BRAND NAME: XANAX
Alprazolam, like diazepam (valium®), its more famous cousin, is a benzodiazepine tranquilizer. It works by depressing activity in several areas of the brain which leads to several desired effects. It works as an anti-anxiety treatment, as a sedative, as a suppressor of seizure activity, and as a muscle relaxer. The exact mechanism for creating these effects remains unknown. Alprazolam represents an improvement on the original diazepam in that it lasts longer (in dogs, unknown in cats) making it more practical than diazepam for oral use.
HOW THIS MEDICATION IS USED
The most common veterinary use for this medication is probably the treatment of panic disorders in dogs. Panic disorders differ from other forms of anxiety in that they have a more acute basis and seem to be associated with loud noise stimuli (like fireworks or thunderstorms). Typically a single dose of alprazolam could relax a dog on the evening of the fourth of July or during a single storm and on-going medication would not be needed to see an effect (other anti-anxiety medications require weeks of use for results and would not be helpful in these types of short term unique situations). For use in noise phobia situations, alprazolam should be given 30-60 minutes before the triggering event is expected.
Other uses might include anxiety disorders in cats such as with inappropriate elimination.
Alprozolam is also sometimes used to supplement seizure control medications such as phenobarbital when one medication alone is inadequate.
Alprazolam seems to exert its maximum effect within 1-2 hours.
Sedation is a possible side effect.
In the cat, cases of liver failure have been reported after several days use of diazepam and since alprozalam is a closely related compound, there has been concern about this serious potential drug reaction extending to alprazolam. The good news is that alprazolam has not been reported to pose this particular risk; however, the current recommendation is to monitor liver enzymes by blood test periodically in the cat if long term is planned.
Benzodiazepines can cause an increase in hunger.
Benzodiazepines can interfere with learning thereby making training more difficult.
There has been some concern about "disinhibition" with alprazolam in aggressive animals. If anxiety is inhibiting a patient from being more aggressive, relieving the anxiety could potentially embolden the patient into worse aggression. Whether or not this is a genuine risk with alprazolam remains controversial. Some paradoxic reactions are periodically reported, however, where, instead of tranquilization a patient will experience excitement.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER DRUGS
Alprazolam may have a stronger than expected effect if used in conjunction with cimetidine (an antacid more commonly known as Tagamet®), erythromycin (an antibiotic), ketoconazole (an antifungal drug), itraconazole (another antifungal drug), other anxiety medications (such as fluoxetine, clomipramine, or amitriptyline) or propranolol (a heart medication).
Antacids may slow the onset of effect of alprazolam.
The use of alprazolam may increase the effect of digoxin (a heart medication).
CONCERNS AND CAUTIONS
DO NOT ADMINISTER A PET'S FIRST DOSE EVER OF ALPRAZOLAM
ALPRAZOLAM IS A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE