Yes, yes, my dog is on Prozac (Fluoxetine). She has been since she was just over two, and had I done it earlier, life would have been a lot easier and simpler.
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 – I mean, what sort of failure of a pet owner would I be to need medication for my dog? Sure, drug her up! Had I not had this stigma in my head about putting my dog on medication, we could have gotten on a path to happy lives a lot faster.
Although Emme is as well bred as they get, from world-class lines who have health and behavior history for years and years… She has got a screw loose. Or maybe three or four loose. Her reactive and guarding behaviors started as early as 16 weeks old when she bit me after I tried to take a chew away from her. At six months old she started viciously attacking Kevin when he even went near her, for no reason, though could have been a guarding behavior. All of this, plus whatever is going on in her brain, escalated to complete trauma for us and into a tailspin of anxiety and even worse behaviors – for years.
Finally I caved, and started her on Prozac. And it changed our lives.
Were it not for the Prozac, she may have been euthanized. That’s right. Euthanized. Let that sink in. That is how dire our situation was.
And now – because of the Prozac, she’s an awesome dog. I often wonder how many other dogs could be saved if their owners knew the options open to them?
Close friends & family know Emme is on Prozac, but when I tell others not within our close circle, I usually get funny looks, or an eye roll. I’m told I should train my dog better instead. What these people do not 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.
We still have our issues: dog reactivity, leash reactivity, general crazy sometimes. But I know how to work through them, and with the help of the Prozac, Emme is able to calm down quicker and redirect to me and yummy treats. If we see you on the street with your dog, don’t be offended when we spin around and go the other way without any word – I just can’t take my focus off her and redirecting her. We try to avoid situations where she may feel threatened or confused, we avoid putting her into a position to guard me (she loves me so much, lucky me). Without the Prozac I’m not sure any of this could have occurred.
Now we get to enjoy all the things we love – agility competitions, dock diving, barn hunt, Rally, walks and visiting her favorite people. She is happy and lives life to the fullest!
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.
I hope this post helps out some other dogs and dog owners out there who may not know where to turn next.
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 Donaldso