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How to Calculate a Safe Acepromazine Dosage for Dogs

Medically reviewed by Dr. Paula Simons, DVM

Is your dog prone to anxiety or fear?

These anxieties are likely heightened during veterinary visits.

Unfortunately, a fearful dog is also an unpredictable dog. For that reason, your veterinarian may have prescribed acepromazine to help sedate your dog during examinations.

Acepromazine can also be used as a pre-anesthetic to help calm nervous dogs before surgery.

If your dog needs help managing long-term anxiety, there are alternatives to acepromazine that may be more appropriate. We’ll talk about those later in the post.

If your veterinarian has prescribed Acepromazine for your dog, you might be worried and wondering whether it’s a safe option. People have strong feelings about the safety of this drug and, unfortunately, some have had unpleasant experiences.

Acepromazine should never be used (or used with caution) in dogs with seizures.

The Importance of Calculating a Safe Acepromazine Dog for Dogs

Calculating a safe acepromazine dosage for dogs is important for a number of reasons:

Too Little

If your dog is not given enough acepromazine, it may not work properly.

Too Much

Too much and it may cause:

  • excessive sedation
  • slowed breathing
  • slowed heart rate
  • could possibly lead to unconsciousness, seizures, and death.

Under normal circumstances, and when dosed appropriately, acepromazine maleate is considered safe for dogs.

This post will help you determine a safe acepromazine dosage for dogs. You’ll also learn why the medication is prescribed, situations when the medication might not be safe, and common side-effects to watch for.

What is Acepromazine Used for in Dogs

Acepromazine maleate is a tranquilizer that can last several hours. Although it has the effect of relaxing dogs, it’s not necessarily good at relieving anxiety. In other words, the dog’s body looks relaxed, but the dog’s mind may still be over-stimulated.

Its main uses are as a pre-anesthetic or to chemically restrain a dog for his safety and the safety of others.

Of course, there are other reasons why a veterinarian might prescribe acepromazine, including the following:

Acepromazine for Motion Sickness in Dogs

Acepromazine has antiemetic properties.

They work by blocking chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, which send information about nausea to the brain. Blocking their signals can keep a dog from feeling nauseous and vomiting.

Your veterinarian may have prescribed acepromazine for motion sickness. However, these days (updated July 1, 2022), Cerenia has taken the place of acepromazine for motion sickness in dogs.

Cerenia for Motion Sickness in Dogs

Maropitant citrate (brand name: Cerenia) is used to treat vomiting and motion sickness in dogs and cats. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, it may be occasionally used to control mild pain.

If Cerenia is prescribed for your dog, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully. It is available in tablet form or as an injection beneath the skin, based on the veterinarian’s recommendation.

Side Effects of Cerenia

Cerenia may cause:

  • drowsiness
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea

In some cases, severe reactions to Cerenia can include hives, facial swelling, and breathing issues. Cerenia should not be used in puppies under 16 weeks of age, or in dogs with liver problems.

Your veterinarian should be your first source of advice when administering any medication.

It’s important to let the veterinarian know about any other medication or supplements that your dog may be on to avoid possible drug interactions.

Allergies, Itching, and Acepromazine

Acepromazine generally isn’t used to stop itching in dogs. These days, veterinarians prefer to prescribe Cytopoint.

Cytopoint is a long-acting injectable that is effective in treating dogs with allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. It comes in single-use 1 mL vials in 4 different concentrations.  

Each vial contains either 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, or 40 mg of medication.

How Does Cytopoint Work in Dogs?

Cytopoint is designed to block signals that trigger allergic itch in dogs. Once the itching has been reduced, your dog will scratch and lick the area less.

The less your dog scratches and licks his/her skin, the better. Unfortunately, the constant attention to the area can cause the skin to break open. This leaves the skin vulnerable to bacterial infection.

Side Effects of Cytopoint in Dogs

Side effects of Cytopoint are thought to be mild. Short-term side effects may include:

  • lethargy
  • skin infection
  • gastrointestinal upset

Cytopoint is not a chemical-based treatment. Therefore, it’s considered safer for the health of the liver and kidneys.

Administration is offered via a scheduled injection. This is a lot easier for dog owners because it takes away the stress of administering it on your own.

Watch the following short video for more information on Cytopoint and what it can do for your dog:

Cytopoint is Here!!

Relieving Anxiety with Acepromazine

Acepromazine has been prescribed for dogs with intense fears, including the fear of fireworks, thunder, loud noises, etc.

There’s some controversy with this because it’s thought the drug may sedate the body but not necessarily the mind.

Please refer to the section on alternatives to acepromazine for other suggestions.

