Your One-Stop Guide to Dog Anxiety Medications

When our dogs are anxious and unable to calm themselves, we naturally start looking for ways to help. If your veterinarian suggests trying medication, youre likely eager to learn more about the dog anxiety drugs your veterinarian is recommending. While anxiety medications can be a godsend, having as much information as possible about these drugs – including how they function and how they differ from one another – can help you understand what to expect as you start a treatment regimen. From safety to efficacy, finding the best solution for an anxious pet is a process that requires commitment and patience. Your dog is unique, so managing their anxiety will be an individualized process, too!

Step 1: Observe Your Pet

While waiting on that veterinarian appointment, you may want to gather some essential information on your own that you can share with your vet, just by observing your dog and how they react to different stimuli. Can you determine what is triggering their anxiety? For example, do loud noises cause fear? Does your departure? The most common causes of anxiety in dogs are separation, noise sensitivity, and thunder phobia – so pay close attention to these factors! Make note of everything you observe and bring your findings to your vet appointment; your discoveries will be helpful for both diagnosis and the development of a treatment plan.

Step 2: Work With a Professional

Under the care of a professional, youll be able to explore not only drug options but alternative therapies and training methods as well! Your vet will review your pets medical history and do a physical exam, as well as blood and urine analyses. They will help you determine if your dogs issue is situational anxiety and can thus be avoided or if your dog has developed a serious anxiety disorder that is overwhelming their day-to-day life. Once they have an understanding of your pets particular needs and have ruled out any medical conditions that can cause anxiety, your vet can help you pinpoint what seems to be triggering your dogs anxiety. Medication may fit into your vets plan, but vets may also suggest a combination of other treatment methods, such as behavioral modification and counterconditioning. Your vet may suggest you introduce anti-anxiety drugs to your treatment regimen – or increase the dose – if your pet reaches a plateau and you no longer see an improvement in their behavior. They may also suggest alternative, non-drug treatments such as The Calmer Canine Anxiety Treatment System.

Step 3: The Right Anxiety Medication for Your Dog

The right drug for your pet depends on their individual needs; each dog is affected by anxiety differently. If your veterinarian suggests anti-anxiety medication, their specific recommendation will depend on anxiety type, anxiety intensity, and the size of your dog, along with any pre-existing conditions they may have.

What Are the Most Common Types of Anti-Anxiety Drugs?

Dog anti-anxiety medications are usually broken up into three categories: Benzodiazepines (BZs), Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs), and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Although each class of anti-anxiety medication works differently, all aim to bring the dog under their behavioral threshold. Once a dog is brought under threshold, their anxiety will not dictate their reaction to stimuli; theyll be more aware and relaxed, thus creating the perfect opportunity to introduce behavioral modification and training techniques.

Short-Acting Anti-Anxiety Medications

The most common short-acting anti-anxiety medications are Benzodiazepines (BZs), including prozac and valium. The sedating and anxiety-reducing effects of Benzodiazepines are attributed to the drugs ability to inhibit the activity of neurons involved with anxiety and arousal. Your veterinarian may suggest these short-acting drugs if your dog suffers from situational anxiety, such as storm phobia or travel phobia. These drugs are meant to be administered whenever an anxiety-inducing event is anticipated. Benzodiazepines may be prescribed in conjunction with long-lasting anti-depressants, as well as with other treatment regimens and training methods.

Side Effects and Concerns of Short-Acting Anti-Anxiety Medications

Owners sometimes report that these short-acting anti-anxiety drugs cause side effects including increased appetite and increased anxiety, as well as sedation or difficulty sleeping. It is also important to note that, just because these drugs are fast-acting, doesnt mean they are miracle pills. Although they might save the day when your dog is inconsolable, it is still important to have a multi-pronged approach when investigating and managing your dogs anxiety.


Selective Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine, sertraline, or paroxetine – as well as Tricyclic depressants (TCAs) such as clomipramine and amitriptyline – are all commonly used for dogs for a range of fear disorders, compulsive conditions, and anxiety issues. SARI’s such as trazodone are also commonly used for these issues. These antidepressants – although with different mechanisms of action – both work by targeting neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing the availability of serotonin, dopamine, and/or norepinephrine. Both classes of drugs take about six weeks before theyre effective, so its important to follow a strict dosing schedule and closely monitor any reactions your dog may have to their new medication. In order to see the full effect on serotonin levels, many professionals suggest taking these medications for at least four to six weeks.

