Dog Behavior Medication Types

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[Updated January 9, 2019]

Behavioral medications may be given in one of two ways, either daily or as needed. Some animals may be prescribed both a daily medication and an as-needed medication for particularly difficult days. Always follow your veterinarian’s dosing schedule, but talk to her if you feel your animal could do better on a different medication.

Daily Medications

Take longer to take full effect, often several weeks. Given daily to animals with chronic anxiety or aggression. Examples include fluoxetine (Reconcile, Prozac); clomipramine (Clomicalm); buspirone (Buspar); paroxetine (Paxil); sertraline (Zoloft); trazodone* (Desyrel).

Situational (as needed) Medications

Take effect within minutes to hours, but are not long-lasting (several hours, not a full day) . Given prior to anxiety-inducing situations (thunderstorms, fireworks, visiting strangers, long car ride). Examples include alprazolam (Xanax); trazodone* (Desyrel). Formerly, acepromazine (Ace, Atravet).

* Note that trazodone is in both categories. This is a newer medication that can be given daily and may take several weeks to reach its full effect. However, it does have a partial effect in the short term, and therefore may alternatively be given situationally.

Acepromazine (“ace”) is frequently used as an animal sedative. Veterinarians still debate whether this medication has any anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects, or whether it is solely a sedative. Veterinary behaviorists typically recommend that it is not used for situationally treating anxious dogs, as even a quite sedated dog may still be highly anxious, but unable to react. Many behaviorists have suggested that being immobilized in the face of whatever stressor makes the dog anxious may actually increase the dog’s fearful and anxious association with the stressor. Alternative medication should be chosen for situational use in anxious animals.

Additional Resources

To find a veterinary behaviorist in your area, see dacvb.org

To find a veterinarian with behavior experience in your area, see avsabonline.org

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