Anxiety isn't just a human problem. If Fluffy experiences anxiety, resulting in unpleasant or unacceptable behavior, medication along with therapy might resolve it. Alprazolam and acepromazine are two pharmaceutical weapons in your vet's arsenal for treating issues stemming from feline emotions and fears.
It's terrible to see your beloved pet in state of fear or anxiety. While fear has a specific trigger, such as loud noises, anxiety is that constant worrying that something bad is about to happen. Since your cat can't explicitly tell you what's bothering him, you might not be able to figure it out unless it's quite obvious. Just like people, some cats have nervous or fearful temperaments. If you can pin down the cause, behavioral therapy along with the right medication can make Fluffy's life much better.
Better known under the brand name Xanax, alprazolam is from the benzodiazepine class of tranquilizers, which also includes Valium, or diazepam. Whether your cat requires short- or long-term therapy, alprazolam can do the trick. Unlike some anti-anxiety medications that take time to build up in your cat's system, alprazolam goes to work an hour or two after administration. That means you can give the drug to your pet shortly before an event known to cause anxiety, such as a visit to the groomer or a long car trip.
Alprazolam side effects include drowsiness, depression, crankiness and the need for constant affection. Your vet will monitor your cat's liver function carefully, since liver failure with cats receiving alprazolam is rare but possible. For that reason, cats with liver or kidney issues shouldn't receive the drug. Pregnant or nursing cats shouldn't take alprazolam. Cats taking antiacids should receive them at least two hours before alprazolam administration.
The tranquilizer acepromazine, often called ace, is probably the most common tranquilizer used in companion animals. Because it's more effective in its injectable rather than pill form, it's most likely to be used in the vet's office to calm the cat for certain procedures, as vet visits are major anxiety triggers for many cats. That doesn't mean your vet won't prescribe it for oral use. Just be aware that the effect of oral absorption isn't as consistent as with injection. The drug is less likely to work if given when your cat is already excited and fearful.
If you give your cat ace, his third eyelid—the membrane usually hidden under his upper lid—might become visible, which does no harm. Other side effects include low blood pressure, seizures, respiratory issues, vomiting and constipation. Some cats taking acepromazine might become aggressive. Don't give ace to cats with a history of epilepsy or cardiac problems. With either drug, always let your vet know of any other medication or supplement you're giving to Fluffy.
These drugs can both be used for anxiety, but they aren't interchangeable. If your cat starts "inappropriately eliminating" in your house, a euphemism for peeing and pooping outside the litter box, alprazolam is the drug of choice. It's used in conjunction with anti-seizure medications in cats with epilepsy. Acepromazine also works as an antihistamine and antiemetic (meaning it discourages vomiting). If your cat suffers from allergies or motion sickness, your vet might prescribe it to treat those conditions.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.