Does Your Puppy Need Prozac?
Courtesy of www.oceansideanimal.vetport.com - a great website to visit.
While the majority of dogs do not need Prozac for behavior problems, this option is now available for dogs. Behavioral medicine along with behavioral pharmacology is a rapidly growing field of veterinary medicine. Behavioral medicine is a recognized specialty by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and today many general practitioners work in the field of behavior medicine.
While many behavioral problems can be solved with behavioral modification alone, the use of medication can greatly increase the rate of behavior change and can produce results in some cases that were not responsive to behavior modification. Medication is most commonly employed to treat generalized fear and phobias, separation anxiety, aggression, and compulsive disorders. Before starting your pet on a psychotropic medication, your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist needs to perform a complete physical exam and behavioral evaluation. In many cases your veterinarian will also want to do blood work and may choose to do an EKG on your dog. While most behavioral medications are well tolerated in dogs, it is important for your veterinarian to have a base line evaluation of the major organ functions, especially the liver, kidneys, and heart before placing any animal on long-term medication. In the human medical literature, some of these medications are associated with heart arrhythmias. While these arrhythmias have not been documented to occur in dogs, many veterinarians will want to perform an EKG prior to initiating therapy to look for preexisting heart problems. Depending on your dog’s age, test results, and medication, your veterinarian will want to repeat these diagnostic tests at regular intervals. In most cases, the goal is to eventually wean your dog off medication, however some dogs will need to remain on medication indefinitely to prevent a relapse.
Psychotropic medications are not a panacea but a tool in the veterinarian’s arsenal to manage behavior problems. Today there are many psychotropic medications to choose from including two labeled specifically for the veterinary market, Clomicalm and Anipryl. Except in the case of medications for cognitive dysfunction, these medications are almost always used in conjunction with behavioral modification.
Anipryl is most commonly prescribed for cognitive dysfunction. Cognitive dysfunction is the result of aging. Common manifestations of this problem are sudden loss of house training, wandering about in the yard or becoming lost in the house, pacing at night, and changes in sleep patterns. This medication is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor and therefore has the potential to interact with a variety of other medications as well as some food products. In clinical trials it has been shown to decrease the signs of cognitive dysfunction in approximately 70% of dogs.
Clomicalm has received FDA approval for the treatment of separation anxiety. This medication has also been used to treat generalized anxieties and compulsive disorders. Clomicalm is a tricyclic antidepressant. Separation anxiety, which ranges in severity from mild anxiety when the owner leaves the home to a full-scale one dog wrecking machine, is a frequently encountered problem in today’s latch key canines. Signs of separation anxiety include: excess vocalization, destruction of items, and loss of house training when the owner is absent. Many of these dogs become anxious when the owner steps out of sight for only a minute. Behavior modification is extremely useful in decreasing this problem, but dogs treated with Clomicalm have been shown to have up to a three times faster rate of improvement. Clomicalm is relatively well tolerated by most dogs; the most common side effect is stomach upset. During the initial treatment, some dogs may become lethargic or groggy but this usually resolves itself quickly or the dose can be decreased.
The slightest rumble of thunder or burst from a fireworks display can send many dogs racing to their owners panting and shaking. This problem can range from a mild annoyance to near life-threatening proportions with dogs jumping through windows or racing off into the street in a state of panic. For a dog with a once a year fit of the horrors at the Fourth of July fireworks pretreatment with a single dose of diazepam, more commonly called Valium, or Alprazolam sixty minutes prior to the scary occurrence may be adequate to control the problem. These drugs have a short duration of action that makes them less useful for generalized anxiety. They also tend to cause moderate sedation that can be a useful side effect during a violent thunderstorm, but is not practical for regular use. For dogs with more generalized anxieties or residing in an area with frequent thunderstorms, treatment with an anti-anxiety medication along with counterconditioning and desensitization is the most common therapy. The drug of first choice is frequently Prozac. Now that this medication is available as a generic it is relatively cost effective. Even though this medication has not received FDA approval for the use in canines, it has relatively few side effects. This medication can be used in conjunction with diazepam to control severe anxieties.
Aggression is one of the most common and serious behavior problems encountered in dogs and can often have a tragic outcome for both the dog and the family. Aggression can be directed towards people and towards other dogs. There are many causes of aggression and pharmacological treatment is often dependent on the cause. Determining the underlying cause for aggression can sometimes be difficult, and there is still no universally accepted definition for many of the different forms of aggression. While many owners consider aggression to be a dominance problem, actual dominance aggression is relatively rare. Fear based aggression is the most common diagnosis. Behavioral modification and environmental control are the corner stones of behavioral therapy for aggression. Currently the most common first choice medication is Prozac. Some dogs may respond better to Clomicalm or a combination of medications. All aggression problems are always carefully evaluated on case-by-case bases, as no medication is a magic bullet.
Compulsive behaviors, such as flank sucking in Dobermans and tail chasing in Boston Terriers, can be extremely frustrating behaviors for the owner and detrimental to the animal’s quality of life. Some dogs will chase their tail instead of eating and can be in danger of suffering from malnutrition. Some compulsive disorders are responsive to a class of medications known as narcotic antagonist. Unfortunately these medications can be expensive and hard to acquire.
Today many people are interested in herbal and natural remedies for both themselves and their pets. Unfortunately, as in human medicine, there is very little scientific documentation of the benefits of these remedies. The content and purity of these compounds is often questionable. Unforeseen side effects and drug interactions can also occur with these products. Even with the lack of hard scientific proof, some of these remedies have been use successfully in dogs. Melatonin, which is widely available in most health food store, is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland, a portion of the brain. It has been used safely and successfully in some dogs for the treatment of thunderstorm phobias and mild generalized anxieties. It is generally well tolerated and widely available. It works best if given thirty to sixty minutes before a thunderstorm. Another popular herbal remedy St. John’s Wort has received much attention in the popular press for the treatment of depression. However, some recent studies have suggested that its effect may be no greater than a placebo. St. John’s Wort has the potential to cause serious drug interactions with many medications. If you are interested in trying this or other herbal remedies on your pet, you should consult with a veterinarian who has a special interest in alternative medicine.
While Prozac is not needed for every puppy, psychotropic medications may allow successful behavioral modification of a previously impossible canine and may greatly improve the quality of life for a fearful or timid dog. These medications in conjunction with behavioral modification may allow you to have a long and happy relationship with your dog.
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