Veterinarians have been prescribing Prozac for years. Prozac (Fluoxetine) is an FDA approved, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, used for treating separation anxiety in dogs. As you probably know, separation anxiety causes behavioral problems including obsessive compulsive disorder, urine marking, depression, and more.
For this reason, some Veterinarians recommend Prozac to help offset some of these issues. Theoretically, the antidepressant helps relieve the dog of anxiety and depression long enough to allow the dog owner to apply behavioral modification techniques.
The goal of prescribing Prozac for dogs is to help the dog achieve a mentally-balanced state. Over time, the hope is that the dog will be able to learn new behavior. With a little retraining, exercise, good nutrition, and patience, dogs can overcome some of their biggest obstacles.
What You Need to Know About Prozac for Dogs
All medication comes with the risk of side-effects ranging from mild to severe. The most common side-effects of Prozac include sleepiness and decreased appetite.
Prozac Can Take Weeks to Work Properly
It could take a few weeks for the medication to reach its full effect, so avoid weaning too soon and always consult with the veterinarian before beginning the process. Talk to the doctor about this method of weaning beforehand to make sure it will be the safest option for your dog.
Abruptly Stopping the Medication is Dangerous
Taking an antidepressant (as prescribed by a licensed veterinarian) isn’t dangerous. Suddenly stopping the medication, however, could cause serious withdrawal symptoms including:
- Shaking or trembling
- Muscle aches and pains
Prozac for Dogs and Drug Interactions
One good reason for weaning your dog from Prozac may be due to the need for other medications. Interactions can occur when combining antidepressants with other well-known medications. If you consistently bring your dog to the same veterinarian, he/she will know what is safe to prescribe.
If, for any reason, you bring your dog to a different veterinarian clinic, it’s very important to let them know your dog is on Prozac. Vitamins, supplements, herbal therapies, flea/tick collars or medications, insulin, anti-inflammatories and many other often-prescribed drugs could interact with the antidepressant.
Weaning – Slow and Steady
It’s always better to keep the process slow than go to fast. It takes several weeks for the medication to be fully effective and it takes several weeks (or more) to come off of it.
STEP 1: Make Sure the Veterinarian is in the Loop Before Weaning Your Dog Off Prozac.
Prozac for dogs takes time to metabolize completely. Serious interactions can occur when mixing antidepressants with other medications, or when weaning too quickly.
If you’ve decided it’s time for your dog to come off of the medication, be sure to schedule a visit with the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to monitor your dog’s reaction and gauge the risk of withdrawal symptoms.
Do not attempt to wean your dog off of any medications, including antidepressants, without the advice of a licensed veterinarian.
Antidepressants help to alleviate things like separation anxiety and rage syndrome. The problem with taking Prozac for dogs away too soon is that he/she may not have had enough time to process the new dog training/routine. In addition, weaning too quickly can cause unwanted side-effects.
STEP 2: Keep Calm
We worry about our dogs because they’re part of the family. As your dog begins to come off of the drug, you might begin holding onto a little anxiety of your own. Your dog can sense that!
As you go through this process, it’s important to let go of your own fears. Over-protecting your dog doesn’t tell your dog that you love him, it tells your dog that there’s something to be afraid of.
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 behavioral changes could include:
- Not engaging excitedly with your dog before leaving the house. Be calm, quiet, and confident.
- Carve out time to walk and socialize your dog
- Read books that offer expert advice on why dogs have anxiety and what you can do about it.
Prozac for Dogs – Side Effects of Weaning
Side effects of Prozac for dogs can include:
- stomach upset
- loss of appetite.
In rare cases, more serious effects could include:
When weaning your dog from the drug, it’s important to remember that there could be withdrawal symptoms if done too quickly. Some withdrawal symptoms could mimic the behaviour you were trying to erase like anxiety and aggression.
STEP 3: Begin the Weaning Process
Remember, there’s no hurry. Assuming you’ve got the go-ahead from the veterinarian, here are the steps:
- 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 4: Monitor Your Dog
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.
It’s hard to establish a new routine, but important to maintain the expectations you’ve given the dog.
As you progress through the weaning stage, take note of any unusual behaviors or withdrawal symptoms (anxiety, confusion, nausea, dizziness). Any new or unusual behaviors or physical problems could be a sign that your weaning too quickly. Always seek the advice of a licensed veterinarian before attempting to wean your dog from any drug.
Step 5: Exercise
Walking your dog helps release nervous energy. It also exposes your dog to a variety of sights and smells that stimulate the brain. Think of it like getting rid of nervous energy from the brain. How well do you learn new things if your mind is racing? Probably not many. It’s the same with your dog.
Once he/she has a calm mind, your dog will be better able to function and learn.
At the end of the day, we all want happy, balanced, healthy dogs.
There are some dogs that are just so wound up and nervous you have to wonder if they’re ever going to get better. It can happen but it takes work and dedication.
As you go through the weaning process with your dog, remember to take it slowly. The more you do for your own anxiety, the better off your dog will be too.
Congratulations! You’re on your way to weaning your dog successfully off of Prozac.
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VCA Animal Hospital