Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish, DVM
If your dog has been taking Prozac or Reconcile (fluoxetine) to manage behavioral problems like anxiety or aggression, your veterinarian may recommend weaning your dog off the medication at some point.
Weaning a dog from Prozac should be done gradually and under the guidance of a veterinarian. Abrupt discontinuation may cause withdrawal symptoms or potentially worsen your dog’s behavior.
This post is designed to help dog owners wean their dogs from Prozac and also learn what Prozac is and how it can help some dogs.
Prozac for Dogs: What it is and how it works
Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, is a prescription medication that belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
It’s commonly used to treat mental health conditions in people, but it’s also used to treat anxiety, aggression, and behavioral issues in dogs.
Prozac works by increasing the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. Serotonin is involved in regulating mood, sleep, appetite, and other bodily functions.
This antidepressant works in dogs in a similar way. In fact, Prozac is often prescribed to treat behavioral issues such as anxiety, compulsive disorders, and aggression in dogs. By increasing serotonin levels, Prozac can help reduce anxiety and fear-based behaviors.
Having said that, it’s crucial to only give Prozac as a veterinarian has instructed. The dosage and treatment plan will vary depending on the individual dog’s needs and medical history.
Additionally, Prozac may cause side effects in dogs.
Why Dogs Are Prescribed Antidepressants
Dogs may be prescribed Prozac for a number of reasons, including the following:
Prozac (fluoxetine) may be used in the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs. If you have a dog with severe separation anxiety, you likely already understand the problems that can arise.
Destructive behavior, excessive barking or howling, and urination or defecation in the house are a few problems that can occur because of separation anxiety.
Prozac may be prescribed alongside behavioral modification techniques for the best outcome.
Common signs of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- Destruction of household items or property
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive barking
- Signs of depression (decreased appetite or lack of energy)
- Signs of compulsive behavior
Dogs with aggression may be prescribed Prozac to help with underlying anxiety or fear-based behaviors that contribute to aggression.
Some common types of aggression in dogs include:
- Fear aggression
- Territorial aggression
- Resource guarding aggression
- Protective aggression
- Play aggression
- Redirected aggression
A veterinarian should examine dogs who exhibit signs of aggression to rule out underlying medical conditions like hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, and brain inflammation
Keep in mind that Prozac isn’t always the best choice for dogs with aggression. The decision to use Prozac should be made be a licensed veterinarian.
Other treatment options for dogs with aggression may include:
- Behavior modification
- Environmental management
- Exercise and enrichment
- Supplements or pheromone therapy
- Another anti-anxiety medication
- Antidepressants (selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressant, MAO inhibitors)
OCD is known in the dog world as canine compulsive disorder. It’s characterized by repetitive and compulsive behaviors that may result in harm to the dog.
Signs of CCD in dogs include:
- Compulsive licking (acral lick dermatitis)
- Compulsive sucking on a toy
- Excessive tail chasing
- Freezing and staring
- Snapping at the air (could be at flies)
- Excessive water drinking
- Eating dirt
Keep in mind that many of the signs noted above could also point to serious underlying medical problems.
Fears and Phobias
It’s not uncommon for dogs to be afraid of loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms. It’s normal for dogs to be fearful in certain situations.
Some dogs, however, are afraid of common, every-day noises like the sound of the dishwasher, microwave beeps, or other sounds you would hear on a daily basis. If a dog is constantly afraid, it affects the quality of life for them and their pet parents.
Fear becomes an issue when the dog is unable to function normally or if it results in aggressive behavior.
Read the follow-up posts related to antidepressants and serotonin syndrome.
What You Need to Know About Prozac for Dogs
All medications come with the risk of side effects, ranging from mild to severe. If your dog has only been on Prozac for a short time, consult with a veterinarian before attempting to wean your dog.
Keep in mind that Prozac is just one type of antidepressant.
Your veterinarian may have prescribed a different type of medication for your dog. In that case, the weaning process could be entirely different.
Fluoxetine works best when combined with a behavior modification program.
Side Effects of Prozac in Dogs
As with any medication, Prozac can cause side effects. The most common side effects of Prozac in dogs include the following:
- Decreased appetite
- Agitation or restlessness
- Excessive panting
- Shaking or shivering
Rare but serious side effects of Prozac could include seizures, aggressive behavior, over excitement so much that your dog will not settle.
If any of these side effects occur while your dog is on Prozac, or another type of antidepressant, seek medical advice ASAP from your regular veterinarian or through an emergency vet.
Most side effects are gastrointestinal in nature and should resolve within a few days. Always speak with your veterinarian about any concerns.
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, and your dog can successfully be weaned from Prozac.
The withdrawal symptoms noted below are only apparent in dogs who have been on prescribed long-term use.
Dogs who have been on Prozac for an extended period of time may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Shaking or trembling
- Muscle aches and pains
Prozac for Dogs and Drug Interactions
One good reason for weaning your dog from Prozac may be 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.
It’s very important to let a veterinarian 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.
