Prescription Sleeping Pills For Dogs Are Legal, But…


If your dog is like mine, he (or she) is afraid of something. Maybe it’s fireworks.  It could be thunderstorms. My dog is afraid of a few specific things including the rev of a boat engine and anything that even remotely sounds like fireworks.

As a dog owner, there’s always going to be that one time when you just want to do something to calm his/her nerves. It would be nice to go for a drive with a calm, relaxed, and preferably sleeping dog in the backseat, wouldn’t it?  

There are good ways to help ease your dog into a calm slumber, and I’m going to outline all of them for you today. I only ask that you pay particular attention to the warnings and cautions highlighted below.

There are no pharmaceutical sleeping pills for dogs.

You might be surprised to learn that the United States Food and Drug  Administration does not prohibit veterinarians from prescribing drugs made for human consumption. The only prohibition on drugs is for what are known as “food-producing” animals such as cattle and pigs. 

That doesn’t mean your veterinarian will prescribe a sleeping pill for your dog.

Veterinarians must adhere to a code of ethical conduct known as the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME).They are required to uphold the professional dignity and authority of the profession by upholding the law and ensuring the safety and care of their patients.

The following medications are toxic and poisonous to dogs. Please read carefully.

CAUTION: Never administer an over-the-counter drug meant for human consumption to your dog without professional advice.

  1. Ibuprofen

You know Ibuprofen by the brand names Advil and Motril. These tablets are considered very dangerous for dogs and can ultimately result in kidney failure.

2. Zolpidem

Zolpidem, also known as Ambien, is a sleep aid for people. Sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, and Zopiclone are absolutely not considered safe for dogs.  There have been incidences where dogs have accidentally ingested pills left out. Reactions included dangerous heart rate changes and a sudden drop in blood pressure

3. Adderall

This brand-name drug contains four different types of amphetamines and is formulated for people with attention deficit disorder. Dogs who ingest this medication are at risk of sudden drops in blood pressure, weakness, and collapse

4. Alprazolam

There are a variety of anti-anxiety medications that are specially formulated for humans. An accidental ingestion by a dog could lead to a serious drop in blood pressure.

5. Antidepressants

Some people might think that because an antidepressant helps them get to sleep, a smaller dose will help their dog get to sleep. There are various classifications of antidepressants (SSRI, SNRI, and MAOI, for example).  These medications are formulated to interact with human brain chemistry and are not designed for dog use.

Note: There are instances where veterinarians have prescribed antidepressants for depression and anxiety in dogs.

6. Naproxen.

Naproxen, known to most people as Aleve, is a unique pain-killer designed for human consumption only.

7. Ativan

Ativan is an anti-anxiety agent that is known by different names.  There are different formulations and none of them are considered safe for dogs.

I asked my veterinarian once if giving my dog 1/2 tablet of Ativan would be okay. There was no hesitation in her voice. Absolutely not, she said.  That said, I know people who have done it, and no harm has come to their dog…at least nothing we can see.  I don’t recommend giving it to your dog.  Ever.

Please keep in mind that the above list is by no means complete. Never administer medications meant for a humans to a dog. Always ask your veterinarian when in doubt. There might be circumstances where the veterinarian will approve certain drugs with good reason, but only he/she can make that decision safely.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: Below are more drugs that have been used by veterinarians to help prevent motion sickness, nausea, dizziness, and induce sleepiness.

Even though the use of these over-the-counter medicines are thought to be safe, there are circumstances such as weakened immune systems, chronic conditions, or other prescriptions that could interact with them.

8. Benadryl

Benadryl is an antihistamine used to treat allergies in humans. It’s not specifically designed for dogs, but it has been used with good results to induce calm.

Dogs have been known to react to Benadryl. Symptoms of a drug reaction or allergy includes the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • No appetite
  • Weak
  • Tired

9. Dramamine or Gravol

Dramamine and Gravol are both separate brand names used for the treatment of nausea. They are also known to cause drowsiness in some people, and have been shown effect in dogs. 

The active ingredient in these two drugs is called dimenhydrinate.  Dramamine and Benadryl are both sedating drugs, but with different chemical compositions.  

The suggestion I received for my large dogs was to give 25 to 50 milligrams approximately one hour before leaving for the trip.  My dogs are 75 pounds each.  A smaller dog would get about 12.5 milligrams.

10. Melatonin

It’s thought that in correct doses, melatonin can help your dog relax and sleep. It may help with anxiety and nervousness as well.  Melatonin is a natural hormone that occurs in our bodies. Natural, however, doesn’t necessarily mean safe.  In this case, less is more. Ask your veterinarian for advice.

Never give your dog any medications without the advise of the veterinarian.

I just can’t state it enough. Even if you’ve given it to your dog before, or you know someone who has, don’t do it.

11. No meds at all!

Sometimes all the dog requires is more exercise and a good behavioral training program.  If you need something else,  you could try some of the holistic or natural mixtures available at respected, well-known pet stores.

Not sure? Arm yourself with information before heading to the store. Check the labels and be sure to ask someone who works there. In my experience, staff at pet stores are well versed in the products they sell. 

Never give more than the recommended dose and, if you’re not sure whether your dog will have an allergic reaction, start small and work your way up.

At the risk of putting YOU to sleep…

Better safe than sorry. If your dog is suffering a great deal of anxiety frequently, he/she might benefit from behavioral modifications and training. Dogs pick up on our energy so if we’re nervous, there’s a good chance they will be too.  Sometimes the best medicine for our dogs is to monitor our own well-being.
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I’m all ears, especially for any corrections. Facts are important!


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