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Prozac for Pets Grows in Popularity, How Sad is That?


When my dog, Sanchez, was recovering from a slipped disc in his neck, for a short time he was on some of the same medication that my mother takes for her back pain — gabapentin and tramadol. Fortunately, his acupuncture treatments were very successful at relieving his pain, and he was off of drugs pretty quickly. In addition to pharmaceutical drugs, psychiatric drugs have also grown in popularity for the 4-legged population.

An in depth article in Salon reported the results of a survey taken of insured Americans:

“One in five adults is currently taking at least one psychiatric drug. Americans spent more than $16 billion on antipsychotics, $11 billion on antidepressants and $7 billion on drugs to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2010. And according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control, 87 percent of people who visit a psychiatristc office leave with a prescription.”

Animal pharmaceuticals are a booming business. Salon also reported that the pet pharmaceutical business has grown from $6.68 billion in 2011 to a projected $9.25 billion by 2015. Zoetis Inc., once a subsidiary of Pfizer, is at the top of the pharmaceutical chain, with yearly sales of Pfizer’s animal pharmaceuticals worth roughly $3.9 billion. Reconcile is an FDA-approved just like Prozac, except it comes with a beef-flavor and is chewable.

One in seven dogs has an anxiety disorder that has been treated by a veterinarian. The company “Lilly” funded a study in 2007 that reported 17 percent of American dogs have separation anxiety.

Clomicalm by Navartis was also recently FDA approved for pets. The active ingredient duplicates the active ingredient in Anafranil. Novartis claims that it helps calm dogs with separation anxiety. Their website says, “CLOMICALM has been shown to be effective when administered in combination with behavioral modification techniques for the treatment of anxieties and stereotypies (obsessive compulsive disorder).”

Herein lies the problem. The majority of people want their dog’s anxiety problem solved, and solved quickly. And it’s much easier to give their pet a pill rather than try behavioral solutions or combine the two. While veterinary behaviorists may prescribe anti-anxiety medication, they only do so in combination with behavioral treatment. But, behavioral treatment often takes time, and pet parents would often rather solve the short term problem now than invest the time to solve the problem long-term.

Salon interviewed Nicole Cottam at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University who had this to say,

“50 to 60 percent of the people who come to the Tufts clinic want drugs for their dog, cat, or bird. Most of our clients don’t call or come back after the initial appointment, unless it’s to get refills. When people leave with a prescription and behavioral exercises, they tend to only use the pills.”

Hear no Evil

There are many alternative choices for natural behavioral treatments. Humans hear sounds between 20 and 20,000 Hz. Dogs hear at least twice as high, sometimes all the way up to 60,000 Hz. Since a dog’s hearing is their second strongest sense (after smell), it’s not surprising that dogs  respond to music clinically tested to calm their nervous system. For thousands of dogs, the sound therapy has helped calm them instantly, even those with severe anxiety issues who formerly had jumped out the window during fireworks. (Click for sound samples.)

For others, there are desensitization tools combined with training protocol by world-renowned trainer Victoria Stilwell. The goal is to change your dog’s association with the “bad noise,” i.e. fireworks, thunderstorms, construction sounds.  Yes, that can take some time. But, like most humane dog training, the payoff is huge.

Other natural remedies include anxiety wraps, pheromone sprays, and calming caps. I highly encourage anyone with an anxiety ridden dog to try all of these natural solutions (and combine them as needed) before putting their dog on a doggie downer.

What has been your experience with treating canine anxiety problems? Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment below.

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9 thoughts on “Prozac for Pets Grows in Popularity, How Sad is That?

  1. Our Shiba Inu Foxy and I go to sleep every night to your music Lisa. We love it. Thanks! Carol McMurtry

    1. Thanks so much Carol. I’m so touched to hear how much you both are enjoying Through a Dog’s Ear at bedtime.

  2. My daschound has extremely bad separation from me. She doesn’t care if anyone else comes and goes. But if I have to go somewhere that she can’t go, she throws an awful fit the whole time I am gone if she is by herself and I have to put her in the kennel because she tears up blinds, doors, etc. If someone else is here she is left out of the kennel and sits by the door and whines till I get home. I don’t know what to do. Nothing that I can afford helps her. I was in the hospital for 3 nights last week. My husband said she would barely eat and he said she seemed to go into depression. I have thought about medicine for her but I want that to be a last resort. Do you or any of the members on here have any ideas? I’ll take any suggestions. Thank all of you very much!

    1. Shari – Separation anxiety can happen for some dogs when they are left alone. For others, they can have separation anxiety from a particular person. It definitely sounds like that is the case with your Dachshund. Have you tried canine sound therapy yet? I would highly suggest the iCalmDog with the Separation Anxiety training program by Victoria Stilwell. More details on this link:
      I believe you’ll find her training tips invaluable.

      I’d also highly recommend Nicole Wilde’s book, Don’t Leave Me. It’s a wonderful interactive workbook with many tips on helping dogs with severe separation anxiety. More at this link:

      Let us know how that works out.

  3. This is the canary in the coal mine. It is a lound warning when we begin drugging our animals as ourselves, in order to keep up with the lives we now live, separated from the world’s natural rhythms.

    1. Gaye – In the book, Through a Dog’s Ear, the authors talk about the “canary in the coal mine” concept regarding human made sound and dogs. Good point about drugging our dogs.

  4. While I understand that caution is merited to avoid unnecessary and premature medicating, please know that these drugs can be life-altering in a positive way for some dogs.

    My guy has severe separation anxiety, to the point where he self-mutilates if I leave. He didn’t suffer any trauma or abuse; he was born with the condition. He’s had a life full of healthy canine stimulation and has been trained exclusively with positive reinforcement since infancy.

    We’ve tried almost everything to reduce his anxiety – from DAP to music to a Thundershirt to T-Touch to herbal remedies and essential oils. We’ve been practicing behaviour modification under supervision of an exemplary trainer and a veterinary behaviourist every single day for two years now. We still have a long way to go, but without anxiety-reducing medications, no progress was made.

    Please understand that these drugs, when used appropriately, play a crucial role in helping our canine companions. To leave a human in a state of constant fear and panic would be considered inhumane. Why on earth would it be okay to inflict the same on our beloved four-legged family members?

    1. Good to hear that you are practicing behavior modification combined with anti-anxiety drugs. And that you also tried additional humane treatments. My post addressed people who only use the anti-anxiety drugs. It wasn’t suggesting to leave dogs in an anxiety state. After all, I create an anti-anxiety product and I’m all about helping relieve anxiety.

      Have you tried our Separation Anxiety training and music program?

      I’d be very curious to hear about the results you receive, even used in combination with anti-anxiety drugs.

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