The physiological effects of fear can impact a dog’s health. Chronic fear, anxiety and phobias should be treated as serious medical conditions. If you are on the fence about speaking to your vet about a prescription medication in favor of other over the counter products you might appreciate listening to this podcast by Dr. Offit who is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as well as a member of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
This recorded webinar by Dr. Lore Haug on treating behavioral challenges with medications is a must-see for anyone considering, or resisting, the use of medications. This blog post by Dr. Jen (who I wish made it easier for me to find her last name) provides some well-reasoned arguments for why we shouldn’t consider meds a last resort option.
The field of behavioral medications for dogs has advanced in the past few years. Research has shown that many of the same medications that help humans brains deal with behavioral challenges (fears, anxiety, aggression, obsessive compulsive disorders, etc.), also work with dogs. If you are exploring the option of medications to help your fearful dog this study on anti-depressants gives insights into why and how they can be effective for changing our dog’s behavior.
Some dogs don’t need medications, as much as they need consistent training and exercise, but for others the benefits of the appropriate medication are huge. Talk to a trainer and a vet to determine if medications are an option for your dog. You’ll want to run blood tests to be sure that your dog’s body can handle long term use of a medication. And remember, the use of medication alone will not change your dog’s behavior! The meds will make it easier for your dog to learn the new skills and behaviors you will continue to teach it. It is also helpful to rule out any medical conditions that could be impacting your dog’s tolerance for stressful events. Thyroid levels, tick borne diseases, injuries and illnesses can all make a dog less able to cope.
This article, Dealing with Canine Anxiety, contains a good overview of ways to treat dogs suffering from anxiety and phobias.
Dr. Karen Overall’s overview of behavioral medications.
A new entry into the market to help address sound sensitivities (and possibly other fears) is Sileo
Clomipramine (Clomicalm)-NOTE-Novartis is suspending production of this medication in early 2012, the date to resume production to be determined. Consult with your vet about alternatives. In January 2012 they also warned of foreign tablets being found in bottles of Clomicalm.
Fluoxetine (Prozac)-This medication labeled as Reconcile for vet use may no longer be available.
Selegiline (Deprenyl, Aniprul)
NOTE: This list does not indicate a recommendation of the product for your pet! Do your homework and research and talk to your vet.
Some of the medications listed above require several weeks of use before you can expect to see any changes in a dog’s behavior. Others can be used on an ‘as needed’ basis. It’s important to follow the protocol outlined by a veterinarian when starting or stopping medications. Always check with a vet before giving your dog ANY herbal or other supplement in addition to a prescription medication. Caution should also be used when giving any over-the-counter product. Just because a substance may be ‘natural’ does not mean that it cannot have potentially deadly effects.
Patty Khuly VMD addresses the use of acepromazine in this article.
This article by Terry Kelly talks about medications that you should NOT use with a fearful dog.
Excerpt from a Dr. Karen Overall lecture regarding acepromazine
If you have concerns about using medications to help your dog you may find the following blog posts thought-provoking.
Before you spent too much time experimenting with over-the-counter products that have not been thoroughly tested for efficacy, or think meds should be a last resort please visit this page. Warning. Graphic images.