I tried to give my dog Xanax for travel anxiety before we took our last road trip and it didn’t work at all. I had consulted with our vet about his travel anxiety and she prescribed a dosage appropriate for his small size but it didn’t touch his travel anxiety at all. He was the same anxious bundle of nerves he’s always been. I’d never medicated him for travel anxiety before but we’d also never taken a 12+ hour road trip with the dogs either. I’ve shared tips to help you travel with dogs in the past and most of the time they work great but Xanax didn’t do a thing. We adopted our cheagle, Wilkins, from a rescue after he was abused in a previous home and he suffers major anxiety. I thought to myself, “Oh, I’ll give my dog Xanax (vet approved) and he’ll chill out during the ride but he had absolutely zero reaction to it.
I’ve consulted a dog behaviorist and tried training techniques to work on resolving his separation anxiety, fear of storms, and other anxiety issues. We’ve truly done our best to help the little guy and he’s improved a lot but he still has meltdowns when he’s in the car. It isn’t even really the traveling that bothers him, it’s being away from us and it doesn’t matter that he’s only in the backseat. The mere fact that he is separated from us leads to total meltdown mode. Neither Brandon nor I wanted to lose our patience with our dog during the drive so we consulted with our veterinarian before leaving who told me to give my dog Xanax and he should calm down.
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Due to his small size (he’s about 15 lbs) we were advised by our vet to give him half of a tablet as a trial before leaving on the road trip. I decided to give my dog Xanax the night before we left so we could watch him and see how he responded to the medication. Our veterinarian said it did not have to be given with food and to keep him calm after taking it. I took him on a walk and gave him the Xanax (hidden in a little bit of peanut butter) when we came back in. I put a blanket down on the sofa for him and let him jump up next to me to snuggle while my husband and I watched a movie. I expected to see him get a little drowsy and eventually drift off to sleep as the Xanax kicked in. It didn’t phase him in the slightest.
My husband repeatedly asked me if I was sure I gave it to him because he was acting like I hadn’t given him a thing but peanut butter. He was bright-eyed and playful; he kept bringing me his little green frog (which he’s obsessed with, thanks to PupJoy) for me to throw. He was just as wide awake, energetic, and anxious as ever.
The following morning I called our vet to give her an update on how he had responded to the Xanax. I told her it hadn’t affected him and was left with a choice:
- Try 1/2 tablet again
- Increase to 3/4 tablet (the max for his weight)
- Switch to another medication
She said if we switched to another medication it would knock him out and make him sleep for 12 – 24 hours depending on how intensely he responded to it. I had decided to give my dog Xanax for travel anxiety because it felt like a mild solution to what had the potential to be a big issue but knocking him out for up to 24 hours felt a bit too extreme. We couldn’t test it while we were still local and close to our vet we opted not to try it at all. Instead, we chose to increase his Xanax dosage to 3/4 tablet and see if it helped him. That night before we started our road trip I snuggled both pups and snuck it into a piece of cheese so I could give my dog Xanax without him knowing I was slipping him medication.
He remained an anxious mess for the whole trip (10+ hours!). We stopped every couple of hours to take him out for a walk and give him attention. We put a few of his favorite comforts from home (blanket, toy, etc) in the backseat for him so the smells were familiar and tried to keep him as calm as possible but he stayed stressed. I felt terrible.
When we left to come home we opted to leave very late (about 11pm) with the hope that we would be so tired from running around on the farm all weekend that he’d sleep. It worked! He burrowed under his blanket and fell asleep. I don’t think he woke up until we were an hour outside of home. 🙂 I suppose that’s the travel trick for next time; I’ll just wear his little butt out at the dog park or something so he’s exhausted first. We’re also working on taking much smaller trips multiple times a week so he’s more familiar with the car and less anxious about travel. We bought this Kurgo car seat cover for our back seat so we can keep our seats protected and give him a little freedom to relax with his blanket and toys. The car seat cover includes little pockets so we can put a bone or two back there with him too. The seat cover keeps the bone crumbs from getting into the seat and I can easily wipe it up later.
I’m not sure if I would try to give my dog Xanax for travel anxiety again or not. I mean, it didn’t work so why bother? My vet did confirm it’s safe to give a dog Xanax but, of course, I’d recommend you consult with your local veterinarian first and confirm dosage as an overdose could be fatal to your pup.
Do you have any travel tips for traveling with an anxious pup?
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