We get a lot of questions about Prozac for dogs. You may wonder why on earth anyone would want to give their dog Prozac, but in fact there are some sound reasons for doing so.
BUT first of all, it's important to understand that Prozac is not useful for trying to cure your dog of those small behaviours that bug you. You should take your dog to training sessions for that sort of thing.
What sort of dog problems might Prozac be useful for?
These 5 problems can make dog ownership challenging and unrewarding - just the opposite of why we want to have a dog in our homes! The potential problems listed above may result in a dog that chews the furniture, is incontinent when stressed, tends to be aggressive with strangers, and constantly licks its wrists, chases shadows or its own tail, and chews stones.
The most common reason for prescribing Prozac for dogs is to help reduce symptoms of separation anxiety. When a dog is left alone for longer periods of time, they will sometimes becomes stressed and anxious, and develop destructive behaviours. Of course, the dog is experiencing a significant reduction in quality of life. Prozac may not alleviate 100% of the symptoms in all cases, but in most dogs with separation anxiety the improvement is spectacular.
The next reason for giving your dog Prozac is thunderstorm phobia. BUT it's important to appreciate that Prozac is not like Valium (Diazepam). It doesn't work immediately. Prozac can take several weeks to build up in the system before its benefits become apparant.
So Prozac is NOT the best solution if the only problem you have is thunderstorm phobia. But in most cases, phobia of thunder is only ONE of several issues that a stressed dog may have. So, if your dog is on Prozac for other reasons, then any thunderstorm phobia issues will also be taken care of.
People phobia and overly aggressive behavior tend to go hand-in-hand. If your dog is wary of strangers, frightened by them, and reacts aggressively if strangers approach too close, then Prozac may help.
Finally, compulsive behaviors can be treated with Prozac. These compulsive behaviors are often linked with separation anxiety, but can occur on their own. This includes things like compulsive licking of the wrists or hocks, chasing shadows or lights, chewing stones or rocks, and so on.
While not necessarily damaging in their own right, these behaviours indicate that your dog is stressed in some way, and therefore unhappy, with a reduced quality of life. And we always want to do what we can to make our dogs happy and great family members! So this is where Prozac may help.
BUT WHAT IS PROZAC, AND HOW DOES IT HELP?
Prozac is an extremely safe drug, and costs around $4 each month for a medium-size dog breed.
Prozac works by altering the mood-influencing brain chemical called Serotonin. Serotonin is a natural substance occurring in the brain that promotes feelings of well-being while reducing sensations of anxiety. But our brains are very efficient, and when serotonin is released in the brain by a fun experience, afterwards it is then "mopped up" or re-absorbed, so that the brain then returns to it's "normal" stable state. But sometimes the serotonin re-uptake is a bit too strong. Prozac works by inhibiting this re-uptake of serotonin. That is why it has the long name of "Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor". Phew! Most doctors just call it by the initials - SSRI.
So, when serotonin is secreted by the brain, it tends to hang around a LOT longer due to Prozac, resulting in less anxiety and a better mood. This means your dog will be much less stressed, less anxious, and calmer.
This all sounds great so far, but what are the negatives to giving your dog Prozac?
1. The first thing to bear in mind is that it takes several weeks to start giving noticeable benefits, usually 4 to 6 weeks. So it's a gradual thing.
2. Some dogs may exhibit a reduced appetite and have less energy. Usually you can reduce the dose of Prozac slightly to alleviate these side-effects.
3. Overdose may cause tremors and twitching, but thus is extremely rare. Prozac is an extremely safe drug.
4. Sometimes you might feel a sense of stigma when other people find out your dog is being given Prozac. Some people think it's excessive to give an animal a human drug. But what is your dog's quality of life worth to you? And doesn't your dog's quality of life have a major impact on YOUR quality of life? Of course it does.
But before you consider Prozac for your dog, you need to have a talk with your veterinary surgeon. You need to list the problems you think your dog is having, and see what the vet thinks. A lot of dog behavior issues can be addressed by the correct training. Make sure you know all the options!
After talking with your vet, and checking the behavioral training options, you may find that Prozac for dogs is your best solution!