12 Most Common Anxiety Medications for Dogs

We humans are no strangers to anxiety, and unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who have to deal with its unpleasantness. Our furry friends can experience all sorts of anxiety disorders, too. Situational anxiety, generalized anxiety, separation anxiety—our dogs can have it. And sometimes what we perceive as behavioral issues are actually the result of an anxious dog.

While behavioral modification is almost always the best, vet-recommended first step to helping alleviate your pup’s anxiety, sometimes anxiety meds are necessary. But when should we turn to meds for our super-anxious pup? And what do we, as pet parents, need to know about these anxiety medications?

We talked to an expert veterinarian to learn all about the 12 most common anxiety meds for dogs, as well as the signs of anxiety and other ways you can help your anxious dog.

12 Common Anxiety Meds for Dogs

As is the case with us humans, sometimes dogs need anxiety meds to remain healthy and happy.
anxiety meds for dogs: man giving dog a pillanxiety meds for dogs: man giving dog a pill

Photo: iStock.com/Snizhana Galytska

Maybe your dog experiences situational anxiety, like panicking during car rides or thunderstorms. Or perhaps your dog feels serious separation anxiety every time you leave the house.

If your dog has anxiety, and behavior modification just isn’t working on its own—or the anxiety is too serious to tackle with behavior modification at this point—it’s probably time to talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication options.

Some of the dozen medications below are specifically intended to treat anxiety. Others were created for different medical conditions but can be used off-label as dog anxiety medications.

This means that even though the medications aren’t FDA-approved as anxiety meds for dogs, your vet may feel they could help with a dog’s anxiety and therefore will prescribe them to an anxious dog when appropriate.

Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinarian at Animal Hospital of West Monroe in West Monroe, Louisiana, and the co-founder of How To Pets, considers the following 12 anxiety meds when prescription medication for anxiety treatment becomes necessary.


What is it? Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine (sedative/tranquilizer).

Common brand names: Alprazolam Intensol, Niravam, Xanax

Used to treat: moderate to severe anxiety; used on as-needed basis alone (e.g., to treat anxiety caused by thunderstorms) or in conjunction with a daily anxiety med

Possible side effects: changes in heart rate and respiratory rate, diarrhea, fainting, loss of appetite, vomiting, sedation, incoordination, increased appetite


What is it? Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant.

Common brand names: Elavil, Levate

Used to treat: behavior disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and separation anxiety

Possible side effects:

  • Common: constipation, drowsiness/sedation, dry mouth, urinary retention
  • Less common: hyperexcitability, irregular heart rhythms
  • Rare: seizures


What is it? Buspirone is in the azaperone class of anti-anxiety medications.

Brand names: BuSpar, Bustab

Used to treat: behavior disorders such as social anxiety, fears, phobias

Possible side effects:

  • Common: decreased appetite, increased affection/friendliness or increased aggression, nausea, sleepiness, slower heart rate
  • Rare: excessive grooming, excessive sleeping, pacing
  • Serious: persistent vomiting, small pupils, stumbling or weakness


What is it? Clomipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant.

Brand names: Anafranil, Clofranil, Clomicalm, Clopram, Clopress, Equinorm, Hydiphen, Maronil, Novo-Clomipramine, Placil, Tranquax, Zoiral

Used to treat: separation anxiety in tandem with behavior modification, generalized anxiety, storm phobia, some noise phobias, compulsive behaviors

Possible side effects:

  • Common: constipation, diarrhea, difficulty urinating, dry mouth, elevated liver enzymes, lack of appetite, tiredness, vomiting
  • Serious: abnormal bleeding, coma, excessive excitement, fever, fast or irregular heartbeat, seizures


What is it? Clonidine is a hypertension (high blood pressure) medication.

Common brand names: Catapres, Kapvay

Used to treat: anxiety

Possible side effects: changes in heart rate, dry mouth, gastrointestinal upset (such as vomiting or constipation), low blood pressure, sedation


What is it? Diazepam is a benzodiazepine.

Common brand name: Valium

Used to treat: anxiety; behavior problems, including aggression

Possible side effects:

  • Common: drooling, increased appetite, lack of coordination, sleepiness, weakness
  • Less common: aggression, agitation
  • Serious: continued vomiting, lack of appetite, severe lethargy; yellowing of the skin, gums or whites of the eyes


What is it? Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which increases serotonin levels in the brain.

Brand names: Prozac, Reconcile, Sarafem

Used to treat: anxiety, separation anxiety, compulsive behaviors, noise phobias, aggressive behavior

Possible side effects:

  • Common: decreased appetite, sleepiness
  • Less common: diarrhea, hypersalivation, lack of coordination, panting, restlessness, shaking, vomiting, weight loss, whining/vocalization
  • Serious: seizures, aggression, excessive/persistent vomiting


What is it? Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) analgesic medication.

Brand names: Aclonium, Equipax, Fanatrex, Gabarone, Gralise, Neurontin, Progresse

Used to treat: anxiety

Possible side effects:

  • Common: lack of coordination, sleepiness
  • Rare: diarrhea, vomiting


What is it? Paroxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant, which increases serotonin levels in the brain.