Prozac Dosage for Dogs
Prozac should only be administered on the advice of a licensed veterinarian. Your veterinarian will determine the correct dosage based on body weight.
According to Veterinary Place, the average dosage of fluoxetine is 0.5 – 0.9 mg/lb.
Always follow the advice of a licensed veterinarian. Giving too much Prozac to dogs could be harmful if they have an underlying condition (liver disease or poor liver function, for example).
Unfortunately, you may not realize your dog has an underlying condition which is why your dog should be assessed by a veterinarian.
The following table is not meant to be used in place of medical advice.
|Dog’s body weight (pounds)||Dosage in milligrams (mg)|
Weaning Your Dog From Prozac: Slow and Steady
It’s always better to keep the process slow than go too 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 from 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 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.
Antidepressants help alleviate things like separation anxiety and rage syndrome.
The problem with weaning Prozac for dogs 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 to hold 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:
- Do not engage excitedly with your dog before leaving the house. Be calm, quiet, and confident. It works the same when you’re coming home as well!
- 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. Veterinarian recommended books include those written by Dr. Sophia Yin.
Veterinarian Approved Books on Dog Behavior
- How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves, Revised & Updated 2nd Edition by Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM MS
- Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right, by Dr. Sophia Yin
- Teaching Fido to Learn to Earn: Dr. Yin’s Program for Developing Leadership in Humans and Impulse Control in Dogs.
Prozac for Dogs: Side Effects of Weaning
If done slowly and under the guidance of a veterinarian, there should be no serious side effects of weaning a dog from Prozac.
Withdrawal symptoms are only an issue if your dog has been on Prozac for a long time or if pet owners reduce the use of medication too quickly.
In rare cases, more serious effects could include:
Stomach upset (including loss of appetite) may be a potential side effect of weaning.
Some withdrawal symptoms could mimic the behaviors you were trying to erase, like anxiety and aggression.
As a result, it may appear that your dog is suffering from behavior changes if the medication is reduced too quickly.
STEP 3: Begin the Weaning Process
Remember, there’s no hurry. Assuming you’ve got the go-ahead from the veterinarian, here are the suggested 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 it’s 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 you are 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.
Maintain Calm Without The Prescription
Once your dog has been successfully weaned off of Prozac, ask your veterinarian whether a calming supplement is a good idea.
Update (July 2, 2022): Most calming supplements are safe with concurrent use of an SSRI.
If the doctor says it’s safe to do so, consider a veterinarian-formulated calming solution. Our top choices include the following:
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Prozac be stopped cold turkey?
Stopping Prozac isn’t advised because of the withdrawal effects that can occur.
What should I do if my dog has severe withdrawal from Prozac?
Always consult with the veterinarian either over-the-phone or in person.
The veterinarian knows your dog, his/her medical history, etc. They are in the best position to advise on how to proceed (or whether to proceed) with weaning.
How long is the washout period for fluoxetine in dogs?
There needs to be a two-week washout period between ending fluoxetine and starting another type of antidepressant, especially an MAOI.
Are there dogs that should not take Prozac?
Not all dogs are suitable candidates for Prozac. Dogs that should not be prescribed Prozac include the following:
- Dogs under 6 months of age
- Dogs allergic to Prozac
- Dogs with a history of seizures
- Caution should be used in dogs with diabetes mellitus, liver disease, kidney disease, or dogs who are pregnant or lactating
Are there any potential drug interactions with Prozac for dogs?
There may be potential drug interactions with antidepressants. It’s very important to notify your veterinarian of any other medications (including nutritional or herbal supplements) your dog is on.
Examples of potential drug interactions:
- St. John’s wort
- Flea and tick collars
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
This is just a partial list.
Follow-up Posts to Read Next
Prozac is a medication that can be prescribed by a veterinarian to treat small-animal behavior problems. It works by increasing serotonin in the brain, which can help regulate mood and reduce anxiety.
The dosage of the drug and treatment plan should be carefully determined by a licensed veterinarian. Pet owners should carefully follow the veterinarian’s directions when administering or weaning the drug.
Anxiety and aggression can seem insurmountable. While Prozac isn’t a magic bullet, you should see significant improvement over time.
The best results for dogs with anxiety disorders or aggression issues come through a combination of patience, medical treatment, and the help of a veterinary behaviorist.
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.
“Anxious Behavior: How to Help Your Dog Cope With Unsettling Situations.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 3 Aug. 2022, www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/riney-canine-health-center/canine-health-information/anxious-behavior-how-help-your-dog-cope-unsettling-situations.
“What Are Some Common Medical Causes of Aggression in Dogs? I Pettable I ESA Experts.” What Are Some Common Medical Causes of Aggression in Dogs? I Pettable I ESA Experts, 20 Apr. 2023, pettable.com/blog/what-are-some-common-medical-causes-of-aggression-in-dogs.
Meyers, Harriet. “OCD in Dogs: Can It Happen? – American Kennel Club.” American Kennel Club, www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-dog-behavior. Accessed 11 May 2023.