Reviewed by Erica Irish, DVM
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 behaviors.
With a little retraining, exercise, good nutrition, and patience, dogs can overcome some of their biggest obstacles.
Before you go be sure to read the follow-up posts related to antidepressants, serotonin syndrome, and more (see bottom of this post)
What You Need to Know About Prozac for Dogs
All medications come 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, and your dog can successfully be weaned from Prozac.
The withdrawal symptoms noted below are only apparent in dogs who have been on Prozac for a long time. Weaning within the initial 4 – 6 week period isn’t dangerous. Your dog can safely stop the medication without a weaning period.
Dog 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.
Weaning – 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 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 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
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. As mentioned earlier, withdrawal symptoms are only an issue if your dog has been on Prozac for a long time.
Some withdrawal symptoms could mimic the behavior 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.
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:
Follow-up Posts to Read Next
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