Some antidepressants are particularly well-known for treating specific conditions. For example, clomipramine is most frequently used to treat Canine Separation Anxiety (CSA). Other types of antidepressants such as the Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI) Selegiline are approved for the treatment of canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) and dementia.

It’s important to note that medications do not work for all dogs. Rather than being miracle cures, think of medications as tools in a toolkit; if the medication is not working, it should be discontinued. Don’t be discouraged – every dog is different and will require a different treatment regimen! From drugs to alternative therapies, there are plenty of solutions out there for anxious dogs.

Side Effects and Concerns of Anti-Depressants

Both SSRIs and TCAs can produce side effects including stomach upset, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Owners have also reported that both drugs can also result in increased thirst and urination, and even increased aggression.  Side effects may vary slightly between the two classes of drugs.

It is important to remember that neither SSRIs nor TCAs should be used in conjunction with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), including selegiline and tick and flea products containing amitraz.

It is essential that you pay close attention to your pet when beginning a medication, working with your veterinarian in order to monitor:

  • Kidney and liver function
  • Personality changes or signs of grogginess
  • Signs of physical pain or compounding issues
  • Serotonin levels: Because many of these drugs boost serotonin, it is important to keep track of serotonin levels in order to avoid serotonin toxicity syndrome.

Dosage and Duration of Use

Though precise dosing may vary, vets will typically start with a smaller dose and adjust based on how your dog responds. Follow your vets advice on dosage and dont accelerate the timeline, even if everything is going smoothly. Once your vet determines that your dogs response to the medication has become stable, your vet may recommend continuing treatment for about six months to allow a generous period of time for behavior modification (learning).

It’s important to note that some dogs may need to stay on medication for life in order to keep their anxiety under control. Your vet will have the best recommendations for your dog’s individual needs.

Discontinuing Drug Use

If your vet recommends no longer administering medication – whether due to side effects or because the drug has done its job and is no longer needed in the same capacity – they will instruct you on how to taper off usage.

Alternatives to Drugs

Alternatively – or in addition to anti-anxiety medications – your vet may suggest drug-free solutions or holistic therapies. They may even recommend reaching out to a professional dog trainer for assistance. These options can work wonders in combination with drug therapy, as well as on their own. Here are some other popular anti-anxiety treatment options for you and your veterinarian to consider:

  1. Training is the first step to raising an anxiety-free dog. Not only will it help to reduce the risk of your dog developing anxiety in the future, but it will help improve their overall health and mood - and strengthen the bond between the two of you! Need help finding the right trainer? This resource will help you find a dog anxiety professional near you.
  2. Desensitization works to reduce anxiety by gradually introducing a dog to stressful stimuli. By exposing them to a mild version of a stressful trigger, desensitization keeps a dog from becoming overwhelmed and helps them learn how to overcome their anxious responses.
  3. Counterconditioning is a popular training method that involves changing a pets mood via creating positive associations. Working with a professional behaviorist, counterconditioning can help your dog overcome their anxiety, gradually replacing their negative associations with positive ones.
  4. Pheromones and essential oils (aromatherapy) have helped many pet owners manage canine anxiety. These scents send messages” to the dogs limbic system - the part of the brain that controls emotion - resulting in a more relaxed, happier dog.
  5. Compression products apply consistent pressure to certain parts of the body, deactivating the sympathetic nervous system and helping the relaxation response take over. While scientific studies have been previously lacking, there are many anecdotal accounts of how these methods and products have helped with anxiety.
  6. Supplements include certain types of vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids, or other ingredients intended to help dogs maintain their emotional balance. Your veterinarian can help you determine what the right dosage should be and will advise if certain ingredients might make any underlying medical conditions your dog already has worse.
  7. Cannabidiol - or CBD - is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties and has been studied in dogs for pain relief. There are no completed studies of CBD oil on dogs with anxiety conditions, but there is anecdotal evidence that this supplement might help with pain and anxiety relief.
  8. The Calmer Canine Anxiety Treatment System utilizes a specifically tuned microcurrent signal, targeted at the anxiety center in your dogs brain. The drug-free and sensation-free device reaches the core of the problem and stimulates your dogs natural ability to restore emotional balance — bringing your dog back to a calm state.

Next Steps

With this information at your fingertips, you are now ready to pick up the phone and schedule that veterinarian appointment! Your dog will thank you.