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Medications for Anxiety in Dogs

By Dave Fidlin
 

Overview

Like humans, dogs experience anxiety, at times an intense amount of it. The triggers of anxiety in each dog are different. For instance, some dogs have no problem being left alone at home. But leaving these dogs alone in a car is a whole other story. Thankfully, there are medications out there to make the lives of dogs more blissful.

Types

The most common behavioral ailment in dogs is separation anxiety. It afflicts all breeds and has various levels. Some dogs feel the need to follow their master everywhere (and become anxious when they are unable to), while others have a difficult time when their owners leave them behind in the house.

Symptoms

An anxious dog will express its uneasy state through any number of behaviors, including loss of appetite, panting, urinating or defecating in the house, scratching on walls, whining, pacing, barking and howling. A very anxious dog also might destroy personal property while the master is away. Dogs also can become anxious during natural occurrences, such as thunderstorms and when fireworks go off.

Types of Medications

Two of the most common types of medications for separation anxiety are the antidepressants clomipramine and amitriptyline. These and other medications counteract the anxiety a dog might feel by allowing it to feel relaxed and calm. A licensed veterinarian has to prescribe these medications.

Last Resort

There are advocates, including some veterinarians, that believe medications should only be dispensed as a last resort. Some animal behavior experts suggest owners leave a special treat--food or a toy--for a dog while absent from the home. The treat should be removed upon returning. Leaving the TV or radio on for background noise also has been beneficial to some dogs.

Possible Side Effects

Adverse side effects to anti-anxiety medication could include irregular bowel movements, urine retention, diarrhea, vomiting, sedation, low blood pressure, dry mouth or a decrease in the dog's salivation. Pet owners should weigh the pros and cons of a medication by consulting their veterinarian.
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