious.

It is a member of the benzodiazepine class of sedatives, which work by depressing activity in certain parts of the central nervous system (the exact mechanism of action hasn’t been identified).

To treat anxiety, lorazepam is usually dispensed in the form of tablets or liquid (given with or without food) but may also be given by injection or via other routes.

Paroxetine (Paxil)

Type of Anxiety: Generalized anxiety and anxiety-related behaviors

Paroxetine can be prescribed for a variety of anxiety-related behaviors, including aggression, fear of noises, and self-mutilation (pulling fur out or licking skin compulsively).

It is a member of the SSRI class of medications, which work by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

The drug is available in the form of tablets or liquid to be given orally, either with or without food.

Sertraline (Zoloft)

Type of Anxiety: Generalized anxiety and anxiety-related behaviors

Sertraline can be prescribed for a variety of anxiety-related issues, like separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia and fear-based aggression.

It is a member of the SSRI class of medications that work by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

The drug is available in the form of tablets or liquid to be given orally, either with or without food. It may be beneficial to taper dogs off of sertraline if they have been on the medication for two months or longer.

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

Featured Image: iStock.com/Photography by Adri

You Might Also Like