The obsessive-compulsive collie that licks deep wounds into her forelimbs. The obese, food-obsessed chocolate Lab unable to relax in the presence of any potential meal. The dominant aggressive Maltese cross that rules her family’s roost with snarls and lunges. The severely thunderstorm-phobic GSD who impales herself on windows as she tries to escape her home’s confines during a storm. And the separation anxiety case that bloodies herself on her crate and once chewed through the upholstery of her mom’s Mercedes when she stopped for coffee.
What do they all have in common? They are my patients. And they all improved dramatically on Prozac (now marketed by Lilly in the canine-approved chewable, “Reconcile”).
While you may not have expected an impassioned defense of this drug’s use on this site, you’ll be treated to one all the same. I proudly use Prozac in my practice and I believe it makes a huge difference to my patients’ comfort and the quality of my clients’ relationship with their pets.
I know that many of you are trainers, advocates for minimal drug use and/or defenders of behavior modification as the mainstay of treatment for the vast majority of behavior-related issues. Rest assured, I still belong to your camp (though after this post perhaps you’ll no longer have me).
Let me be clear: Pets with moderate to severe behavior problems deserve behavior consultations, trainers, training, and smart behavior modification protocols. But they also deserve drugs if they promise to help—especially at the beginning of their treatment when their anxiety level is highest and their parents need the most encouragement.
Considering that the number-one cause of death in pets is behavior-related euthanasia, I’m all for drugs—particularly the effective ones.
We can all bemoan the state of our Prozac nation’s pill-popping road to wellness, but this drug has improved the lives of millions of people—most of whom would likely refrain from telling you they’d been helped by this product. Mental health is a touchy subject, after all, and no one relishes the scorn of their peers for the pharmaceutical “crutch” they might well be ridiculed for. But I’m happy to break the silence on this one.
Like many hard-driven, creative types, I, too, have used Prozac. When post-natal depression set in nine yeas ago, it was instrumental in improving the quality of my life. (And Mr. Cruise can go to hell if he likes on that subject.) So why would I deny my patients the same, especially if it can provide a much-needed sense of well-being during periods of extreme behavioral adjustment?
No, it's not a silver bullet. No, it’s not a drug I’d advocate for lifetime use. No, it’s not a drug I hand out like candy with nary a thought to the root cause of unwanted behaviors. Rather, it’s a welcome addition to a repertoire of thoughtful improvement in the quality of a pet’s life and a well-justified approach for any pet whose family ties are threatened by his behavior.