It’s interesting to think that dogs can have feelings that mimic those found in humans. Without verbally communicating, they can tell us how they feel through their actions. When they’re feeling happy, excited, sad, or stressed, your dog most likely shows characteristics that echoes how he is feeling. He may vigorously wag his tail, run in circles, or maybe look up at you with sad eyes.
But when your dog is feeling anxious, would you be able to tell? Feelings of anxiety in dogs could result in a lack of appetite, lethargy, or possibly, uncommon behavioral problems. Fortunately, when your dog is feeling anxious, there are ways anxiety can be treated. In some cases, prescription medication, such as Prozac, may be recommended.
What is Prozac for Dogs?
Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) already commonly used among people to treat depression and anxiety disorders. More recently, it has been used to treat these same types of conditions in dogs as well. Just like when prescribed for humans, Prozac for dogs is only available through a prescription. And it should never be administered without the guidance of a veterinarian.
Every dog responds differently to medication and Prozac comes with its own list of dangerous side effects to watch out for when first introducing it to your pet. Common side effects of Prozac include: vomiting, loss of appetite, (uncommonly) aggressive behavior, seizures, itching, and/or diarrhea in dogs. It may also cause damage to the liver and insomnia in your pet.
It’s important to pay attention to how your pet is reacting to Prozac. He might instantly respond negatively or certain side effects may develop over time. If you have questions about continuing use, always consult with your veterinarian first. While Prozac may help treat anxiety for some dogs, it may not always be the number one solution for yours.
How to Avoid Prozac Side Effects in Dogs
Does your dog have a history of liver problems? Does he have a finicky appetite? These kind of conditions may make it more difficult to identify the side effects of Prozac because he may already be suffering similar symptoms. If you see that his current symptoms are becoming aggravated or increasing in any way, it may be time to consider alternative options for dog anxiety.
While you cannot fully avoid side effects, since your dog’s reaction may be unpredictable, you can help avoid any unexpected results by following the guidelines of care as outlined by the veterinarian. Make sure you are administering the correct dosages at the right time intervals. Don’t skip or exceed the amount that has been prescribed for your dog. It can be disruptive to his system and harmful overall. If you feel the current, prescribed dosage isn’t working, speak with your veterinarian about changing the prescription amount. Detail the reactions (or non-reactions) you’re seeing in your pet and talk through other possible solutions.
Prozac for Anxiety in Dogs
Just like humans, dogs each have their own temperament and unique personalities. Some dogs are more rambunctious than others. There are dogs that prefer spending time around others, while others prefer their alone time. For some dogs, being home alone for several hours a day doesn’t bother them. Then, there are dogs who experience separation anxiety when apart from their owners for any stretch of time.
When dogs experience separation anxiety or other anxiety-related disorders, it’s not uncommon for them to act out. They may bark constantly, have urinating accidents in the house, or show their anxiety in other ways, like tearing up household items or chewing on the furniture. At first, these actions may seem like ones of a misbehaved pet, but there may be deeper issues leading to these actions.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety and your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to be home throughout the day, Prozac may be prescribed by your veterinarian to help alleviate the problem. It helps to slow down the metabolism of serotonin in your dog’s brain. Serotonin helps to regulate feelings of anxiety and promote feelings of happiness. When it’s able to stick around longer, it can help your dog feel less anxious.
Depending on your dog’s health history and environment, Prozac may be prescribed for daily use as treatment for separation anxiety. Or, it can be prescribed to use as needed when you are going out of town, traveling, or leaving your dog at a kennel.
Alternative Types of Treatment for Dogs
The first thing to do if you suspect your dog is feeling bouts of anxiety is to speak with your veterinarian. He or she can do a thorough checkup of your pet and diagnose the problem; then, decide if your dog is a good candidate for Prozac or any other anti-anxiety treatments. However, even if diagnosed with separation anxiety, there are possible alternative methods of treatment if you don’t want to start with medication.
Many pet owners prefer to start with a more natural solution for dog anxiety first and focus on the wellness aspects of their pet’s life. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations to introduce your dog to changes that will help improve his health and make him feel better overall. Therapeutic treatments like massage and acupuncture are two types of remedies that are being used more often on pets. They elicit the same type of wellness and relaxation benefits as they do for people and can help as an alternative route of care or a complementary one.
A switch in your dog’s diet and exercise routine may also be one of the first steps to help with your dog’s anxiety. This may involve an elimination diet to understand which foods sit best with your dog. It could also be an opportunity to introduce hemp products, which are all-natural, and have been known to aid in relief for several symptoms and ailments, including anxiety disorders and phobias in dogs.
