Xanax for dogs



Active ingredient




What is Xanax?

Xanax is a drug with alprazolam as its active ingredient. It belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Xanax is usually prescribed for anxiety disorders in cats and dogs (e.g. fear of vet visits, thunderstorms). It can also be prescribed as a muscle relaxant for muscle spasms, or prescribed along with other medications for seizures. Xanax is a prescription-only medicine in the UK, so your vet will need to prescribe it for your pet.

What does Xanax do?

Xanax, with its active ingredient alprazolam, is a medication known as a benzodiazepine. It works by targeting certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When your pet takes Xanax, it enhances the effects of GABA, which is a natural calming agent. This helps to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation in your furry friend. Essentially, Xanax helps to quiet down the nervous system, making your pet feel more at ease in stressful situations.

In addition to its calming effects, Xanax also has muscle-relaxing properties. This means it can be useful in managing muscle spasms that occur due to conditions like seizures. By relaxing muscles and calming the mind, Xanax contributes to overall comfort and well-being for your pet.

What is Xanax for?

Xanax is authorised for use in humans. However, there are no animal-specific products and this medicine is not authorised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). Vets can prescribe Xanax under the ‘cascade’, which means they use their pharmacology knowledge to prescribe a suitable drug from another species if there isn’t one available in the patient’s species. 

Xanax is used for the following reasons in pets:

Anxiety-related disorders: Xanax is primarily prescribed by vets to help manage anxiety-related disorders in cats and dogs. Cats and dogs, like humans, can experience anxiety in various situations, such as during thunderstorms, fireworks, separation from their owners, or visits to the vet. Xanax can also be prescribed to cats with anxiety-related urine spraying. 

Xanax can be a valuable tool in these situations, helping to calm your pet’s nerves and alleviate their distress. By reducing anxiety levels, Xanax can help improve behavior and promote a more positive relationship between you and your pet.

Muscle relaxant: Xanax can help alleviate muscle spasms associated with conditions like epilepsy or other neurological disorders.

Seizure medication: While Xanax is not mainly used to treat seizures, it can be prescribed along with other medications for seizure management.

What are the possible side effects of Xanax in dogs?

Possible side effects include:

  • Drowsiness (lethargy): Xanax can cause your pet to feel sleepy or less energetic than usual. Call your vet if these signs are severe, worsen or become prolonged.
  • Clumsiness: Some pets may experience difficulty with balance or coordination while taking Xanax. Call your vet immediately if this occurs.
  • Increased appetite and weight gain: Your pet may have increased appetite, leading to weight gain over time. This happens especially in cats.
  • Paradoxical changes in behaviour: While rare, Xanax can sometimes have paradoxical effects, causing unexpected changes in behavior such as increased aggression, hyperactivity or agitation. Call your vet immediately if this occurs.
  • Gut upset: Xanax may irritate your pet’s stomach, leading to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea. Call your vet if these signs are severe, worsen or become prolonged.
  • Liver problems: Rarely, Xanax may cause liver issues in pets. Signs include increased thirst and urination, as well as yellowed gums and eyes. Contact your vet immediately if this occurs.
  • Long-term dependence: Pets may become dependent on Xanax if it is prescribed long-term, and experience withdrawal symptoms (e.g. rebound anxiety, tremors) if Xanax is abruptly stopped. 

Remember, not all pets will experience these side effects, and the benefits of using Xanax often outweigh the risks, especially in pets with serious health conditions. However, if you notice any concerning symptoms or changes in your pet’s behaviour or health while they are taking Xanax, it’s important to contact your vet immediately. They can provide guidance and adjust the treatment plan if necessary to ensure your pet’s safety and well-being.

Which pets is Xanax not suitable for?

Xanax is not suitable for the following pets:

  • Pets that are allergic to Xanax
  • Pregnant or lactating pets
  • Pets that become aggressive/more anxious after Xanax  (a ‘paradoxical’ effect)

Xanax should be used with caution in the following pets:

  • Pets with kidney or liver disease (Xanax takes longer to clear from their bodies)
  • Older pets
  • Working dogs (this may impair their performance)
  • Pets with abnormally high eye pressure (glaucoma)
  • Aggressive pets, as the aggression may worsen if the pet’s fear is reduced

How to give Xanax safely

  1. Follow vet instructions: Always use Xanax exactly as your vet has prescribed. This includes the right dose and frequency. Never change the dose by yourself, even if your dog or cat seems to be feeling better or worse. If you aren’t sure of the dose prescribed, please confirm the dose with your vet
  2. With food? Xanax may be given with or without food, but always give Xanax as instructed by your vet. If your pet has gut problems after being fed Xanax on an empty stomach, contact your vet.
  3. Check with your vet if giving anything else: Your vet should be aware of other drugs your pet is on, but it’s always worth double-checking in case there’s been a miscommunication somewhere. If your dog is on supplements or non-prescription treatments you should also tell your vet when they prescribe Xanax, as they may not be suitable to be given together. For instance, Xanax’s effects can change if given together with medications such as antifungals (e.g. itraconazole), antacids and so on.
  4. Storage and Handling: Store Xanax according to the instructions on the label, usually in a cool and dry place and away from light. Make sure it’s out of reach of children and other pets.
  5. Report any accidental overdose to your vet immediately: If you have mistakenly given too much Xanax, report it to your vet as soon as you realise the error. They may recommend blood tests, treatment or monitoring, depending on the severity of the overdose.

