Anxious dog hiding under sheet

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If your dog suffers from anxiety, like 72.5% of dogs do, your vet may suggest various treatment methods, including medication. Some dogs may require medication daily for their entire lives, while others only require medications when they have a predictable trigger. 

Benzodiazepines for dogs are a class of medications used to treat short-term anxiety triggered by predictable events, such as going to the vet, getting nail trims, or dealing with thunderstorms, fireworks, and separation anxiety. These medications can help pets stay calm in stressful situations, but there are several risks pet parents should be aware of. Are benzodiazepines for dog anxiety safe and effective? Keep reading to learn more about these anxiety medications. 

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines for dogs depress the central nervous system (CNS) and are commonly used to treat anxiety in people and pets.1 They're controlled substances, which means your dog will require a prescription to use them, and it's illegal to use them if the prescription isn't written specifically for you. 

Benzodiazepines for dogs work by telling the brain to release the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which makes the nervous system less active and can have various effects, including being an anxiolytic — anxiety medicine — and sedative.2 Therefore, these medications are used in humans and dogs to treat various conditions, such as anxiety, panic disorders, and behavioral issues.2

Benzodiazepines have a rapid onset, usually only taking about an hour for the medication to start working to relieve your dog's anxiety and lasting anywhere from two to 12 hours.3 It's important to note that benzodiazepines for dogs are not a cure for anxiety. However, they can facilitate behavioral training and improve your dog's quality of life by helping them stay calm in anxiety-inducing situations. 

The most common uses for benzodiazepines in dogs are to treat anxiety, fear, and phobias like noise phobias caused by fireworks in dogs that don't suffer from aggression.3 However, they may be used in conjunction with various treatment methods in dogs with fear-based aggression by decreasing the fear that may cause the behavior. These medications typically aren't used to treat aggression because they can also contribute to it by causing a loss of the dog's inhibition, which can result in increased aggression.3

If your dog is prescribed a benzodiazepine, vets will typically recommend starting at a low or medium dose as a trial to determine how your dog responds and if it has an effect.3 In most cases, the first trial should be done on a day when you can stay home with your dog and monitor their behavior to determine the onset and duration of the medication. Once a vet has determined that benzodiazepines for dogs may be effective for treating your pet's anxiety or fear, they'll begin to test it under anxiety-inducing conditions.3 For example, if your dog has separation anxiety, the vet may ask that you leave the house one hour after administering the medication to your dog to see if it affects their behavior.

From there, the vet will adjust the dose and frequency of the medication to obtain the desired effect.3 Unfortunately, this process might take trial and error because every dog is different. Additionally, every benzodiazepine for dogs is different; your dog may not respond well to one, but another may effectively reduce their anxiety. 

Types Of Benzodiazepines For Dogs

There are several types of benzodiazepines that vets may prescribe to dogs with predictable and trigger-based anxiety. It's important to remember that these medications are only used on an as-needed basis.3 If your dog requires daily anxiety medication, your vet may prescribe various alternatives, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline or fluoxetine. 

If your vet determines that your dog may benefit from benzodiazepines, they may prescribe any one of the following medications:  

Alprazolam (Xanax)

Alprazolam is one of the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications that can be used for trigger-based short-term anxiety-inducing situations, such as going to the vet. In a recent study of the use of alprazolam, behavior modification, and the antidepressant clomipramine for the treatment of storm phobia in dogs, researchers found that 30 out of 32 dogs had some degree of improvement in signs of anxiety, such as panting, pacing, trembling, hiding, destructive behavior, vocalization, and inappropriate elimination decreasing during treatment.4 

Clonazepam (Klonopin)

Clonazepam is an anticonvulsant and anti-anxiety medication for humans and dogs.6 Dogs may be prescribed this medication instead of alprazolam when they need a long-acting anxiety medication because the medication typically lasts 8-12 hours.7 

Clorazepate (Tranxene)

Clorazepate is another benzodiazepine for dogs that treats behavioral issues like anxiety and phobias. It's one of the less potent benzodiazepines available, but there's limited clinical information about this medication for use in dogs.8 

However, a study has confirmed that fluoxetine combined with clorazepate dipotassium and behavior modification may be effective for treating anxiety disorders in dogs, with 25 out of 36 dogs seeing significant improvement.9 

Diazepam (Valium)

Diazepam is another drug that produces a soothing effect and acts as a muscle relaxer and anti-anxiety medication for dogs. It may also treat behavioral issues like inappropriate elimination and noise phobias. 

