Zoloft (sertraline) is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in human medicine. With minimal side effects and sweeping efficacy, it works wonders on people suffering from depression and anxiety. If you’ve had concerns about your dog’s mental health, don’t feel silly! Just like humans, dogs are commonly diagnosed with disorders like anxiety, and Zoloft could be a viable treatment option for them.
Zoloft for Dogs
Zoloft belongs to the SSRI category of drugs (selective serotonin inhibitors) designed to manage and maintain proper levels of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is responsible for the feeling of well-being and general contentment, and it’s a vital hormone in dogs, too. Dogs with anxiety (including separation anxiety), aggression, or obsessive compulsive tendencies (like excessive licking, pawing, or chewing) do very well on a Zoloft regimen.
Is Zoloft Safe for Dogs?
Zoloft is safe for healthy dogs without liver or kidney conditions. Dogs with a history of blood disorders should be carefully monitored by their vet if Zoloft is prescribed to them. Zoloft is known for thinning the blood with long-term use, so dogs with preexisting blood conditions might do better on a different drug.
If your dog has a history of seizures or is diagnosed as an epileptic, Zoloft is contraindicated. Dogs taking central nervous system depressants like Valium will see increased effects like excessive drowsiness, loss of coordination, or even unconsciousness.
Zoloft is also contraindicated in elderly dogs, pregnant or lactating females, or dogs taking blood thinners.
Side Effects of Zoloft
The most frequently reported side effect is a loss of appetite. Owners report this within the first few weeks of starting Zoloft, and it’s usually temporary. This is also common in humans and passes once the body is accustomed to the drug. Starting out with a low dose and gradually making it bigger will help reduce this effect. If your dog is losing their appetite, try hand feeding them or giving them soft food until their appetite returns. However, dogs on special prescription diets (for diabetes, kidney disease, or allergies, for example) shouldn’t be fed anything other than their normal diet. Consult with your veterinarian.
Diarrhea and nausea are common, too. It shouldn’t be severe enough that you’ll need to treat your dog, but talk with your vet first. Other dogs experience increased anxiety, restlessness, hyperactivity, and irritability. Make sure you talk to your vet if you notice any of these side effects. While they are probably temporary, only your vet can properly assess what’s still within the realm of normal.
Zoloft is sometimes used to treat aggressive dogs. It decreases the activity in the part of the brain that causes excessive aggression, thus reducing the behavior to manageable levels. However, Zoloft may have the opposite effect, and it sometimes causes aggression. The change might be minor, but it’s important to report this to your vet immediately to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
Allergic reactions aren’t common but they do occur. Signs of an allergic reaction includes hives, itching, facial swelling, sudden vomiting or diarrhea, and even seizures. Always call your vet if you notice anything that isn’t normal for your dog.
Signs of an Overdose
An overdose should only happen if your dog gets into their medication without you knowing. If you’re following your vet’s specific dosage instructions, you won’t have to worry about an overdose.
However, it’s important to be aware of the signs, so keep an eye out for:
- drooling and lethargy
- muscle tremors or rigidity, seizures, severe incoordination
- rapid heart rate
Canine Dosage of Zoloft
Zoloft is available in a few dosages: 25mg, 50mg, and 100mg. The right dosage depends on your dog’s weight, overall health, medical history, and the severity of the disorder being treated. There isn’t a one-size dose that’s right for every dog. A larger dog can do well on a smaller dose while a medium-sized dog needs a bigger dose.
The baseline dose starts at 1.25 to 2.5 mg per pound every 24 hours. Again, this is just a starting dose. Your vet will probably start at a lower dose for a few weeks to see if there is any improvement. The smaller the dose your dog is on, the less likely it is they’ll experience any side effects.
If your dog is very difficult when it’s time to take medicine, your vet can order a liquid suspension to make administration easier.
Alternatives to Zoloft
It isn’t likely your vet will immediately prescribe medication to treat your dog. Some cases of anxiety, OCD, and aggression are treatable with behavior modification. Be open with them about the severity of your dog’s problem(s) and how it’s affecting their quality of life.
Zoloft isn’t prescribed to dogs as often as Prozac is, but it’s still a great option if all of your attempts to calm your dog’s anxiety or OCD have failed. Have a frank discussion with your vet about your dog’s behavior, and they will help you develop a treatment plan to make your dog’s life a little bit easier.