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Prozac for Dogs

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from anxiety-related disorders. There are various medications and training that your vet may recommend depending upon your dog’s situation. One of these medications is Prozac, generically known as Fluoxetine. The medication functions in dogs similar to that in humans. 

What is Prozac?

Prozac, or generically known as Fluoxetine, is an SSRI antidepressant used to treat various behavioral disorders in dogs. SSRI stands for serotonin reuptake inhibitor and is most commonly used to treat anxiety-related disorders. This form of Prozac is approved for dogs by the FDA and is labeled to treat separation anxiety. 

How Does Prozac Work in Dogs?

Prozac is essentially a psychotropic medication that changes your dog’s brain action by manipulating its neurotransmitters in a particular way. As an SSRI, the medication delays the body’s reuptake of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that is believed to stabilize mood, which results in serotonin persisting longer when released. 

Prozac typically produces improvement in dogs around the four-week mark. However, the improvement may not be enough and your vet may suggest another medication in place of Prozac. Dosage is dependent on your dog’s size, age, and disorder. Your veterinarian will provide you with proper instructions specific to your dog. 

What Does Prozac Treat in Dogs?

Prozac is used to treat a variety of anxiety-related disorders in dogs, including: 

  • Separation anxiety 
  • Aggression
  • Thunderstorm phobia 
  • Generalized anxiety
  • Compulsive disorders
  • Destructive behavior

How is Prozac Administered in Dogs?

Prozac or Fluoxetine is administered to dogs in the form of a tablet, capsule, or liquid. It can typically be given with or without food. Your vet will provide full instructions on proper dosage and administration. It’s important that if administered in liquid form to measure very carefully. 

What Are the Side Effects of Prozac in Dogs?

There are a number of side effects of Prozac in dogs. The most common side effects observed are: 

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Vomiting and diarrhea 
  • Trembling  
  • Restlessness 
  • Panting
  • Incoordination 
  • Weight loss 

More severe side effects that may indicate an overdose include: 

  • Seizures 
  • Aggression 
  • Excessive vomiting 

 

Just like any medication, follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully and notify them of any issues or negative side effects.

Who Should Not Be Prescribed Prozac?

Dogs with certain pre-existing conditions should not be administered Prozac. It should not be used in dogs with a history or seizures or that are already on medications to lower the seizure threshold. Some dogs may be allergic to Prozac and should not be prescribed the medication. If your dog is taking MAOIs or NSAIDs, Prozac should not be given. 

Additionally, the medication should be used cautiously in dogs with diabetes mellitus, liver disease, are under the age of 6 months old, or are pregnant. It’s critical to disclose your dog’s full medical history and medications to your veterinarian so they can properly treat the condition.

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PTSD in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

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    What is PTSD in Dogs?

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that results from experiencing a severely traumatic event such as losing their owner and abuse. The disorder affects dogs just as it affects humans. 

    PTSD in dogs can take on different forms including acute PTSD, chronic PTSD, and delayed onset PTSD. 

    Acute PTSD is the most commonly observed form in dogs. The disorder and associated symptoms occur immediately following the traumatic event and typically subside within three months. 

    Dogs with chronic PTSD also start displaying symptoms relatively quickly following the trauma. However, these symptoms remain persistent and easily triggered for a longer period than three months. 

    Delayed onset PTSD occurs when symptoms don’t arise until more than six months following the traumatic event. Sometimes, symptoms may dramatically increase that were initially mild. Other times, symptoms may not even appear until after a long delay. 

    What Causes PTSD in Dogs?

    Just like in humans, PTSD in dogs is caused by a traumatic event. These traumatic events may include:

    • Natural disasters
    • Abandonment
    • Loss of owner
    • Physical and emotional abuse
    • Growing up in a puppy mill or hoarder home
    • Serving in the military or police
    • Going through a major accident (like a car crash)
    • Being a bait dog for dogfighting
    • Being attacked by other animals

     

    Who’s At Risk of Developing PTSD?

    PTSD is most commonly observed in working dogs who have had careers in military or police fields. An estimated 5% of working dogs returning from war zones have PTSD. Canine PTSD affects between 5 to 17 percent of canines, however the disorder has just been recognized in dogs in the last ten years.

    What are the Symptoms of PTSD in Dogs?

    It can be difficult to differentiate between PTSD and other anxiety disorders in dogs. For example, going to the bathroom in the house, barking or whining, and destructive behavior can all point at either PTSD or separation anxiety. A dog with PTSD may also display the below signs of stress: 

    • Tucked tail 
    • Pinned back ears 
    • Dilated pupils
    • Hiding
    • Shaking or trembling 
    • Rapid breathing
    • Panting
    • Crouching low to ground 
    • Sudden aggression 
    • Depression 
    • Clinging to owner or caretaker in fear 
    • Hyper awareness of surroundings and environment 
    • Working dogs with PTSD will often shut down and refuse to work

    How is PTSD in Dogs Diagnosed?

    You will need to consult a veterinarian to receive a proper diagnosis of PTSD in your dog. The vet will initially rule out any physical causes behind your dog’s anxiety. A physical exam will be performed to ensure there aren’t any swollen or painful portions on the body. Sometimes, pain or discomfort from unresolved chronic conditions can be confusing to a dog and result in them becoming stressed. When this is the case, PTSD symptoms will eliminate quickly when the pain is addressed and alleviated.

