Human meds provide answers for anxious dogs (and their owners)

I have mentioned before how fireworks (and thunder and lightning) are not our friends when it comes to our pets.

We’ve had enough rain again this season, accompanied by loud bangs and bolts, that Hope, especially, is not happy.

She is the most adversely affected by loud noises and it seems to be getting worse as she ages. Chase is second in line for not caring for the loud noises and we’ve got two cats that are equally affected, BoBo and Odilia. It breaks my heart.

With Hope as I’ve mentioned, we give her Pet Naturals of Vermont calming chews.

Before finding the calming chews, we tried everything with her, from other natural and homeopathic remedies to a calming collar to a Thundershirt.

So far, these all-natural chews take the edge off and help her relax a bit — but just a bit. She still claws to be under the covers if we’re in bed or near a blanket and tries to get away from the noise, which is impossible since it surrounds the house.

Jump to my sister and brother in law’s dog, Coco. She had such major separation anxiety when she was younger that she practically destroyed their house and all the furniture in it.

They were at their wits end until the vet suggested Fluoxetine for Coco.

What’s Fluoxetine? Well, it’s known more commonly as Prozac. They couldn’t believe their ears and weren’t sure, at first, about this idea. However, the more anxiety Coco had and the more damage she caused, they soon became game to try most any solution.

Prozac should not be prescribed for dogs lightly. Your vet has to evaluate the pros and cons and the situation at hand before arriving at such a delicate decision, but more and more, Prozac is being suggested as an alternative, especially for separation anxiety in dogs.

According to petmd.com, Fluoxetine increases serotonin levels within the central nervous system by allowing it to accumulate and affect the part of the brain that is responsible for social interactions, general awareness, coping mechanism and adaptability. However, it is not fast acting, which is what many people hope for. It may take up to four weeks to see results.

It has to build up in the system.

There are several versions of human medications, like Prozac, that have received approval by the Food and Drug Administration for specific mental-health uses in pets and, as a result, many American pets are taking psychiatric medications.

According to my vet, any behavioral medication for dogs should always be given in conjunction with behavioral modification activities, depending on the behavior(s) that are being addressed, such as exercise, redirection, desensitization, etc.

Fortunately, for my sister and brother in law, Prozac worked wonders for Coco and she stopped her erratic behavior and destroying the house. She didn’t have to stay on Prozac forever either. After a year or two, they were able to taper her off the medication.

In addition to separation anxiety, Prozac is being prescribed more and more for dogs for compulsive behaviors, phobias and aggression issues.

Like any medication, Fluoxetine (Prozac) can have side effects and cause allergic reactions which you have to keep an eye out for, but if your pet has become inconsolable and you haven’t found a natural remedy for helping calm their fears, perhaps it’s time to talk to your vet.

My vet also explained that it’s important to recognize that there are board certified veterinary behavioral specialists.

These are vets who have done the regular veterinary schooling plus an additional residency program (usually 3 years) focusing on behavioral health of cats and dogs. For some cases, referrals should be made to these specialists. (www.dacvb.org)

Amy is the author of the new children’s book, “Oakley’s Great Cape Escape,” as well as “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna

@altoonamirror.com or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.