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Phenobarb for Dog Anxiety

| Updated September 26, 2017

Dog suffer from anxiety for a number of reasons, including loud noises, travel and changes in environment. Simple cases of anxiety can be alleviated through training and herbal treatments, but severe anxiety attacks need to be treated with stronger medication. Phenobarb, short for phenobarbital, is a sedative that is often prescribed to reduce the duration and severity of dog anxiety attacks.


Phenobarbital has long been used to treat dogs suffering from seizures. The medication works by blocking excessive electrical impulses in the brain, which can help to not only eliminate seizures but also reduce anxiety. Phenobarb acts as a mild sedative, calming the dog and helping it relax. It can be given daily as a maintenance drug or as needed during times of high stress.


Dogs are creatures of habit and do not like changes to their environment, and even something as typical as a thunderstorm can trigger an anxiety episode. Anxious dogs vocalize more than normal, whining and barking when left alone. An anxious dog will relieve tension by chewing, often destroying valuable items in the process.


Phenobarbital should only be given under direct veterinary supervision. The vet will weigh the dog and evaluate the severity of its anxiety to determine the proper dose, typically 2.3 mg per pound of body weight. Phenobarb pills come in 15 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg and 100 mg sizes and can be cut into smaller pieces by a veterinarian if necessary. This medication works best in 12-hour increments, so divide the daily amount into two doses for best results.


Dogs should never be given phenobarb without a complete physical workup. The chemicals in phenobarb can cause severe liver damage if not properly monitored. The vet will note the level of phenobarbital in the dog’s blood every three months and adjust the dose if it is too high or too low. Never give a dog two doses of phenobarbital at once. If you forget a dose, skip it and give the next dose at the normal time.


When used to treat occasional bouts of anxiety, phenobarbit is fairly affordable. Thirty days' worth of medication costs approximately $10, although blood work needs to be done four times a year to monitor liver function. Veterinary office calls cost an average of $30 per visit, with each blood panel costing around $50.