A cross-sectional study of 37 dogs and their owners revealed that 24% of pet parents thought diazepam was very effective, while 43% believed it was somewhat effective at treating behavioral problems.10 In this study, owners using diazepam to quell their dog's fear of storms were more likely to see the drug as effective than pet parents whose dogs received the medication for separation anxiety. However, adverse side effects were commonly reported, such as sedation, increased appetite, lack of coordination, and increased activity and aggression.10

Flurazepam (Dalmane)

Flurazepam is commonly prescribed for human sleep disorders and is considered very dangerous for dogs because it's a long-lasting hypnotic.11 There are currently no clinical reports on the use of flurazepam for treating dog anxiety. 

Lorazepam (Ativan)

Lorazepam is commonly used to treat situational anxiety in dogs and works similarly to other types of benzodiazepines.12 Like other benzodiazepines for dogs, it should be given about an hour before a triggering event. 

Oxazepam (Serax)

Oxazepam is a tranquilizer that may be used as an alternative to lorazepam or diazepam in cats, dogs, and humans. It's mostly used to treat anxiety disorders and phobias, and like other benzodiazepines for dogs, it may cause sedation and drowsiness.13 Like other benzodiazepines, this medication is cleared through the liver, so it may not be ideal for senior pets or dogs with liver disease.14 

Side Effects 

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs you can only get from a doctor or a vet. It's crucial to never give your dog medication prescribed to a human because the benzodiazepine dosage for dogs is much different. In addition, you should follow your vet's instructions for benzodiazepine doses for dogs because they vary from medication to medication and dog to dog. 

The most commonly reported side effects of benzodiazepines for dogs include the following:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Paradoxical excitation
  • Weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 17

Benzodiazepines are given to dogs as needed, so you should not give them to your dog daily, unless your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist recommends you to do so. In addition, toxicity can occur if you give your dog a second dose or a dosage that is too high for them. Many of these medications have a wide range of dosing, so you should talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned about dosing.

These medications are metabolized through the liver and removed through the kidneys, so they're not ideal for dogs with liver or kidney disease.18 Before your vet prescribes these medications, they'll run a blood test to ensure your dog doesn't have either condition. If they do, your vet may recommend a lower dosage. Your vet will continue to test their blood while prescribing this medication to your dog to ensure it's not causing any liver or kidney issues.

Pros & Cons Of Using Benzodiazepines For Dogs

Benzodiazepines for dogs may help reduce situational anxiety in dogs triggered by an event. They're commonly prescribed to dogs with phobias like thunderstorms and fireworks but may also be used to treat separation anxiety and fear of the vet or car rides. The main benefit of these medications for dogs is to help alleviate their anxiety, which translates to:

  • Reduced fear of the vet
  • Not trying to escape when they're afraid of thunderstorms or fireworks
  • Reduced destructive behavior
  • Improved quality of life during stressful events

Benzodiazepines for dogs can also facilitate training. However, as some of the studies we've mentioned demonstrate, these medications work best when used in conjunction with behavioral training and methods that teach your dog to be less afraid and how to respond in certain circumstances. 

For example, if your dog suffers from fear of the vet, you might invest in desensitization and counterconditioning by taking them to the vet for happy visits. During these visits, your vet doesn't perform any procedures or treat your dog. Instead, they'll spend some time with your dog and give them treats to make them less afraid. 

Unfortunately, training can take many months to get your dog comfortable with going to the vet and tolerating the necessary treatments. During this time, your dog might need to get vaccinations or be treated for an underlying condition, in which case benzodiazepines may be able to help by helping them stay more relaxed at the vet while you continue to work on training.

Of course, no medication or anxiety treatment method is perfect. There are several drawbacks of benzodiazepines you should be aware of to ensure you and your vet make the right choice for your canine companion. 