Brand names: Brisdelle, Paxil

Used to treat: aggressive behaviors, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors

Possible side effects:

  • Common: decreased appetite, sleepiness
  • Less common: constipation, diarrhea, drooling, dry/itchy skin, difficulty urinating, muscle twitches, panting, restlessness, sleeplessness, vocalization, vomiting
  • Serious: aggressive behavior, over-excitement, persistent lack of appetite, seizures


What is it? Selegiline is primarily used for cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) in dogs.

Common brand names: Anipryl, Eldepryl,  Selgian

Used to treat: cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), which includes symptoms such as anxiety, disorientation, changes in sleep patterns and repetitive behavior; anxiety associated with aging or cognitive decline

Possible side effects: changes in behavior, gastrointestinal upset (such as vomiting or diarrhea), loss of appetite, restlessness


What is it? Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which increases serotonin levels in the brain.

Common brand names: Zoloft

Used to treat: generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, fear-based aggressive behaviors, thunderstorm phobia

Possible side effects:

  • Common: anxiety (weird, we know), diarrhea, irritability, itchy skin, lack of appetite, panting, shaking, sleepiness, sleeplessness, tremors, vomiting
  • Serious: abnormal blood pressure, aggression, coma, fast heart rate, high body temperature, hyperactivity, seizures


What is it? Trazodone is a serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI) antidepressant, which increases the serotonin levels in the brain.

Common brand names: Desyrel, Oleptro

Used to treat: anxiety disorders, including separation anxiety, phobias

Possible side effects: heart arrhythmia, increased appetite, inflammation of the colon (colitis), lethargy, loss of muscle control (ataxia), sleepiness, vomiting

Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

How does a pet parent even know if their dog is experiencing anxiety? After all, anxiety manifests differently in dogs than it does in humans.

dog anxiety: dog destroying couchdog anxiety: dog destroying couch

Photo: iStock.com/georgeclerk

Repeated urination on the kitchen floor, for example, can be a sign of anxiety in a potty-trained dog. Or, for anxious dogs who have noise phobias, you might find them hiding under the table. And these aren’t exactly things most anxious humans do.

To better understand what dog anxiety looks like, Dr. Ochoa says to keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Excessive barking or howling, especially when alone
  • Aggressive behavior towards people or other animals
  • Restlessness such as pacing or trouble settling down
  • Destructive behavior such as destroying property, digging holes, or chewing furniture or other objects
  • Panting or pacing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Trembling or shaking, particularly when exposed to triggering situations or stimuli
  • Hiding in secluded areas
  • Seeking constant reassurance from their pet parents, often by remaining close or initiating physical contact
  • Changes in appetite; either increased or decreased food intake
  • Nausea or digestive issues
  • Excessive licking or chewing
  • Potty accidents indoors, even when fully house trained
  • Escape attempts, including jumping over obstacles, digging under fences or running out of open doors

Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

While the signs of anxiety in dogs are different, many causes of dog anxiety are actually pretty similar to things that can cause anxiety in humans.

dog anxiety meds: dog in a pet carrierdog anxiety meds: dog in a pet carrier

Photo: iStock.com/Ilona Shorokhova

Dr. Ochoa says the following are common causes of anxiety in dogs:

  • Age-related anxiety can develop in some dogs as they get older
  • Environmental factors, such as the addition or loss of another pet or a family member, a move to a new home or notable changes to the dog’s daily routine
  • Genetic predisposition such as a dog’s breed or individual genetic makeup, which can increase their chances of developing anxiety disorders or anxiety-related behavior problems
  • Health conditions such as arthritis, canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome and some thyroid conditions
  • Lack of mental and physical stimulation
  • Lack of socialization
  • Negative reinforcement such as punishment-based training or harsh handling
  • Separation from their pet parent
  • Traumatic experiences such as accidents, abuse or natural disasters

Other Ways to Help Treat Dog Anxiety

In most cases, before you go straight to anxiety meds for dogs, you should consider other options to help your anxious dog.

dog anxiety meds: dog playing with puzzle toydog anxiety meds: dog playing with puzzle toy

Photo: Chewy Studios

The focus is almost always behavioral modification, which Dr. Ochoa highly recommends.

You can also consider gear, toys and supplements. Let’s start with behavior modification.

Behavior modification

Behavior modification is a way to help reduce unwanted behaviors in dogs through training techniques. The goal is to modify the behaviors to a lower level that’s more manageable to the pet parent and the dog, or to eliminate the behaviors entirely.

“I always recommend starting with behavior modification techniques before jumping into giving anxiety medication,” Dr. Ochoa says. “A well-designed plan for behavior modification has been shown to reduce anxiety in pets without the need for drugs.”

She explains the following approaches to help an anxious dog:


Desensitization is the process of “gradually exposing the dog to the fear-inducing stimulus in a controlled and systematic manner,” Dr. Ochoa says.

The goal of desensitization is to lower the dog’s anxiety by increasing their exposure to a stimulus that triggers their anxiety, she says. The key is keeping the exposure below the dog’s fear threshold.

