Are you considering Prozac for your dog? You’re not alone. Experts say that around 30% of dogs experience some form of canine anxiety, and just like people, there are medical options for our nervous four-legged friends. Our stories might help you make the decision, in consultation with your vet, of course.
You should know that Prozac is not an instant fix. Prozac changes the dog’s brain chemistry over time to help them feel less anxious. Because of this, it’s not a viable option for dogs who are only afraid of certain stimuli like thunderstorms. For that, we recommend anti-anxiety tricks and gear such as:
- Rescue remedy
- Crate training
- Sentry calming collar
- A regular, loving dog sitter or walker
- White noise
- Soothing music
If none of these things are doing the trick, read on to learn more about Prozac for dogs.
A Rescue Dog on Prozac: Lana’s Story
I’m Arah, and my dog is Lana, a three year old German shepherd mix. She loves exploring, snuggling on the couch and destroying her squeaky toys.
I adopted her from a local group that saves dogs from high-kill shelters. Her past is mostly a mystery. She was a stray and had recently given birth, but her puppies were never found.
I grew up on a hobby farm with all kinds of animals and have worked with horses in several capacities: from a wrangler at a dude ranch to a trainer’s apprentice. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about animal behavior and body language.
I knew in adopting a dog from a shelter that we would deal with an adjustment period, and that Lana may have some baggage.
Within the first few weeks of being in her new home, Lana began barking frantically at other dogs we saw on walks. I learned very quickly that Lana was leash reactive. Her reactions became indiscriminate: large dogs, small dogs, playing dogs, sleeping dogs. Even dogs that were innocently pooping caused her to leap into a frenzy.
When we weren’t in sight of other dogs, she was hyper-vigilant, always on the alert for “enemies.” I researched as much I could about reactive dogs, read From Click to Calm cover to cover and began obsessively trying to counter-condition Lana.
I was tired of being paranoid and making my dog even more anxious in the reactive dog cycle. So I had a very frank discussion with my veterinarian about getting Lana a prescription for Fluoxetine. We agreed to put her on it for a trial run of three months, while we worked extensively on training.
I’m Katie, and my dog is Mogley. He loves belly rubs, getting the zoomies, and whipped cream. He’s a 5 year-old Australian shepherd mix, and I’ve had him for about a year now. Similar to Lana, he was a stray so I know very little about the first four years of his life.
Mo has a version of reactivity related to noises. In August, we were out hiking on a beautiful sunny day. I hadn’t checked the weather, and a thunderstorm rolled in while we were a half hour walk from the car.
It devolved to the point where even airplanes overhead or wind in the trees would make him refuse to walk.
Mo’s tail was tucked, his ears were back, and he was straining against the leash, trying to hide under every bush or tree we walked close to. He had always been afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks, but this one experience made him spiral into extreme reactivity.
At first, he started to put on the brakes on walks whenever he’d hear a construction sound, or a car door slam. Then it devolved to the point where even airplanes overhead or wind in the trees would make him refuse to walk. We hit the point where he would hold it for up to 14 hours just to avoid leaving our building.
Here’s a video I took to send to one of my trainer friends. Look for the stress signals and posture: Tail tucked, ears back, lip licking, stress panting. You can hear the exasperation in my voice, too.
I felt that I should be able to deal with the problem without medical intervention and was also ashamed that I could not help my dog solely with training.
I spoke with nearly a dozen trainers about this problem. They helped me create counter-conditioning plans, but one helped me realize that he was having negative experiences roughly every 30 seconds when outside. There was no way I could create enough positive to balance that out.
First, I tried melatonin at the suggestion of a different trainer friend of mine. It tends to work very well for some breeds, but was just making Mo sleepy, not any less fearful.
I decided to get past the stigma and go for it.
I was hesitant to mess with his brain chemistry. After all, he’s a dog, right? Why would he possibly need something like that? But I hit the point of desperation, and I advocate for humans using every tool at their disposal, so I decided to get past the stigma and go for it.