Firstly, these medications aren't commonly used to treat aggression in dogs. There are many types of dog aggression, so your vet will first want to determine what type your dog has. One of the most common types of aggression in dogs is fear-based aggression, in which the dog becomes aggressive in response to a trigger to try to scare it away. 19

Benzodiazepines for dogs may reduce fear-based aggression by treating the underlying cause — fear. However, these medications can reduce a dog's inhibition, making them potentially more likely to become aggressive because their fear has been greatly reduced or the medication is ineffective and results in the dog being unable to control their behavior.3

Additionally, some dogs shouldn't take benzodiazepines because they're metabolized through the liver and excreted through the kidneys. Therefore, dogs with liver and kidney disease are only prescribed these medications on a case by case basis. Additionally, your vet will want to test your dog's blood regularly while taking this medication to ensure it's not causing any liver or kidney issues. 

Overdose & Safety Information

The onset of this medication is fast, typically occurring within one hour of administering the medication to your dog. Therefore, the symptoms of toxicity in the event of an overdose will occur within a few hours and include the following:

  • Severe sedation
  • Confusion
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Aggression
  • Hypothermia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Hyperactivity or excitement18

If you believe your dog has consumed too much of any benzodiazepine or you've accidentally given them a second dose, contact your vet for the next steps. If it's after-hours, take your dog to the nearest emergency vet clinic as soon as possible for treatment.

Overdoses in dogs are serious, but the benzodiazepines dosage for dogs must be high to be life-threatening.3 However, if your dog has consumed a massive amount or much more than they should, getting them to the vet as soon as possible for treatment is crucial.  

If your dog has accidentally consumed your medication or you've given them too much of their own, the vet will perform a drug screen test and/or induce vomiting, depending on how long it's been in your pet's system.20 In some cases, activated charcoal may be used to prevent the drug from being absorbed into the bloodstream. However, if your dog is already showing signs of toxicity, your vet will use supportive treatment to keep them warm and IV fluids to help their bodies eliminate the toxins while maintaining blood pressure.20

Severe benzodiazepine poisoning can be fatal in dogs, so getting them treatment as soon as possible is crucial. Luckily, toxicity is completely avoidable as long as you follow your vet's instructions, including the benzodiazepine dosage for dogs and how often you should administer it to them. Additionally, you should store your pet's medication in a cabinet or closet out of reach. 

To protect your pet, you should never give them benzodiazepines without first consulting your vet. Your dog should only take this medication if it's prescribed to them; never give them medication prescribed to humans or other animals in the house. Benzodiazepine doses for dogs vary by the medication and dog's weight, health, and type of anxiety, so it's not safe for your pets to share medication unless you've been instructed otherwise by your vet. 


What benzodiazepines are safe for dogs?

There are several benzodiazepines safe for dogs, including diazepam, alprazolam, and lorazepam. However, it's crucial to consult your vet before giving your dog any benzodiazepine unless it's prescribed to them already. When given improper dosages, these medications can be dangerous and life-threatening to dogs. Additionally, dosages vary by dog, type of anxiety, and the type of benzodiazepine given. 

Always follow your vet's instructions for administering these medications to protect your pet from potential overdose and other adverse side effects. 

What is the most serious adverse effect of benzodiazepines?

The most serious adverse effect of benzodiazepine is the potential for an overdose. When dogs consume a toxic amount of benzodiazepines, they may experience severe sedation, lack of coordination, agitation, nausea, and aggressive behavior. 

Benzodiazepine overdoses are serious and can be fatal, so it's crucial to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. 

The most common side effect of benzodiazepines is sedation. Your dog may nap longer or more often than usual while on these medications. However, they should not experience severe sedation in which you can't wake them up. Instead, your dog should still be able to be alert when necessary and engage in daily activities like going for a walk. 

Since benzodiazepines can interact with other medications, it's crucial to tell your vet if your dog is taking any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements, whether or not they're for anxiety. 