Make sure you discuss possible changes to your dog’s treatment with your veterinarian first. The two of you can go over a plan together and schedule check-ins to ensure that you are on the right track to do what’s best for your dog’s health. Again, it could be as simple as starting a routine for your pup. If he’s newer to your family or getting used to a new home, their anxiety may subside over time. If the problem persists, that’s when other therapies may need to come into play.
FAQs about Prozac for Dogs
Is a prescription for Prozac transferrable between dogs and humans?
No. If you or a family member has a prescription for Prozac, it should not be used for your pet. The safest way to address your dog’s health concerns is to take him to the veterinarian and receive a proper diagnosis and prescription. A prescription is based on the ailment or condition being treated but dosage amounts may also be based on age, weight, and previous medical history.
How long will it take before I’ll notice changes in my dog’s behavior?
It could take several weeks before you’ll notice the effects of Prozac working. During this time, it’s important to carefully monitor your dog’s daily routine and incorporate other ways to help alleviate his anxiety. Prozac isn’t a stand alone option to “cure” your dog’s anxiety. It’s best to start other healthy habits for your pet, which may include training, daycare, or other types of structure he can recognize and respond to favorably.
How long does my dog need to be on Prozac?
The dosage amounts and times is up to your veterinarian. If you feel like your dog’s condition has improved (possibly due to age or change in living environment), discuss these changes at your dog’s next checkup. Never abruptly discontinue use of any medication for your dog. Veterinarians often recommend a weaning period off medication, if your dog’s anxiety has been reduced enough to take Prozac only as needed.
Do all dogs respond well to Prozac?
As with any medication, the response and results to it will be dependent on several different factors. This will include your dog’s current state of health, age, breed, and other environmental factors that could be helping with or adding to his anxiety. Side effects may be strong at first or subside over time. The short answer: it all depends. That’s why close monitoring and accurate records are important to keep track of while your dog is transitioning to his new treatment.
Will behavioral training help my dog’s anxiety?
For dogs new to a family or dogs younger in age, their behavior may change over time once they become acclimated to their new space. Your veterinarian may recommend some form of training to help your dog get comfortable in a routine and respond to simple commands. Having a pet requires a certain amount of teaching and guidance, in addition to an abundance of care in order to thrive. Since each case is different, it’s not absolute that works for one dog will work for another.
What if my dog already takes medication?
One of the reasons Prozac is only available by prescription is because a veterinarian will determine if it is safe for your dog to start use. If your pet is currently taking medication for other ailments or has had a bad reaction to other SSRIs in the past, other treatment options may be explored. Disclose all medications and supplements to your pet’s doctor so he or she can make a full assessment of your pet’s health and proceed accordingly.
Alleviating Anxiety in Your Pet
Anxiety in your dog may arise for any number of reasons. Perhaps your pet has experienced previous trauma. Perhaps they are getting used to a new home or family member. Maybe your dog doesn’t like being outdoors with other dogs. Or, maybe he just need to get used to your routine of being out of the home. Whatever the situation might be, your dog can’t tell you what is wrong or how he’s feeling. But you can watch for the signs.
When you’re able to address concerns right away, it can help prevent other problems from occurring. Anxiety in dogs can lead to other behavioral and physical patterns that are unhealthy for your pet. It’s normal for pets to go through different mood shifts, but if the anxiety or depression seems to be ongoing or if you’ve noticed an influx in behavioral shifts, it might be time to schedule your next visit to the veterinary clinic.
While everyday lifestyles may not work perfectly to be at home with our pets around-the-clock, there are other ways to provide care and other human interaction throughout the day. Hiring a dog sitter or walker, enrolling your pup in daycare, or signing him up for dog training are all great ways to keep your dog active and entertained throughout the day. While your dog still will be most excited to see you, he’ll have his own schedule of things to do when you’re away.
The more your dog has exactly what he needs to feel comfortable and safe, the better it will be for your household overall. By paying attention to his needs and exploring all options for care, you’ll find the type of treatment that will be best for him.
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- “True Story: Our Dogs Were on Prozac. Here’s What Happened.” Rover, 8 June 2018, Accessed 15 Nov. 2017. www.rover.com/blog/true-story-dog-prozac/.
- “Prozac for Dogs.” Smart Dog Owners, 24 Mar. 2017, Accessed 15 Nov. 2017. www.smartdogowners.com/prozac-for-dogs/.
- “Pros and Cons of Prozac (Fluoxetine) for Dogs.” DogAppy, Accessed 15 Nov. 2017. www.dogappy.com/pros-cons-of-prozac-fluoxetine-for-dogs.