Results of Doggy Prozac
It’s been a little over thirty days since we started the trial, which is about how long it takes for the Prozac to fully affect the dog’s system. Lana is markedly more relaxed, even around our home. We still have a long way to go, but the sense of calm I see in my dog reinforces every day that I made the best decision for her.
Lana was very sleepy the first week, but still reacted whenever she saw a dog. I kept trying to keep in mind that it takes a long time to see a change because at first I was discouraged. By week two, Lana’s usual German Shepherd alertness returned. There was no difference in her reactive behavior.
Week three saw a tangible change. Lana was pausing when we saw another dog. Instead of leaping into a frenzy, she would whine and stare at the offending dog, but would take treats when I offered them to her. If we were far enough away, no barking would occur!
Lana’s reactivity is not gone. She still will bark at other dogs, but it’s for a shorter duration and she has stopped snarling. In our case, the drug is not a solution for the reactivity itself, but it allows her to be calmer and even able to focus on me during a walk.
Previously, there was nothing I could do if I saw a dog. Now I can get her attention and ask for a replacement behavior before the barking begins. She’s starting to learn that seeing other dogs means great things—like cheese or other tasty morsels. After this experience I would recommend anyone struggling through leash reactivity and anxiety to consult with your veterinarian to see if Dog Prozac would be right for you.
Arah and I actually started this journey within two days of each other, so Mo and I are just a little behind her and Lana. I think this was the best decision I’ve ever made for Mo.
Mo really saw no changes in his first week. He slept more, and his appetite was a little lowered. I was really uncertain about my decision at this point, because I didn’t see any positive changes.
The lethargy seemed to wear off after the first week. His appetite was still a little lower, so now we mix his kibble with some wet food and he’s fine. Still no behavior changes apparent.
We saw the biggest changes right around day 16. I had gotten into the unfortunate habit of having to drag Mogley outside because he couldn’t avoid using the restroom. We went outside in the pouring rain, and I was sure he would put on the brakes at the door. He did, a little, but when I got him to the end of our block he suddenly started pulling the leash forward. We went on a 40-minute walk in the pouring rain!
The next day, Mo actually asked to go outside. I hadn’t even realized it until that moment, he hadn’t asked to go outside in over a month! This week, he went on three walks that were over half an hour long, where his previous ones were 5 minutes at best.
It’s like I’ve got my dog back! Mo can hear construction noises, car doors, and airplanes and only twitch an ear. He still has the occasional sound set him off, but we’re going on daily half hour walks again. We’ve finally been able to start counter-conditioning, making those sounds mean delicious treats. He’s even cuddling more in the house, and paying more attention to training sessions. We even went to the farmer’s market last week (which he dragged me to, probably following the smells of cheese), which is full of loud people and dogs.
Final Thoughts on Doggy Prozac
Arah and Lana
I wish I’d known more about reactivity before I’d gotten Lana. I wish she could tell me what happened to her and why she is so afraid. But I mostly wish that I had considered using dog prozac sooner. Instead of a crutch, it is just another tool in my trainer’s toolbox. Our training sessions are much more effective and my bright, playful dog is relaxing more outside.
I mostly wish that I had considered using dog prozac sooner.
We’ll likely wean her off in a few months after lots of counter conditioning and reassess from there. I would highly recommend if you’re struggling with any form of dog anxiety, that you talk to a trainer and your vet about dog prozac.
Katie and Mogley
Honestly, I’m a little mad that I waited as long as I did to try this. We’ll likely wean him off of it after 6 months or so of counter-conditioning. But it really was invaluable, and I can’t believe the changes it has brought about in my dog. It shouldn’t be viewed as a magic fix, or as the only possible solution, but boy, prioritize your dog’s happiness and comfort above your own mental blocks to using every tool in your training toolbox.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.