Pre-Anesthesia Sedation Using Acepromazine

The use of acepromazine to sedate a dog prior to surgery is complicated and typically involves the use of other medications to off-set any unwanted side-effects.

Hypotension (low blood pressure) appears to be the biggest concern when using acepromazine for pre-anesthesia sedation.

When used as a sedative prior to surgery, acepromazine is injected in small doses and sometimes combined with an opiate.

Using acepromazine prior to surgery can help reduce the need for higher doses of anesthetic agents.

To Enhance the Effects of Other Drugs

In a post-operative setting, acepromazine (used in small doses) can enhance the effects of certain pain relievers.

Is Acepromazine Really Safe for Dogs?

Any prescribed (or over-the-counter) drug has the potential to induce side-effects.

A good veterinarian should always choose the best medication for the situation and that includes assessing whether the side-effect risks outweigh the benefits.

Acepromazine isn’t taken on an ongoing basis and is typically used on an as-needed basis. Your veterinarian may have deemed it safe for your dog at the time of prescribing it.

Be Careful!

If you’ve had the drug in the cabinet for a while and you’re thinking about giving some to your dog, be aware that just because it was safe for your dog when it was initially prescribed, doesn’t mean it’s safe right now.

Your dog may have developed an undiagnosed underlying condition, for example. He/she may be on medications that can interact with acepromazine.

These are just a couple of reasons why it’s not a good idea to self-prescribe medications like acepromazine for your dog.

Always see a veterinarian for an updated consult.

The best place to get unbiased information on acepromazine and what it can do is through a textbook like Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook.

Situations When Acepromazine Might Not Be Safe

If your dog has developed chronic conditions like heart disease, liver disease, seizures, or has reached his/her senior years, the medication may have unintended consequences.

New medications or underlying conditions could have a dramatic impact on the safety of the drug. Other situations in which acepromazine may cause more harm than good include:

  • Dogs with very low blood pressure
  • Dogs with epilepsy or a history of seizures
  • Heart Disease
  • Acepromazine in certain breeds like boxers (and other brachycephalic breeds) may be dangerous. These flat-nosed breeds may not be able to tolerate slowed respiration.
  • Collie-type breeds are thought to have a genetic mutation that may make them more sensitive to side-effects.

Side-Effects of Acepromazine in Dogs

Not all dogs will have obvious side-effects and some dogs may have more severe side-effects than others.

  • Over Sedation
  • Depression
  • Incoordination
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Slow Heart Rate
  • Depressed respiration

Medical Alternatives to Treat Anxiety in Dogs

There are a few medical alternatives you might be interested in discussing with your doctor.


Trazodone is a frequently prescribed antidepressant drug used to address and treat phobias or anxiety problems in dogs.

Travel, loud noises, separation anxiety, and visits to the veterinarian are a few conditions that fall under this category.

Some dogs may benefit from behavior modification (as humans respond to cognitive-behavior therapy) while taking Trazodone.

Trazodone can be used short term or on an as-needed basis for times when anxiety-producing moments are inevitable.

Dogs with noise phobias may benefit from Trazodone during fireworks or thunderstorms. Other sources of anxiety might include veterinarian visits, travel, new situations.

Potential Side Effects of Trazodone

Dogs may experience some, all, or none of the following side-effects. These are considered temporary side-effects but please ask your veterinarian about any unusual reaction to the drug.

Trazodone is a short-acting drug. Side-effects are considered very mild to non-existent in dogs. That said, possible side-effects to look for include

  • dilated pupils
  • sedation
  • lethargy
  • vomiting or gagging
  • colitis (inflammation of the colon)
  • ataxia (temporary drunken gait)
  • increased anxiety
  • increased appetite
  • aggression

Benzodiazepines for Short Term Use

Benzodiazepines are helpful for phobias that can be anticipated in advance. Examples of appropriate use include:

  • fear-based urination
  • storm phobias
  • separation anxiety with panic
  • fear of people (without aggression)

Benzodiazepines are safe for dogs when prescribed by a veterinarian. This can get tricky. You might have some benzodiazepines in your medicine cabinet when a sudden thunder storm erupts. Your dog is frightened and you just want to help.

Do not administer benzodiazepines to your dog without your veterinarians approval.

These drugs work on the central nervous system and act quickly to reduce anxiety. A veterinarian will only prescribe if he/she believes it to be appropriate for the situation.

Dosing considerations include the dog’s weight, underlying medical conditions, other medications the dog may be on, and other potential factors.

