Pill shaming in recent years has reached an evangelical pitch. With that kind of reaction, who is going to admit that their dog has been on antidepressants? Sometimes people don’t understand what it’s like, especially if you’ve rescued a dog and all you want is the best for him or her.
It’s hard to imagine sending the dog back to be re-homed…or worse. Nobody wants that. So you put your dog on an antidepressant and it works! You’ve been able to establish a better behavioral pattern and now it’s time to taper the medication.
Let me tell you this…weaning your dog off of Prozac is very similar to weaning a person from the drug. It can be done easily and safely. But slooooowwwly
REMEMBER THIS 2012 QUOTE FROM TOM CRUISE?
“There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance… antidepressants – all it does is mask the problems. There’s ways, there’s vitamins, there’s exercise.”
Mr. Cruise obviously wasn’t talking about dogs, although they DO need exercise and good nutrition. I’m going to go ahead and say that Tom Cruise probably isn’t the expert to talk to about weaning your dog off Prozac. This is where I take over.
STEP 1: Make Sure the Veterinarian is in the Loop Before Weaning Your Dog Off Prozac.
The doctor might request a follow-up visit during the weaning process to monitor your dog’s progress. Antidepressants like Prozac take time to metabolize completely. Serious interactions can occur when mixing antidepressants with other medications, or when weaning too quickly.
STEP 2: Consider Whether It’s Too Soon to Taper
Weaning your dog off Prozac too soon doesn’t give him a chance to imprint/remember a new set of appropriate behaviors. Antidepressants alleviate the anxiety that is blocking access to learn new behaviors. Make sure your dog has had enough time to do this.
STEP 3: Examine Your Own Behaviors Before Weaning Your Dog from Antidepressants
Reconditioning your own behavior is an important step on the path to your dog’s ultimate mental health. Look at ways you could be contributing to your dog’s anxiety and work to change that.
Simple changes could include:
- Not engaging excitedly with your dog before leaving the house. Be calm, quiet, and confident.
- Carve out time to walk the dog.
- Set rules and limitations on how your dog interacts with other animals.
I know it’s not easy, especially if you have a rescue dog who has come into your home with a whole history wired into his brain. At the end of the day, you want what’s best for the dog, and for the safety of everyone around you. Don’t wean your dog if you think it’s too soon. You can always talk to your veterinarian and the pros and cons.
STEP 4: Begin the Weaning Process
Remember, there’s no hurry. Decrease the original dose by 1/2 (one-half) for 4 weeks. Monitor your dog, and if he continues to do well, halve the dose again after 4 weeks.
Wait and monitor for another 2 to 4 weeks.
At the end of 8 weeks, it should be safe to totally discontinue the medication.
Just like humans, dogs have different requirements. The size of your dog, the starting dose, and the dog’s health and behavior will all play into the weaning process. That’s why it’s always good to get some professional advice.
STEP 5: Monitor Your Dog for Another 4 Weeks.
Continue to monitor your dog’s behavior and reactions for up to 4 more weeks after he or she has completely tapered. It’s important for you to monitor your own behavior as well. Your dog needs to see you as the leader of the pack at all times. It’s hard to establish a new routine, but important to maintain the expectations you’ve given the dog.
When it comes right down to it, you have to decide if it’s safe to keep the dog. That’s not easy to be objective about! Sometimes antidepressants will go a long way in reducing fear and anxiety in such a way that the dog is able to relearn behavior. That’s exactly what you want.
The gorgeous pit bull (staffordshire?) in the image below is currently looking for his forever home. It looks like he’s from the UK.
— FindingFureverHomes (@NWDogRescue) May 22, 2018
If a dog doesn’t feel that there’s a pack leader available, his dominant behavior will take over. It’s a matter of safety in the wild. Your dog might sleep on the bed, but deeply ingrained in his brain are thousands of years of DNA that continue to dictate what he needs to do to survive.
“Without a strong pack-leader, your dog reverts to the expectations of the wild.”
Without a strong pack-leader, expect behavior such as:
- eliminating on the floor
When you give your dog the signal that you are in charge, your dog can relax and follow. A well-adjusted dog that gets appropriate exercise, discipline, and reward, is a powerful thing to witness.
Canine Anxiety and Aggression in the Age of Antidepressants
Veterinarians have been prescribing antidepressants for dogs since the 1990’s, long before they were approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for canine use.
Prozac Was Approved For Use In Dogs in 2007
After the official approval to medicate dogs with Prozac by the FDA, more studies emerged.
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) found that a significant portion of the population (1/4 of all dog owners) leave their pet alone in the house for 5 hours or more.
It was also found that at least 250,000 dogs are never walked.
Dogs are not designed to live in solitude. Dogs, as noted above, need a pack to feel balanced and secure. Of course, if you’re like me, you need to work to put food on the table. That means my dogs have to be alone for at least parts of the day. As long as dogs have a regular routine and get the attention and exercise when you are home, they’re fine.
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Congratulations! You’re on your way to weaning your dog successfully off of Prozac. As promised, I have a free tapering guide for you. Just enter your email and you’ll be directed to it immediately!