My Dog Takes Prozac & It Has Changed Our Lives

by Melissa R. on July 14, 2014

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Happy dogYes, my dog is on Prozac (Fluoxetine). She has been for over six months, and our lives have changed dramatically because of it.

I urge all pet owners who have extreme behavior problems (reactive, anxiety, etc., ruling out health issues first) with their dogs to consider medication as early as possible. The thought of it scared me at first, but I do believe had I been convinced earlier to try it, we could have gotten on a path to happy lives a lot faster.

Close friends & family know Emme is on Prozac, but when I tell others not within our close circle, I usually get funny looks, or scoffed at. I’m told I should train my dog better instead. What these people don’t understand is that all the training in the world won’t help if your dog’s brain is so chemically imbalanced they cannot even begin to learn the right behaviors. The medication helps Emme’s brain allow her to be receptive to the right behaviors. It helps “take the edge off” her anxiety, and helps her be able to redirect to proper behaviors.

Emme CAN BE dog & leash reactive, and had has resource guarding issues. She can also be fear reactive: fight or flight? Emme fights. She is a perfect angel 95% of the time, but put her on leash on a walk when she see’s another dog, and you better be ready. A bike? Hold on for dear life! Lunging, barking, jumping, general crazy. Her reactive behaviors almost never manifest outside our home or outside of walks, which we are thankful for! I can take her to a Rally or Agility competition and she is just fine, walks on her leash perfectly with no reactivity at all. I bring her into work for photos, and she’s a real pro. But, the other issues at home were so severe that our lives were being dramatically affected, and we clearly had to do something.

Allowing her to guard any item (bone, toy, treat, furniture, myself) – is not something we let occur. We train – give her a valued item (chew, etc.) and drop bits of steak as we walk closer and closer to her…Read this wonderful blog post from Patricia McConnell for details on what we did exactly. Nowadays I can take anything from her with no trouble – she is happy to give it up. She has even started bringing us toys, which is a new behavior. She will occasionally guard some new, high-valued item, but we are aware of this and manage it, or use it for a training opportunity.

EmmeGoing for walk is no easy task for us – harness, collar, squirt bottle (of water for other dogs that may be loose, works like magic to keep them away, although try holding on to a barking, jumping wild dog while trying to squirt a loose dog in the face so they don’t get to close…), fanny pack filled with a kong (Em’s favorite toy, useful for distractions), clicker and MANY STINKY TREATS. Then we are off, hoping for the best. We have to keep her under her “threshold” and click/treat so she begins to learn that being quiet and calm is when she gets the reward. It is incredibly challenging, but with Prozac helping, we have better success. I do LOVE an early morning walk, where all is peaceful and no other dogs about, but the walks with distractions are important for learning.

Putting your dog on medication is not something you should do without first ruling out any other medical issue. Take your dog to the veterinarian for a full physical exam, behavior history, and any blood work your vet recommends, including a thyroid panel. If possible, consult a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist. They are best equipped to help you with behavior modification exercises and the right type of medication. (Sometimes several different medications need to be tried to see what works best). We did all of this and MUCH, MUCH more before finally settling on this medication.

Read this article from our PetEducation.com website for further details about using Prozac for dogs.

I hope this posts helps out some other dogs and dog owners out there. Please share your experiences below.

Recommended Behavior Training Reading:

  • Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog by Emma Parsons
  • Mine! by Jean Donaldson
  • The Cautious Canine: How to Help Dogs Conquer their Fears by Patricia McConnell
  • On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
  • Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson

About the author: Melissa is a devoted pet owner with several cats: Kai, Cirrhi & Ritter; and the newest addition, Emme a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Melissa is an avid dog agility enthusiast, and hopes her new pup will someday be an agility champion! She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the DrsFosterSmith.com and LiveAquaria.com websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.

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