Sunday, May 24, 2015

Alprazolam failure

This coming Thursday, Cai and I (with Sherry and Jacques) will be flying to Pennsylvania for Ferretpalooza! I am so excited about the conference but nervous about flying with Cai for the first time. I asked our vet for an anti-anxiety medication to help him be calm during the flight, and she prescribed alprazolam, the generic version of Xanax. This is commonly used for flights, as well as during thunderstorms, fireworks, or other situations when a fast-acting, as-needed medication can relieve a dog's trauma. Of course it's critical to test the medication out first, to make sure that your individual dog responds well to it.

Yesterday I met up with a training friend at Miller/Knox Park for an outdoor training session. I've been lazy about taking Cai out to train in public, so I decided to make dates with other people, and force myself to go even if no one else can attend that day. Fortunately my friend came and gave us support. It was a busy Saturday afternoon at a lovely park, so there were lots of distractions around and Cai had a difficult time focusing on me. It was about what I expected. I had given him the dose of alprazolam 30 minutes before we arrived at the park, and I saw no difference during the first hour we were there. Then Cai began acting strangely, in ways that were small but added up to an OBNOXIOUS MONSTER.
  • During the last 15 minutes we were at the park, he was whining, staring, and pulling toward a particular area of the park. I could not see anything that would cause him to whine that much. I gave up on the idea of him calming down and getting anything else productive done.
  • During the 45 minute drive back home, he whined off and on in his crate, which he almost never does.
  • When we arrived at home and I opened his crate door, rather than waiting for me to put his leash on, he tumbled out and onto the ground. I caught him and put his leash on.
  • When I opened the front gate and took his leash off, he initially stared at me and wouldn't get out of my way so I could close the gate, and then he rushed headlong down the stairs with awkward balance and gait. I wondered if he was injured.
  • I fed my housemate's dogs and Cai stuck his nose into their dishes, which he does occasionally if he's very hungry.
  • I let the dogs into the backyard to play and took Cai to our section of the house to feed him and Jasper. There is a baby gate separating the kitchen from the living room, and Jasper's litter box is behind it. (That may sound weird, but it's honestly the best place for the litter box in this house.) Cai has been trained for nearly two years to never step beyond that gate even when it's open. I am usually able to go into my bedroom or even outside and not worry that he will go into the kitchen. This time, however, not 5 minutes passed before Cai had gone into the kitchen and pulled a chunk of cat poop out of the box and started to eat it, which he had literally never done before.
  • I got the poop away from him, cleaned that up, cleaned the litter box, and vacuumed the entire room for good measure. I went into the kitchen to prep food, thinking that surely Cai would not enter the kitchen again with me standing right there. I turn around for a few seconds, and turn back to find him behind me, licking the cat's food bowl. I yell and shoo him out.
  • He then proceeds to repeatedly cross over the threshold even when I keep telling him to back up and wait. I end up closing the baby gate.
  • He whines and prances around as I'm preparing his food, rather than lying down quietly as he's been taught to do.
  • A little while later, I'm settled in the bedroom with my friend A to crochet and watch a movie. Cai steps onto my yarn and I gently push him back and say "off." Rather than saying "oops, sorry" like usual, Cai gets irritated and mouths my hand.
  • He then bugs me for attention more insistently than usual, and that's saying something.
  • And the final weirdness for the night... he decides that he wants to lick the penis of one of the other dogs, which is something he does occasionally anyway, but he's really insistent about it. Usually I tell him to knock it off and/or push his head back, and he stops, but this time he immediately dives back under the other dog and won't stop, no matter how many times I tell him to.
My conclusion is that the alprazolam removed Cai's sense of inhibition (which I hadn't thought he had much of, anyway).  It really brought out his inner monster. I will not be giving it to him ever again! Cross your fingers that he does fine on the flight without any help.


  1. I actually had to get my vet to prescribe valium for my boy because I'm worried about how he'll fair during boarding (with separation anxiety, reactivity to both dogs and humans) while I unfortunately cannot be with him. Maybe you could try to get some for Cai? I haven't tried it on my boy yet but I've heard it works well short-term for nervousness as it sets both the mind and body at ease.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ximena! We only have a few days left before we leave, but I'm going to call the vet's office tomorrow morning. Someone else commented that the dose may have simply been too high for Cai's tiny size. I'll ask about valium as an alternative.