Veterinarians have been prescribing Prozac for years. Prozac (Fluoxetine) is only FDA approved for treating separation anxiety in dogs.
The antidepressant, however, has also been used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder, some types of aggression, and anxiety disorders.
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 behaviour. With a little retraining, exercise, good nutrition, and patience, dogs can overcome some of their biggest obstacles.
Sooner or later, you’ll need to wean your dog off Prozac. When that time comes, you’ll want to seek advice from a licensed veterinarian.
Not all dogs are the same and not all dogs require the same weaning process.
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.
Prozac for dogs can really help your dog with extreme anxiety, but when the time comes to wean you might consider offering a little help. Rather than go “cold turkey”, try an anxiety wrap or music designed specifically to calm anxious dogs.
In addition to offering a helping hand with stress-reducing aids, you’ll want to follow some basic steps of weaning.
Remember, please check with your veterinarian before attempting to wean your dog from Prozac on your own.
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: Consider This Technique
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.
I recommend guided meditation as a way to help yourself relax and refocus your energy. I’ve recently started guided meditation and it does wonder for the mind. You don’t have to be perfect, just willing to let your mind rest for a few minutes. You can always do it on your own, but I find the cues that come from audio really help me focus.
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.
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.
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.
It’s hard to know if your dog is actually experiencing withdrawal or if the old behaviour is rearing its ugly head. That’s one more reason why it’s important to keep in contact with your veterinarian.
You’ll want a professional backing you up as you go through the process.
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.
When you project calm, assertive energy, your dog can relax and follow your lead more easily. A well-adjusted dog that gets appropriate exercise, discipline, and reward, is a powerful and beautiful thing.
Walking. It’s good for your dog and it’s good for you. Walking your dog helps release nervous energy.
Walking a dog does more than tire your dog physically. 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.
A Lesson For You
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