Commercially available benzodiazepines include:

  • Alprazolam
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Clonazepam
  • Clorazepate dipotassium
  • Diazepam
  • Flurazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Triazolam

Prozac for Long-Term Use

Prozac is a widely used antidepressant. Initially, the drug was formulated for use in people. Veterinarians, however, are also able to prescribe it for dogs with issues that include:

  • aggression
  • separation anxiety
  • thunderstorm phobia
  • fear of people
  • generalized anxiety
  • compulsive disorders
  • urine marking

Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat depression and anxiety.

It can be used long-term for dogs and is especially useful when used in conjunction with behavioral modification techniques.

It’s also important to consider any underlying disease that may be present.

Dogs have a different physiological makeup than we do. He/she may appear to have clinical depression when, in fact, it’s something different.

Side Effects of Prozac in Dogs

Any side effects are usually gastrointestinal and could include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • lack of appetite

These side effects usually only last a few days. As with any new medication, watch for serious signs of allergic reaction including hives, facial swelling, and difficulty breathing. In the unlikely event this happens, an emergency visit to the veterinarian clinic is warranted.

Non-Medical Suggestions to Ease Anxiety in Dog

Not all dogs require medication to ease anxiety. Veterinarians may (depending on the situation) suggest trying some of the options below before prescribing medication.

Weighted Vests for Anxiety

Weighted vests are recommended by veterinarians for dogs with anxiety. They work by comfortably hugging your dog’s body. Some dogs feel secure wearing one and this helps lower the dog’s anxiety reaction.

Again, not every dog will love it. This is something you’ll have to try out first to see if it works. There are many different brands. We like ThunderShirt because of the high reviews and the money back guarantee they offer.

Regular Exercise

Dogs require a lot of exercise for emotional and physical health. A dog’s exercise needs depend on the breed and size of your dog.

A couple of walks a day can help a tire a dog’s mind and body. This leaves your dog in a calmer state and a better frame of mind.

Nutritious food and weight control.

As your veterinarian about nutritious food and treat choices for your dog. Some commercial dog food may have additives and ingredients that trigger food sensitivities.

The discomfort that comes with any allergy can leave your dog feeling anxious and generally unwell.

Engage in regular play with the dog.

Playtime is different than exercise in that you directly engage with your dog. He/she might like to play fetch, swim with you, run with you, etc.

The best bonding takes place when you can get down on the ground with your dog and have fun.

Regular, Gentle Grooming

Gently patting or brushing a mildly anxious dog can help alleviate anxiety while providing a great bonding experience for you and the dog.

Calming Treats

There are many calming treats available on the market. In fact, some are not treats at all. Adaptil, for example, uses natural pheromones to reduce the effects of anxiety.

My own veterinarian recommended it for my anxious dog. It works by releasing the natural pheromones of a nursing mother. You can purchase it as an air diffuser or for use on a collar.

 Safe Acepromazine Dosage for Dogs

If administering acepromazine as a sedative for fear-inducing situations, it’s thought to work best when given approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour before the event.

You can expect the sedative effect to last for several hours

According to, acepromazine (only sold to licensed veterinarians and pharmacies) dosage is calculated based on the dog’s weight and whether the medication is being given orally or by injection.

Safe Acepromazine Dosage for Dogs Via Injection

It’s unlikely that you will be in a position to give your dog injections of acepromazine. If the veterinarian prescribes this for short-term use, you would likely be administering the drug orally (tablets).

Acepromazine can be used via injection directly into the muscle (intramuscular), into a vein (intravenous) or under the skin (subcutaneously).

When given as an injection, the dosage typically decreases as the weight of the animal increases.

Acepromazine Dosage for Dogs via Tablet

A safe acepromazine dosage for dogs is calculated based on the amount of sedation required given the circumstances and the size of your dog.

Generally speaking, dosing is calculated as 0.25 – 1.0 mg/lb of body weight.

Summing It Up

At the end of the day, we all want our dogs to be happy, safe, and healthy. A few takeaways from this post include:

  • Always get a veterinarian’s advice regarding medication for your dog.
  • Never give your dog your own medication without a veterinarian’s approval.
  • Tell your veterinarian know about any other medications or supplements he/she is on.
  • Report any unusual side effects to the veterinarian.
  • Remember that a safe acepromazine dosage for your dog six months ago might not be safe anymore.

Any underlying conditions that may have developed, the use of supplements, or other medication your dog is now on could affect how well the medication works and may throw off the dosage.

Plan ahead for holidays and car trips when you suspect your dog will find it stressful. By planning ahead you can have your dog seen by a veterinarian for a reassessment.

I want to thank you for reading this post. Please remember that these are very general guidelines and are only to be used for informational purposes.

Take the information you have and talk to your veterinarian about a plan to keep your dog happy, healthy and side-effect free.

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