Vistaril for Anxiety in Dogs

Vistaril is a drug typically used for allergies. However, it has been shown to reduce anxiety in humans and may have similar effects on dogs.

Uses of Vistaril

Vistaril is an antihistamine, which can be used to treat symptoms of allergies, such as itching and rashes. It has also been successfully used to treat nausea and insomnia in humans.

Vistaril is not FDA approved for veterinary use; however, it is commonly used to treat allergy symptoms, such as itching, hives and rashes, in dogs and cats as well.

Just as Benadryl is occasionally recommended to reduce stress in dogs, many veterinarians are also now recommending Vistaril to reduce anxiety. Because it depresses activity of the central nervous system, it may reduce your dog's anxiety short-term.

Limitations of Vistaril

Vistaril is not a cure for anxiety. Vistaril may work to reduce symptoms of stress for a few hours, so it may serve its purpose if you want to prevent short-term stress in your dog, such as during a visit to the veterinarian or during fireworks on Independence Day.

However, anxiety medications, even those used specifically for anxiety, should not be used long term if at all possible. For the best results, combine use of medication with a behavior modification program that can change your dog's response to the stress.

For example, if your dog is afraid of loud noises, giving him a dose of Vistaril will not change the way your dog feels about loud noises. It will just reduce his body's ability to react.

The benefits of medication are that is does dull your dog's anxious response, allowing you a training window to teach a different response. This is done by desensitizing your dog to the noise by playing it at a low volume and gradually increasing when your dog is comfortable with the previous level.

Desensitization is paired with conditioning a positive response to the stimulus by rewarding your dog with treats, toys, praise and pets when he hears the noise. The noise then predicts positive things rather than fear.

Once your dog completes the program, he is ready to be gradually weaned off the medication, which can often cause liver and kidney damage if used long term.

Side Effects of Vistaril

As with any antihistamine, Vistaril has a few side effects:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • blurred vision
  • dry mouth
  • vomiting

If these symptoms persist or become more serious, consult your veterinarian as they may be signs of an overdose or intolerance to the medication. In case of overdose, your dog could also experience slowed breathing or seizures.

Some dogs may suffer from an allergic reaction to Vistaril. Consult your veterinarian if your dog shows these symptoms:

  • hives
  • swelling, particular of the face, tongue or throat
  • difficulty breathing

Vistaril should not be used in conjunction with other antihistamines or antidepressants. Consult your veterinarian about additional medications your dog may be taking.

Your dog should also avoid Vistaril if she is pregnant or nursing or if he suffers from kidney or liver problems. For healthy dogs, however, Vistaril may offer an effective short term solution to anxiety reduction.