    In addition to a physical exam, blood tests will be performed to check for viral infections, hormonal imbalances, and toxins. Once any physical issues have been ruled out, your vet will review the history of your dog and any recent traumatic events they may have experienced. For this reason, delayed PTSD may be more difficult to diagnose. 

    What is the Treatment for PTSD in Dogs?

    Treatment for PTSD in dogs is typically a combination of behavioral and medical approaches. A sedative medication will likely be prescribed. Alprazolam, also known as Xanax, is commonly prescribed as a sedative. Other sedative medications that may be prescribed are Valium, Zoloft, and Prozac

    The behavioral approach to treatment is heavily focused on retraining that helps your dog feel like their environment is safe once again. Techniques include establishing a stricter routine so your dog knows what to expect day to day, exercise and play therapies, and dog pheromone collars and infusers.

    Exercise and play therapy sessions should take place when the dog is in a relaxed state of mind and enjoying the activity. The intention behind these sessions is to increase the levels of dopamine in the dog, improving their mood in a safe manner. If any signs of tension are present during the play session, it should be ended so no additional stress hormones are produced. 

    Another type of behavioral training that is commonly used in dogs with PTSD is systemic desensitization. This training exposes your dog to whatever trigger brings on their anxiety or fear. The goal is to get your dog to associate the trigger with treats and positivity, not trauma and anxiety. 

    While these treatments may not cure the dog’s PTSD, it could help your dog to live a healthy, happy life and limit the stress and trauma they experience. 

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    Is My Dog Emotionally Distressed?

    dog sitting in a living room surrounded by pillow fluff that they tore up from being emotionally distressed
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      Just like humans, dogs are just as capable of experiencing complex emotions and stress. A variety of lifestyle changes can lead to a dog’s emotional distress. It’s important to understand these signs so you are able to intervene and help to navigate your dog’s emotional distress as best as possible. Read below for signs of emotional distress in dogs: 

      1. Behavioral Changes

      dog sitting in a living room surrounded by pillow fluff that they tore up from being emotionally distressed

      There are a variety of behavior changes that may indicate your dog is experiencing emotional distress. Some dogs may show more signs of aggression that have not been previously displayed. Others may start participating in destructive behaviors including urinating and defecating in the house or chewing on furniture and other items. Another behavioral change to keep an eye out for is a decreased desire to play, go for walks, or engage in physical activity. In some cases, this may be a plea for attention, especially if a big life change just occurred such as a move, a new baby, loss in the family, etc. However, you may want to consult a veterinarian to eliminate any medical problems, especially if the issues cannot be attributed to any major life changes. 

      2. Changes in Eating Habits

      yellow lab holding a dog bowl

      Eating habits and changes associated are key to understanding your dog’s emotions. One of the major signs of anxiety and depression in dogs is a decreased appetite. A dog acting more hungry than usual or increased begging may be a sign of boredom, attention-seeking, or an emotional disorder. If health issues can be ruled out by your vet, be sure to give your dog extra attention and care to ensure they’re happy and enriched. 

      3. Changes in Sleep Patterns

      pug sleeping on the ground with tongue sticking out

      If your dog’s time spent sleeping has increased, they may be feeling bored, depressed/emotionally distressed. The average adult dog spends 12-14 hours a day sleeping, but take note of your dog’s usual sleep schedule as this varies on an individual basis. If your dog’s suddenly sleeping the entire day or acting restless, they may be missing you or feeling down due to a life change. 

      4. Body Language

      chihuahua sitting and showing signs of being emotionally distressed

      Your dog’s body language is a critical indicator of how they’re feeling. Signs of a stressed or upset dog include flattened ears, a tucked tail, a low bent neck, and downcast eyes. Shaking, hiding, pacing, and panting can also indicate that your dog is scared, anxious, or emotionally distressed. 

      5. Excessive Shedding

      pile of gray dog fur on the ground with a red grooming brush next to it

      Dogs often shed when put in stressful and anxiety-inducing situations such as the vet, car rides, and new places. This is because when your dog is stressed the primary stress hormone, epinephrine, which is basically adrenaline, is released. This stress response leads to the shedding of the hair. 

      6. Excessive Licking

      dog licking it's lips

      Licking is a natural behavior of dogs to a certain point. However, some dogs who suffer from stress or depression will excessively lick causing bald spots, sores, and even digestive problems. The act of licking increases endorphins in the dog’s brain which calms them while licking. Consult your vet to rule out any medical conditions as excessive licking may also be a sign of allergies or gastrointestinal issues. 

      7. Whining or Barking

      husky dog howling

      Whining or barking is a dog’s primary form of communication. This may increase when dogs are under emotional distress. If your dog is whining or barking while experiencing emotional distress, they may be attempting to get your attention or self-soothe. For some dogs, this barking/whining is an automatic response in a stressful environment. 

      8. Pacing or Shaking

      beagle outside shaking off water

      Many dogs may pace or shake when agitated or stressed because they simply can’t settle down. However, pacing can be a sign of dementia in senior dogs while shaking can be a sign of neurological issues. Pacing and shaking should be observed closely and discussed with your vet. 

      Dogs are able to communicate with us in a variety of ways. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your dog’s normal behaviors so you’re able to observe when they may be distressed. Keep these signs in mind when it comes to your dog’s emotional distress. If you think your dog may be experiencing emotional distress, consider contacting a behavior specialist from our specialist directory.