It’s a running joke among professionals in the dog industry that high-strung dogs should be on Prozac. While this used to be a joke and nothing more, it’s actually a legitimate treatment for anxiety and certain behavioral problems. If you’ve been working hard with your dog to eliminate destructive anxiety or behavioral issues but behavior modification isn’t doing the trick, you should investigate the use of Prozac.
Prozac for Dogs
Prozac (fluoxetine) is prescribed so commonly in dogs that there’s actually a veterinary equivalent. The brand name for veterinary fluoxetine is called Reconcile. Like any medication used to treat anxiety, aggression, or behavior problems, Prozac works best when it’s used in conjunction with dedicated training. The medication is designed to work with the training, and most vets will insist your dog is working with a trainer before they prescribe an SSRI for behavioral problems.
Prozac is incredibly safe for dogs–obviously, since there is a brand marketed specifically for veterinary use in canines. The drug is safe for dogs that are healthy and without any neurological or organ disorders. Dogs with a history of seizures or an epilepsy diagnosis shouldn’t be prescribed Prozac because the drug has a risk of causing seizures. There are other pharmaceutical alternatives for calming down a dog that won’t risk inducing a seizure. Liver conditions also rule out the use of Prozac. The liver is the organ responsible for breaking the drug down, and your vet won’t prescribe a medication that further taxes an impaired liver.
The use of Prozac in aggressive dogs is controversial. Some individuals believe Prozac is effective at managing aggression, but many vets caution against administering Prozac in aggressive dogs because it can exacerbate it. There are different SSRIs appropriate for aggressive dogs that won’t make their behavior worse.
Side Effects of Prozac
The most common side effects are diarrhea, panting, and increased anxiety. This “new” anxiety can present as pacing, excitability, or excessive panting. Since Prozac is prescribed to combat these symptoms, many owners think this is an indication of the drug not working. It’s always important to consult with a vet, but these side effects typically disappear within a few weeks once the brain has adjusted to the Prozac. Other dogs become aggressive which is why many vets won’t prescribe Prozac to naturally aggressive dogs. Aggression is a normal side effect, but it is dangerous, so it’s important to report this to your vet immediately.
Serotonin syndrome is a dangerous condition that can occur when SSRI medications are given to canines. It’s very rare, but it’s something to be aware of when beginning an SSRI treatment regimen. Serotonin syndrome occurs when the central nervous system has a rapid and dangerous increase of serotonin. It typically happens when the dog is given an MAO inhibitor with the SSRI, but it still happens without this interaction. If you notice high blood pressure, an elevated body temperature, and a rapid heart rate, it’s time to be concerned and call your vet. Other signs include restlessness, muscle rigidity, muscle tremors, vomiting, and diarrhea. Even though it’s a rare condition, don’t dismiss any symptoms you think are fishy.
Unless you’re a veterinarian, you should never be the one calculating your dog’s Prozac dosage. While there is a base dosage calculated by your dog’s weight, their weight isn’t the only factor in the calculation. First, it’s recommended your dog be on as low of a dose as possible. It reduces the likelihood of side effects and eases stress on the body’s organs. A proper dosage depends on your dog’s age, health history, and the severity of their disorders. Since Prozac is considered a controlled substance, you can only get it through a veterinarian, but many people will give their dogs Prozac from their personal prescription. This is how overdoses and dangerous medication interactions occur.
The typical recommended dosage is 0.5-0.9 mb/lb. Some sources consider this the upper limit, meaning the amount shouldn’t go above this range. However, other sources say 1.35 mgl/lb is a safe maximum. This stresses the importance of letting your vet decide the appropriate dose for your dog.
While considered a very safe drug, it’s important to use discretion when you begin a Prozac regimen. This drug should only be administered under the guidance of your vet. This ensures the medication is working, but it also prevents your dog from experiencing side effects that can range in severity from normal to deadly.