In most cases, vets will safeguard against severe adverse side effects associated with benzodiazepines by giving your dog a low dose to start. Many veterinary behaviorists prescribe a low dose for a drug trial and ask that pet parents stay home to monitor their pet on a calm day when there's less likely to be an anxiety-inducing situation. During this time, you should take note of the onset and duration of the medication, observe your pet for behavioral changes or side effects, and report back to your vet. 

With your feedback, the vet can determine whether they want to continue administering the medication, try a new one, or tweak the dosage to obtain the desired result. 

How can I treat my dog's anxiety?

There are several ways to treat your dog's anxiety, but usually, a combination of medication and behavioral modification training is best. Behavior modification is a type of training that differs from obedience training. Instead of teaching your dog to obey, it consists of several techniques to change your dog's response and behavior to a stimulus or trigger.21 For example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms and begins shaking when they see lightning, behavior medication aims to change how they react to the lightning by using rewards like treats to desensitize and counter-condition them.  

Anxiety medication can supplement this training. Ultimately, training takes a long time, and while it's effective, dogs must still deal with various stressful situations over the course of weeks or months before pet parents see results. For example, if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, a vet might suggest desensitization by playing thunderstorm sounds throughout the day and rewarding your dog for not reacting. However, real thunderstorms can happen during this time, so your dog might need situational medication to help them cope with stressful events during the training period. 

In almost all cases of anxiety and fear, medication is used in conjunction with training or behavior modification because they don't cure your dog's anxiety. Instead, they relieve the symptoms by helping them stay calm during stressful events. If your dog doesn't receive behavioral training while on the medication and you stop the medication, their undesirable behavior and anxiety are more likely to return.21

Additionally, you can help your dog cope with anxiety by providing them with a sanctuary space where they can go when they want to feel safe. Many pets use their crates as sanctuary spaces, but you can use any area of the home where your dog feels the most comfortable. 

Young man on cell phone while sitting next to dog and in front of laptop, preparing for a veterinary telehealth appointment

Final Notes

Benzodiazepines for dogs are considered safe when used as advised by your vet and can help treat a range of anxieties and phobias in dogs. However, they're not right for all dogs. These medications are fast-acting and short-lasting, meaning they're only prescribed for dogs with phobias or anxieties related to predictable stress-inducing events, such as vet visits, fireworks, thunderstorms, and so forth. They're not ideal for treating general anxiety and shouldn't be administered daily. 

If your dog suffers from general anxiety, they may benefit from another type of anxiety medication or a combination of anxiety medications, depending on their unique situation. Talk to a Dutch vet about your dog's anxiety today. We can help diagnose and treat a range of dog behavior problems to improve your pet's quality of life. Try telemedicine for pets today.


  1. Benzodiazepines (Street Names: Benzos, Downers, Nerve Pills, Tranks).

  2. "Benzodiazepines: What They Are, Uses, Side Effects & Risks." Cleveland Clinic,

  3. Benzodiazepines:Pros and Cons.

  4. Crowell-Davis, Sharon L, et al. "Use of Clomipramine, Alprazolam, and Behavior Modification for Treatment of Storm Phobia in Dogs." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine,

  5. Murphree, Oddist D. "Reduction of Anxiety in Genetically Timid Dogs - Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science." SpringerLink, Springer-Verlag,

  6. Clonazepam. Plumb's Veterinary Medication Guides,

  7. Overall, Karen L. Canine Anxiety Disorders: Separation Anxiety and Reactions to Noise. 

  8. “Clorazepate.” ScienceDirect,

  9. Pineda, S, et al. “Fluoxetine Combined with Clorazepate Dipotassium and Behaviour Modification for Treatment of Anxiety-Related Disorders in Dogs.” Veterinary Journal (London, England : 1997), U.S. National Library of Medicine,

  10. Herron, Meghan E., et al. "Retrospective Evaluation of the Effects of Diazepam in Dogs with Anxiety-Related Behavior Problems." AVMA, American Veterinary Medical Association, 1 Nov. 2008,

  11. “Flurazepam.” ScienceDirect,

  12. "10 Medications for Dog Anxiety." PetMD,

  13. “Oxazepam.” PetMD,

  14. “Oxazepam.” College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences , Colorado State University,

  15. "Triazolam (Oral Route) Side Effects." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Mar. 2023,

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Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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