Does your dog suffer from separation, fear-related or age-related anxiety? You might wonder whether anti-anxiety meds may help your dog feel happier and more relaxed. Here, our vets in Everett discuss some of the most common medications used to treat dog anxiety.
Types of Anxiety Seen in Dogs
Our vets in Everett commonly see 3 main types of anxiety in dogs:
It's estimated that about 14 percent of dogs suffer from separation anxiety, which means pooches are unable to settle down and relax when alone or separated from their primary caregivers.
Signs of separation anxiety usually include undesirable behaviors such as destroying, shoes, furniture or other items belonging to their primary caregiver, urinating or defecating in the house, barking and clawing at doors.
Generalized fear can trigger anxiety related to almost anything, including introduction to new animals or people, loud noises, staying in a new or strange environment, car trips or having to walk on slippery floors. Your pup's anxiety may even be triggered by specific situations such as visits to the vet's office or new visual stimuli including new clothing items or hats.
In elderly dogs, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) can lead to age-related anxiety. If your dog is suffering from cognitive dysfunction syndrome, basic brain functions such as perception, awareness, learning and memory will decline sharply (similar to symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in people). This decline in brain bower often understandably leads to anxiety and confusion in senior dogs.
Signs of Anxiety in Dogs
Dogs suffering from these types of anxiety may experience several symptoms, including:
- Relentless barking
- Uncharacteristic aggression
- Gloomy or depressed deameanor
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
- Destructive behaviors
- Circling and pacing
- Urinating or defecating in the house
Treatment for Dog Anxiety
If your dog is showing signs of anxiety there are a number of treatments you can try.
Behavioral Training & Counterconditioning
Counterconditioning is a training method that seeks to change your dog's response to the anxiety causing stimuli by encouraging a good behavior to replace the negative anxious behavior through positive reinforcement.
Desensitization introduces the anxious pup to very small doses of the anxiety producing stimuli in low intensity. By repeatedly exposing your anxious dog to small doses of the stimuli while rewarding even the tiniest positive behaviors your dog may be trained out of their anxiety driven behaviors.
These techniques take time, patience, and love to encourage. Check YouTube for videos from reputable trainers on how to reduce your dog's anxiety-related behaviors or ask your vet to recommend a good dog behavioral trainer in your area.
Anti-Anxiety Meds for Dogs
For dogs experiencing severe symptoms of anxiety, SSRIs, anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication may be helpful. Below are some common dog anxiety medications that could be prescribed by your vet to help soothe your dog's anxiety-related symptoms.
- Alprazolam (Xanax) - Typically prescribed for moderate to severe situational anxiety to help dogs who become anxious during thunderstorms, but it may also be used for other types of situational anxiety. Administered in pill form this medication is most effective when administered before the anxiety-producing stimuli occurs (ie: the arrival of a visitor or thunderstorm), or as early as possible.
- Amitriptyline - May be prescribed for dogs suffering from separation anxiety or generalized anxiety. This drug is considered an antidepressant and works by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which help to improve mood. Amitriptyline is not suitable for pets with diabetes.
- Buspirone - Can be prescribed for dogs who suffer from anxiety brought on by social situations such as interactions with other dogs. This medication needs to be given continually in order to be effective and is not suitable for specific situational anxieties such as visitors to the home or thunderstorm phobias.
- Clomipramine (Clomicalm) - Particularly helpful for dogs suffering from separation anxiety and situational anxiety, Clomipramine can also be prescribed for other types of anxiety in dogs. This medication needs to be given for up to 2 months before determining whether it is beneficial for your anxious dog.
- Dexmedetomidine (Sileo) - Used to relieve situational anxiety such as noise phobias and aversions. This drug works by reducing activity in certain parts of the brain, resulting in reduced anxiety levels. Dexmedetomidine should be given at the earliest sign of anxiety or before the triggering noise event, if possible.
- Diazepam (Valium) - This medication can be an effective anti-anxiety medication, muscle relaxant, appetite stimulant and seizure-control drug for dogs. Diazepam can be helpful in treating dogs with panic disorders such as severe noise aversion or phobia if given in advance of an event known to trigger anxiety.
- Fluoxetine (Reconcile or Prozac) - FDA-approved for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs, this medication can also be used to treat other forms of anxiety and behavior issues in dogs such as compulsive chewing, circling and self-mutilation. Fluoxetine works best when combined with behavior-modification training.
- Lorazepam (Ativan) - Used to treat dogs with situational anxiety, this medication should be administered in advance of the anxiety triggering event. This medication can be administered in pill or liquid form and works by depressing activity in certain parts of the dog's central nervous system.
- Paroxetine (Paxil) - Suitable for the treatment of generalized anxiety and anxiety-related behaviors in dogs. This medication may be prescribed for a range of anxiety-related behaviors, such as fear of noises, self-mutilation including pulling fur out and compulsive licking, or in some cases aggression.
- Sertraline (Zoloft) - Prescribed to dogs suffering from generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia and fear-based aggression. This medication is an SSRI that works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain.
If you feel that your canine companion could benefit from anti-anxiety medication or anxiety pills for dogs, it is important to have your vet perform a comprehensive wellness examination to determine whether an underlying health condition may be causing your pup's anxious behaviors. During your dog's examination talk to your vet about your dog's anxiety symptoms and discuss treatments that may work best for your pooch.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.