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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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: http://www.dfs-pet-blog.com/2009/10/dog-anxiety/

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: http://www.dfs-pet-blog.com/2009/10/dog-anxiety/

There is another post here that may be helpful: http://www.dfs-pet-blog.com/2011/03/dog-anxiety-2/

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.

Kelly December 4, 2015 at 6:00 am

I have a rescued Treeing Walker Coonhound with a very unknown background. We think she’s probably 3 or 4 now. It was said that she was on the run for a while before animal control could catch her. Then she sat in a shelter for several months scared to death and so no one was every interested in adopting her. She was pulled by a rescue and with that had 4 failed meet and greets. We call her our near feral dog. We got her 2 years ago and was added to a pack of 5 other older dogs.

The reason why we call her near feral was because human interaction in general was tough for her. She was fine with me, my daughter and my youngest son, but was scared to death of my husband and older son…so much so she would run out of the room. Getting her in the house was impossible – no matter what the weather was – and so we’d have to leave a leash on her so we could grab something since she ran so fast. If she got out, which happened 2 times, she was gone. Animal control helped us get her back one of those times. She would creep around the house or take off running to a crate. Fast forward a year and she had made tremendous progress!!!! Remarkable! She now could be with everyone and loved lying on the couch. She is clearly my dog as she follows me everywhere. She sticks to me like glue.

In the time we’ve had her, we’ve lost 3 of the original pack (1 to cancer and 2 to old age) and have added more rescues/shelter dogs to have a younger pack. She’s gotten along with the others though she didn’t ‘travel’ with any of the other dogs in the backyard or the house, could eat side-by-side out of bowls, chew antlers together, etc….until we added this last dog on New Year’s Eve. The pack of 6 coexists well. Cricket has tried to play sometimes, but almost doesn’t seem to know how.

Fast forward to August of this year and the hound started regressing, showing signs of more fearful behavior. If she could hear my sons coming down the stairs or coming into the house, she growled and would shake. When she was on the couch, she would growl, so she’s now no longer allowed on the couch. Even lying in the bed, if one of the dogs with whom she got along approaches, she’ll sometimes growl. We correct her, but the growling does draw the attention of the other dogs and there are 2 that really key in on it and have gone after her. She has gotten hurt mostly, but has hurt my Westie. If she’s not growling, there are no problems amongst the dogs, but she growls and shakes. She can be unpredictable when she’s like that and she will snap at another dog with a different, but sharp bark. It’s almost like she can’t relax and she gets spooked easily like she did when we first got her.

She’s a wonderful dog otherwise and we hate to see her so nervous and scared. She has never snapped at any of us, but doesn’t always respond to correction the first time. We have consulted a behaviorist. I have a friend who had a really uptight Dobie in a pack of Dobies. She has begun giving her dog Prozac and said it has changed the dog for the better. I’m really at my wit’s end. Even if she were a dog in a single dog house, she still doesn’t ever completely relax it seems. We are desperate to help her and are taking her to the vet on Monday in hopes that we can give Prozac a try to see if she will relax and be less fearful of everything. We love our Cricket very much.

Kevin December 10, 2015 at 6:50 pm

I adopted a 9 month old pit/border collie mix from a shelter. I had no idea what I had gotten into. She was found abandoned and sick in New Orleans. She had a rabies tag from Nebraska. From the ASPCA in New Orleans she was shipped to 2 shelters in NJ. When I adopted her she had been returned 2X. Even when she was “nutty” I still could not give her back. I knew that it would be curtains for her. After several behaviorists she has been on Prozac for 3 years. She has been diagnosed as a special needs doggie. Prozac has saved both of us

P December 11, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Kevin – great to read the progress! It’s never easy adopting a rescue who was returned or would t get adopted! I know this well. But I know that being a special needs doc, you’re doing what you can! Let us know the progress.

Kelly – I feel for you and hope Cricket is doing better! Sounds to me like fear agression. I have my dog taking Prozac who was/is aggressive towards me and people. He’s been great the last two months BUT you have to remember they won’t get better over night and won’t ever be “normal” even if they act that way for a long time. One step forward two steps back unfortunately! Hang in there! Sad and frustrating I know but all in all it will get better in the future :)

Leslie Schwartz December 13, 2015 at 7:52 pm

We got a rescue almost a year ago. He has been a loving dog. We got him at 12 weeks old. He is great with our other dog, but shows some jealous behavior if we pay attention to the other dog. He will come up and put himself between us. He also has shown possessive behaviors with his food and toys. The kids do know not to go near him when he is eating. We worked with the trainer who explains about trading up if he was to have something he shouldn’t have. it works fine with my husband, my oldest daughter and me. My son tried to trade up something with him and the dog bit his hand. After that my son has been pretty much afraid of the dog my son is 11. The dog seems to not like him and will growl at him. I also have two daughters one 14, & one 9 who the dog does seem to love and wags his tail when he sees them. I started working with another trainer who has given me some great advice . My son has stayed away from the dog but has recently become a little more comfortable with the dog. He started petting the dog again in short spurts and I thought everything was going well. My son was petting him and then leaned over to pet the other dog, and he was bitten. It’s been a week or so now and my son is even more afraid to go near the dog. And I am afraid to. I’m afraid of what the dog could do again. Not only to the side but when my son has friends over. The trainer suggested Prozac but I’m not sure if that’s even the way to go anymore. In my heart of hearts I feel I should probably find him a new home. What do you think? So am so upset.

