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Feature February 2016 Issue

Common Anti-Anxiety Drugs Used in Cats

Three drugs are most frequently used to treat feline anxiety, according to Dr. Dodman. They are: acepromazine, buspirone hydrochloride and alprazolam. Each drug works in a specific way, he notes. Acepromazine, for example, is primarily a tranquilizer, while buspirone hydrochloride is a serotonin antagonist and alprazolam is an anxiolytic. “Most of these drugs can be used either to treat an acute situation — like a trip to the veterinarian — or on an ongoing basis to treat a specific manifestation of anxiety. For cats that urine mark, for example, you could use buspirone twice a day, every day. And you could use alprazolam twice a day to treat persistent anxiety, although I wouldn’t recommend doing that for long periods of time because it is addictive and is associated with other problems, such as increased appetite, weight gain and a drunken gait.”

Dr. Dodman strongly advises owners to keep in mind that no feline anti-anxiety drug should be used without the guidance of a qualified veterinarian, especially since some cats may have a physical condition that is contributing to the signs of anxiety or could complicate the use of an anti-anxiety drug.  “Most veterinarians know how to use some of these drugs,” he says, “but I don’t think many of them know — unless they are specialists — how to use all of them. So you should consult your regular veterinarian first of all, discuss your cat’s specific behavioral problem, and get advice on whether or not you should see a behavior specialist who is aware of all possible treatment options.”

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