Do Anxiety Meds For Dogs Work?

What you need to know about anxiety meds for your pup 🐶

dog with spoonful of anxiety meds

If your dog suffers from anxiety and is having a hard time with it, you might be looking to try anxiety medication to help her feel better.

But do anxiety meds for dogs actually help? And what kinds of medications are available to you?

We reached out to Dr. Christopher Pachel, a veterinarian at Animal Behavior Clinic and certified Fear Free professional, to learn more about anxiety meds for dogs.

Does your dog need anxiety medication?

Of course, you should always consult a licensed veterinarian before putting any pet on anxiety medication. When you go in for an assessment, your vet might ask you questions about your dog’s behavior and how he responds to training.

“The answers to these questions help to determine exactly what approach may be relevant for a given pet, with the caveat that medication doesn't actively teach new behavioral responses,” Dr. Pachel told The Dodo.

Here are some questions your vet might ask:

  • What are the direct observations of your dog that may be associated with fear, anxiety or stress?
  • What has been attempted to teach your dog a new behavioral or emotional response in those social or environmental conditions?
  • How did your dog respond to those specific interventions?
  • Where is the dog “stuck” and potentially in need of additional support?

After meeting with your veterinarian, you may discover that dog anxiety medication might not always be recommended in cases where only behavioral modification is needed.

How anxiety meds for dogs can help

Anxiety medications can help your dog in several different ways.

For one, they can decrease the frequency or intensity of emotional responses in your dog. They can also make anxiety easier to manage in specific social or physical environments (like giving her medication before a thunderstorm to help keep her calm).

Keep in mind, though, that even when anxiety medications have a positive impact, they should always be used in combination with behavior modification strategies that are focused on teaching your pup safer or more appropriate responses to whatever’s stressing her out.

Best over-the-counter (OTC) anxiety medications

The best OTC anxiety medication is the one that targets the specific type of anxiety your pet’s dealing with and is effective for your individual dog.

“I often tell my clients that essentially all of the OTC treatment options can work for some dogs, but nothing works for all of them all of the time,” Dr. Pachel said.

Unfortunately, that means it may take a bit of trial and observation (and perhaps a few dose adjustments) to determine which treatment is going to have a significant impact on a particular dog.

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“I also remind pet parents that just because something is available over the counter, that doesn't mean it is automatically safe for every pet,” Dr. Pachel said. “It's always a good idea to run the ingredient list by a licensed veterinarian to check for potential interactions or contraindications prior to use, especially if the dog is on other medications or supplements, or if the dog has any pre-existing medical conditions.”

Prescription anxiety medications

Also keep in mind there are different prescription anxiety meds you can get from your veterinarian, like Xanax or Prozac, but those should be thoroughly discussed with your vet to figure out which one is best for your pup.

Here’s how some of the most common prescription anxiety medications work:

Alprazolam
Common brand: Xanax

Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine and is commonly used for anxiety disorders.

Alprazolam is dosed every 8 to 24 hours, depending on how severe your pup’s symptoms are and how she responds to the medication.

Fluoxetine
Common brand: Prozac

Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). An SSRI works by altering the serotonin levels in your dog’s brain to decrease anxiety.

Fluoxetine is given once a day.

If your dog has anxiety, it’s always a good idea to talk to your vet to figure out the best — and safest — ways to help her feel better.

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