Jessica Swaim December 18, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Thank you so much for posting this. We have a three year old toller who is a screaming maniac despite my doing absolutely everything I know to do, including lots of exercise, training, classes, socialization etc. Lots of issues seem to be interwoven — reactivity, separation anxiety, low frustration threshold for training, etc. He’s had the blood tests and my vet is ready and willing to put him on Prozac. I keep hesitating because we have some very good days, with significant progress. And, frankly, I’d feel like a failure because I pride myself on being a good trainer. On the downside, we have lots of days where all the training goes out the window and we revert back to screaming maniac. Now I’m thinkin’ it’s either him or me on the Prozac ;-) Difficult issue, so again, thank you! Your comments brought me several steps closer to filling the prescription . . .

Melissa R. December 21, 2015 at 7:55 am

Jessica, I hope you do decide to start the Prozac. I tell you it saved my dog’s life! I wish I had done it so much sooner. You can be the best trainer in the world, but your dog still may need the Prozac. It’s chemical, not personal. Do it! Gotta love those Tollers though, right? Thanks for sharing.

Michelle S. January 6, 2016 at 11:29 am

Hey, great article.

I just got back from the vet. We recently moved from NJ to TX so introducing my dog, a 1 1/2 year old lab/whippet mix to a new vet was incredibly stressful. Our last vet suggested putting Minnie on Prozac because of her anxiety, but I was hesitant. I thought, “Well, she’s a puppy, she’ll grow out of it, I’ll train her more, I’ll be more aware of her triggers, she’s only fearful around the vet, so why put her on meds every single day?” I ruled it out completely.

Now our new vet suggested the same thing today after seeing how much she thrashes around. I’m considering putting her on it, especially after reading your blog. I’ll keep you updated :)

LLP March 11, 2016 at 3:20 am

Happy to hear Prozac worked for somebody. It was a disaster for us. We have two tollers who were the best of friends for 4 years before they started fighting. It was intermittent at first–usually over food or other resources, but then it escalated. Our vet put them on Prozac, and things got much worse. They’re fine during outside activities (walks, fetch, etc,) but indoors will attack just about any time they see each other. Apparently tollers are especially prone to bad reactions to Prozac. Yet another dog behavior expert coming next week…fingers crossed.

Melissa R. March 11, 2016 at 7:57 am

LLP – Sorry to hear Prozac did not work for your dogs. There are so many factors involved with dog behavior, especially when there are two involved, that you certainly are wise to consult trainer. If I may, I suggest looking into a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, as they are best trained in this area. Not all dog trainers are actually capable of working with issues like this. I do hope your next one is! There are other drugs that may help as well, and I am sure you know that Prozac does take time to get into the system – but hopefully your vet worked closely with you on that. Best of luck to you and your Tollers, and keep us posted.

LLP March 11, 2016 at 8:19 am

They were on the Prozac for a little over two weeks, and things only got worse. We’ve consulted with our regular vet, a behavioral specialist that she recommended, and the breeders from whom we got the two dogs (they’re 4 and 6 years old, spayed females, related but from different breeders). Various theories floated around included eyesight issues, vaccine reaction, injury in the older dog (she ruptured a disc, but that was 6 months before the fights started, long after she recovered). The first two were ruled out by medical exams. Thus far, nobody has come up with a conclusive explanation or solution. The younger dog has always been a little bit anxious, but why the explosion after more than 4 years together is a mystery. Neither has shown any sign of aggression towards anything but the other dog. They even get along find when neighbor dogs come to visit, which happens frequently.

Next appointment is with a behavior consultant who comes highly recommended by several sources and specializes in aggression issues.

Interestingly enough, when we talked with our vet about the Prozac, she said opposite effects aren’t all that uncommon, and the other case where she’d seen it backfire was another toller. I guess they’re just more sensitive than most. Go figure.

Nikki April 4, 2016 at 11:58 am

Thank you so much for this article!!! This is the first time another dog owner has described our trials, almost verbatim! Our girl has ZERO separation anxiety. And she has never demonstrated her fear aggression/guarding outside the home. So it felt as though prozac was not the right approach. And I’m generally fearful of introducing an unnecessary medication. But we have spent weeks, hours and now close to $1,000 on training with traditional trainers and a DVM Behaviorist. But we need more help. I wont be afraid to ask for more help.

Thank you, thank you!

Melissa R. April 4, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Nikki – I wouldn’t hesitate to try medication. It can’t hurt – and what if it helps? I wish we had chosen medication LONG before and we would not have had so many bad experiences. Kudos to you for using a Vet Behaviorist – they are hard to find. Keep up the work!

Robin April 14, 2016 at 10:26 am

Melissa – You described our girl Cordelia. She is a 10 month old Puli that we got right when she was a puppy. She is one smart cookie who loves her parents dearly but she is so scared of people and other dogs that she becomes almost possessed (barking, growling, nipping at heels). She has gone through basic training and excelled but when we sought out a trainer just for her aggressive tendencies he was quick to point out all her flaws and in no subtle manner placed blame on us. He wanted to use negative reinforcement tactics to curb her behavior and both my boyfriend and I left feeling defeated. Like we were the cause when we had done everything right. She goes to the dog park daily, tons of exercise, she was trained and knew simple commands, etc. Where did we go wrong!?!

Last night we met with a behaviorist at the MSPCA in Boston and she assured us this isn’t something we conditioned this is just our dog. That she was extremely anxious, scared, nervous and had no clue how to react in social settings. It broke my heart to know that our little girl was living with so much stress and anxiety on a daily basis. She recommended Puppy Prozac and we can not wait to make it a part of her prescribed treatment. Thank you for sharing your story and reaffirming that not all puppies issues are because of bad parenting and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Melissa R. April 14, 2016 at 11:07 am

Robin – I am extremely happy to hear we are not the only ones with this type of history. Thank you for sharing your story! I am glad to hear you are working with a behaviorist and keep us in the loop on how things progress!

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