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 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 and 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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Cindy January 19, 2015 at 8:12 am

I hope we get to where you were when you wrote this! Our dog has separation anxiety. We have done, and continue to do, all things recommended for behavior modification, but she has started trying too hard to get out the front door and there has been blood on the door when we get home. I’ve been taking her to doggy daycare so she won’t be alone, but can’t do that all of the time. She has been on Prozac for a week…it hasn’t really kicked in yet, but I hope it will help Abbey be relaxed when we are gone from home.

Melissa R. January 19, 2015 at 9:56 am

Cindy, great to hear you are getting help for you dog. You may also want to read this post, which talks specifically about a dog with Separation Anxiety like your dog, and behavior training we did in conjunction with meds:

Tracey March 12, 2015 at 5:36 pm

I have a chiweenie and he really thinks I’m his mom. If I go out for let’s say a hour he is barking his head off. The vet told me last week to work on the behavior stuff, but today when I went out for about 2 hours, I told him where I was going and about when I was going to be back, but that didn’t work. My boyfriend came by and checked on him, boy that didn’t work, by no means. He took him to his house for a little while, well we will jut put it this way way, since I wasn’t there he messed all over the floor and my hunny and to clean all of that up. That upset me. He had to go a few places himself so he brought Rocky back to his kennel. I got back home,but when I got here I didn’t let him out right away. I waited until I got all of the things that I needed to get done first, then I still wait until I got my clothes changed. I didn’t make any type of big deal that he was out of his kennel then. I’m going to talk to the older vet, I think he will think the way that I do that Rocky needs some type of medication in order to handle this. I just afraid that he is going to get so overwhelmed with the whole situation that his little heart or something else may give out on him. If anyone had any advise at all please send me some help. Thanks ahead, Tracey

Melissa R. March 13, 2015 at 8:02 am

Tracy – So sorry to hear you are having difficulties with your pet. It sounds like separation anxiety, and we definitely suggest speaking to a veterinarian on ways to combat this. I had a dog with a very severe case of this, and I detailed our experiences here:

There is another post here that may be helpful:

Again, we suggest you follow your veterinarian’s advice. Best of luck!

Melanie Thompson June 16, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Thank you SO much! I feel so much better now! We adopted a 3 1/2 year old German Shepherd with some anxiety issues about 3 months ago and he has up and down days. One day he will be happy and fun, the next he is in the bathroom hiding. I work from home so I am with him all day. I took him back to the vet to discuss tranquilizing during the July 4th holiday (he’s terrified of storms and fireworks) and she suggested Prozac. We are going to use Zanax for storms and Prozac daily. At first I was hesitant, but this guy has had 5 or 6 homes in 3 1/2 years. I would have anxiety if I were him too! We are keeping him for life – I don’t give up like that. I felt bad for medicating him, but after reading your blog about Emme, it sounds like my Ranger can have a normal, happy life every day, and that’s what I want for him more than anything. I cannot thank you enough!

Melissa R. June 18, 2015 at 11:24 am

Melanie – I am so very happy to read your comment. This is exactly what I hoped would happen when I shared our story. Helping others to realize medicating their dogs is not a bad thing! Thank you and best wishes.

Cheryl Adair September 2, 2015 at 3:17 pm

We adopted a 2 year old greyhound mix from the pound in 2000. The only info we got was that she could sit, speak, shake, was housebroken, and had to be an only dog. My dog had died a month before, and the trial with my three kids and Molly went well, so we adopted her. We discovered her dog anxiety/aggression about 6 months later when she got away from us and attacked another dog. We learned to keep her away from stray dogs. She liked some dogs, others she would not tolerate. We took in a cocker spaniel in 2002 and she attacked her several times a week. The vet behaviorist suggested Prozac, but said we would probably have to get rid of one of the dogs. Molly only attacked the cocker spaniel twice in the next year. It was a miracle for us. She was on Prozac for two or three years while Molly and her owners learned how to distract and control Molly before she went crazy and was biting everyone.
Molly lived to be 15 and we had three other dogs for many years before she died. It was great that she could have friends.

Linda October 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm

I have a 2 1/2 y/o lab that was diagnosed with conflict aggression and anxiety by the behaviorist veterinarian at Purdue University. He is now on Prozac and has been for 1 month. I do see positive results in that the we have had no aggressive attacks, but we are super vigilant on watching out for his triggers if we can detect them too. I believe his anxiety is a bit better also. The downside to this is he will not play catch with his frisbee or his balls outdoors. This is extremely sad for me. He starts off excited to play and goes after ball or frisbee 1-2 times then just completely stops and there is no way you can get him to play anymore. He is tired and done.

suzy October 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm

about five months ago, we adopted a deaf pit mix puppy named walter. during the fostering period, he was extremely sweet and seemed very attached, but in the last two-three months, he has had spells of aggression toward other dogs and a few people, including a neighbor he is friendly and familiar with and a dog trainer he had known from a young age and seemed to like. the aggressive incidents seem to be increasing in frequency and often appear to pop up out of nowhere (in the middle of playtime) when he is in an excited state. he was also chasing his tail frequently, which i understand to be a potential symptom of anxiety. the shelter that we adopted him from has been involved at every step, knowing that he was a high-risk case. they referred us to their main behaviorist, who sadly gave us a prognosis of “guarded to poor” after an in-depth evaluation where we went over the aggressive episodes. after ruling out atypical seizures and doing a failed run of keppra (an anti-epileptic medication, in case these episodes were caused by a neurological condition), we started the prozac a week ago. i realize that it takes about 4-6 weeks for the full effects to kick in, but does anyone else have experience using SSRIs with a dog that was ruled to be “guarded to poor” in a behavioral prognosis? the vet, behaviorist, and trainer have expressed concerns about safety and escalation, but i am concerned that if there is not a dramatic change in behavior within a month, they will be more forceful about considering other sad alternatives to keeping him :(

Pinar October 28, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Just wanted to say thank you for putting this out there! When I was reading your blog, I thought you were talking about my rescue, Drake. I’ve had Drake got 4 months and he’s been to three trainers, four vets and finally we have found his “team”. We just finalized ALL of his physical tests and after months of training, careful walks (I have my treat bag, his fav toy, every harness you can think of)! He is very protective over me and high value items, extremely fear aggressive and reactive – especially on leash. I feel so bad for my baby that he’s been living with this anxiety and fear. He’s even bitten me and I knew that Prozac was the only choice. We are starting the Prozac tomorrow (we have also tried herbal meds like Shen Calmer but nothing helped) so reading this is giving me hope! As you said, he is the best dog 95% of the time but the underlying aggression was just too much for both him and me. I hope Prozac will help him as much as it has helped you! Thank you :)

Melissa R. October 29, 2015 at 7:11 am

I am very glad that our story can help others! Thank you for letting us know, and keep us posted about your dear Drake.

Melissa R. October 29, 2015 at 7:14 am

Suzy – I am sorry to read about your poor Walter’s problems. I do hope that the Prozac begins to help him. It can take time to get into their systems, and dosage may need to be adjusted. We hope that continued work with your behaviorist and veterinarian can help bring him to a happier place. Remember to not put him in situations where he feels unsafe, and the behavior begins. Best of luck and please keep us posted!

Melissa R. October 29, 2015 at 7:15 am

Glad to hear the Prozac is working. Purdue has a wonderful program and you are in the best of hands. I am sure they will evaluate his behaviors on prozac, and perhaps an adjustment will be made. Just getting the aggression under control is the first step – training is next, and perhaps given some time he’ll be back to normal! Keep us posted.

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