How much monitoring do pets need on Xanax?

  • Low monitoring need


    Most pets will not require any special monitoring while on Xanax.

Most pets being prescribed Xanax will only be prescribed it for a few days, and therefore no special monitoring is needed. However, elderly dogs or those with other needs may require some tests before being prescribed Xanax

What does Xanax for dogs cost?

  • pound

    £ – Inexpensive

    Xanax is normally used for only 2-3 days, a week at maximum, making it inexpensive

Xanax is normally used for a very short period of time, so it isn’t particularly expensive to use. Most dogs can get Xanax from their vet for £10-20. Because Xanax is only used occasionally in most cases, it’s usually cheaper to get it from your vet than to get a written prescription.

Xanax FAQs

How will I know if my dog needs Xanax for anxiety?

Your vet is the best person to let you know if your dog needs Xanax for anxiety. If your dog is showing signs of anxiety, your vet will rule out medical causes before deciding if your dog needs Xanax (or other interventions) for anxiety.

How long does it take for Xanax to start working in dogs?

It takes about 1-2 hours for Xanax to start working in dogs. If there is a known anxiety trigger, like a firework display, your vet will tell you how far in advance to give the Xanax.

Can Xanax be used for long-term anxiety management in dogs?

If Xanax is used for long-term anxiety management in dogs, there is a risk of Xanax dependence. Consult your vet on the benefits and risks of using Xanax long-term for anxiety management in your dog

Can Xanax interact with other medications my dog is taking?

Xanax can interact with other medications your dog is taking, especially oral antifungals such as itraconazole. This can affect Xanax’s effectiveness. Check with your vet if you are giving your dog other medications or supplements (even if these are herbal) along with Xanax.

What should I do if I miss a dose of Xanax in my dog?

If you miss a dose of Xanax in your dog, skip that dose and continue with the next dose as normal. Alternatively, ask your vet when the next dose should be given and stick to the dosing schedule recommended by the vet. Do not give a double dose or add extra doses.
If you are using Xanax for a one-off fearful event, like fireworks, you should ideally give the dose a couple of hours before the fireworks start. However, if you forget, you should give the dose as soon as you remember – it may still have a beneficial effect.

Xanax Alternatives

Your vet will be happy to discuss the next best alternative for your pet if:

  • They have had unwanted side effects.
  • Are allergic to Xanax.
  • Xanax doesn’t seem to be working.
  • You are struggling to give your dog their tablets.

If your dog is receiving Xanax due to anxiety, your vet might recommend:

  • Pexion (Imepitoin) – a tablet that is more suitable for long-term use, but needs to be started 2 days before the stressful event
  • Sileo (dexmedetomidine) – a fast-working sedative gel that is applied to the gums for noise phobia and fear of vet visits
  • Reconcile (fluoxetine) – a chewable tablet suitable for long-term use of separation anxiety and similar problems
  • Gabapentin – a tablet or capsule that can be used for noise phobias or longer-term for anxiety disorders
  • Clomicalm (clomipramine) – a tablet suitable for long-term use, to help with separation anxiety and similar long-term anxiety problems.

Your vet will look at your dog’s unique situation before prescribing any of these drugs.

In addition, some anxieties can be helped with natural therapies including:

  • Adaptil – a spray or collar releasing calming pheromones
  • Supplements containing L-tryptophan – a natural amino acid shown to help reduce anxiety and stress
  • Supplements containing L-theanine – a natural amino acid with some evidence for calming effects
  • Supplements containing casein – a milk protein that has a calming effect

Whilst medications are useful in treating anxiety, behavioural modification is another important part of treating behavioural disorders, such as anxiety, and especially noise phobias. This may include a training process called ‘counter-conditioning’. Your vet will be able to give you more advice on this process and could even refer you to a specialist.

Xanax Datasheet

All drugs have a manufacturer’s datasheet, which gives information about the drug’s use and possible side effects. However, Xanax is a human drug, so the datasheet discusses only the uses and side effects in humans. The button below takes you to more information about Xanax for pets.

Please note that the information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. Although it has been written by a vet, we cannot consider the individual nature of your pet’s problems so it does not constitute veterinary advice. If you have questions about your pet’s medication or their health you should contact a vet, who will be able to help.