Desensitization should only be done under the guidance of a professional dog trainer. It’s a process that requires patience and consistency.


The purpose of counterconditioning is to change the dog’s emotional response to the stimulus that causes fear by teaching your dog to associate it with something positive.

Counterconditioning is done by pairing something your dog enjoys, like treats or praise, with the fear-inducing stimulus. As you continue this training, your dog will learn to associate the stimulus that previously caused them to experience fear and anxiety with positive experience. Over time, counterconditioning should reduce your dog’s anxiety.

3Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is “a crucial aspect” of behavior modification, Dr. Ochoa says.

To engage in positive reinforcement, reward your dog’s relaxed and calm behaviors with praise and treats. This reinforces your dog’s ability to remain calm in situations that cause anxiety.

Environmental enrichment and modifications

Help alleviate your dog’s anxiety by creating a calm and safe environment.

“Providing a stimulating and enriched environment can help alleviate anxiety in dogs,” Dr. Ochoa explains. You can use puzzle feeders and interactive toys for mental stimulation.

You can also ensure your dog gets enough exercise to release extra energy.

Training and obedience

Being consistent about training your dog. Doing obedience work is also helpful because it will make your dog more confident.

“Teaching basic obedience commands and practicing them regularly can provide structure and predictability, which can be comforting for anxious dogs,” Dr. Ochoa explains. “Training can also help redirect their attention and focus away from anxiety triggers.”

Relaxation techniques

Teach your dog new commands such as “settle” or “calm.” Use praise or treats as positive reinforcement. This can “help your dog associate relaxation with rewards,” Dr. Ochoa says.

Teach and practice relaxation techniques in a calm environment first. Then, when your dog has the hang of it, gradually begin to use them in situations that trigger your anxious dog.

Regular exercise

Physical activity helps to release natural mood boosters called endorphins, Dr. Ochoa says. These can help lower a dog’s anxiety level.

Toys, like puzzles

Toys aren’t only for fun! Certain dog toys can help reduce a dog’s anxiety and offer comfort.

Others, like interactive puzzle toys or toys that dispense treats “engage the dog’s mind, and help redirect their focus from anxious thoughts or behaviors,” Dr. Ochoa says.

Dr. Ochoa recommends the following toys for your anxious dog:

Calming vests, caps and collars

Anxiety and calming vests, like ThunderShirts, can help anxious dogs. The constant, gentle pressure these kinds of vests provide can have a calming effect on a dog in the same way swaddling a baby can relax them, Dr. Ochoa explains.

Calming caps and calming collars also help relieve anxiety via a similar effect or via the release of pheromones, respectively.

Dr. Ochoa suggests the following three products to help calm an anxious dog, but also notes that “while these gear options can be helpful for some dogs, they are not a guaranteed solution for all cases of anxiety.”

Over-the-counter supplements

Lastly, you can try an over the counter, non-prescription supplement to help calm your anxious dog. Melatonin, for example, can help regulate sleep patterns, in turn calming your pup.

However, Dr. Ochoa cautions pet parents to talk to their vet before trying supplements. A vet will ensure the product is safe for your dog—especially if they’re on medications or have other health conditions.

If you get the all-clear from your vet to try supplements, Dr. Ochoa recommends the following:

FAQs About Anxiety Medication for Dogs

Dr. Ochoa answers common questions about anxiety meds for dogs.


Is there a “best” prescription anxiety med you prefer?

A:“Prescription anxiety medications are one option, but it’s important to note that there isn’t necessarily a ‘best’ medication that works for every dog. The medication that works best depends on your dog’s specific needs and the severity of their anxiety.”


Does Xanax work well for dogs?

A:“The effectiveness of Xanax in treating a dog’s anxiety depends on several factors, including the underlying cause of the anxiety, the severity of the symptoms, and the individual dog’s response to the medication.

“While Xanax can help manage anxiety symptoms and promote a calmer state in many dogs, it may not be equally effective for every dog or every type of anxiety.

“For some dogs, Xanax may provide significant relief and help them cope with their anxiety triggers. It can help reduce excessive barking, destructive behavior, restlessness and other anxiety-related signs. However, other dogs may not respond as effectively, or may require additional or alternative treatments.”


Can dogs get “addicted” to anxiety meds like Xanax?

A:“While medications like Xanax can be effective in managing anxiety in dogs, it’s important to be cautious with dosage and frequency.

Dogs can become ‘addicted’ to these medications and experience withdrawal symptoms if they are suddenly stopped. This is why medication should always be given under the guidance of a veterinarian.”


What’s better: Trazodone or Xanax?

A:“The effectiveness of each medication will vary from dog to dog. Some dogs may respond better to Xanax, while others may do better on Trazodone. It’s important to work closely with your veterinarian to find the best medication and dosage for your dog.”
Assessing and addressing your dog’s anxiety is important for pet parents. It can feel overwhelming, but armed with the right information, you can talk to your vet about behavior modification, over-the-counter supplements and other products—and, finally, anxiety meds for dogs if nothing else works. Take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Calming Stressed Pets for even more calming solutions.

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