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Dogs and meds

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Something I've been contemplating for a long time, and I apologize if this a repeat thread. I have a high anxiety dog with severe separation issues and noise phobia. For the longest time I believed there was something that I wasn't doing, or was doing to cause these issues. My wife and I have been trying to ease her anxieties with little success. If I put her on medication of some sort i.e. prozac is that doing what's best for our dog or just what's best for us? Ive really been struggling with this, as I never would have thought our dog needed that, rather just accepting that I screwed up somewhere along the way... Also I don't wantbtge meds to change her. I love her, but she seems to be getting worse, now 4 years old. Finally, if this is the right path, what to get... I've been researching but it's all new to me.

 

Thanks, everyone.

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You're not putting her on meds because she's barking too loud when she's trying to play. If she is unhappy and stressed, and meds help her cope, what's wrong with that?

 

If anything that's putting the dog first- you're the one who'll have to give them to her etc. If they work and she's calmer, she won't know that it's the meds, that they've 'changed her', she'll just know she's less stressed.

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Nathan, my departed Shoshone had some form of anxiety. I did everything possible, for several years, before turning to medication. I wish I had done it much sooner.

 

We had a friend with Tourette's Syndrome. Patty's yelps and sudden movements would send Shonie running from the room every time she visited. A few weeks after we started Shonie on clomipramine Patty dropped by. Patty really liked dogs, and always got down on the floor with our crew of 3. Within minutes, Shonie was sitting on Patty's lap, nudging her hand for another cookie.

 

With medication, everybody's life got easier. And when I say easier, I mean that we were so used to living with an anxious dog we didn't know what normal was. Once her anxiety was lessened both my husband and I saw how out-of-kilter our home lives had been, always making adjustments for her.

 

And, personal revelation here, I have had depression and anxiety all my life, much of it severe. Medication saved my life. It wasn't a matter of me not trying hard enough - my brain chemistry just isn't normal. The right meds make a huge difference.

 

You can always do a trial - give it 3 months or so and if it doesn't make a difference, take her off it.

 

Good luck - pm me if you'd like more details about my experience with Shoshone.

 

Ruth and Agent Gibbs

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One of my dogs has been on prozac for many years. Initially, I was resistant, but the drug changed my dog's life for the better. If your dog had diabetes or an infection, you would not hestitate to use meds. In this case, your dog has an abnormality in brain chemistry. It is not your fault, although I suppose that the environment could have made an underlying problem worse.

 

Anxiety and panic disorders can run in human families. Ask me how I know.

 

In the old days before these drugs were widely used, I had a Shar pei that drove me nuts because she was always pacing and whining. I did not recognize this behavior as severe anxiety. I now deeply regret not medicating that dog. It would have improved her (and my) life so much.

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It wasn't a matter of me not trying hard enough - my brain chemistry just isn't normal.

 

I agree, so much. There is such a stigma about medicating, both dogs and humans. But sometimes it really is just the chemicals. I had the same experience at Ruth dealing with my own depression. If it makes you feel better, you don't have to think of it as long term. You can keep trying to work with her over time and maybe eventually you won't need the meds. But I encourage you not to think of meds as a bad thing. Medicine is medicine, whether it's for the brain or the body.

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Yes, the pacing is a common theme at our house. And before we got our fence, she would sit at the window crying for me as I mowed the grass.

 

I was/am someone that tends to think we rush to meds to fix our problems... But as I've gotten older and more experienced I see the need for it when appropriate and properly diagnosed. I also brought it up here to listen to some examples, reassure myself that it is ok, and just be certain. I've confided with some friends and family about this, and some of them tell me I'm crazy... So yeah, just feels good to know I'm not the only one that has considered/used some form of anxiety medication.

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I can't speak for dogs, but for humans I think there's a misunderstanding as far as using meds exclusively, and using meds combined with therapy. It starts to get a lot more difficult when you get into things like schizophrenia, bipolar, etc,, but as far as depression and anxiety there is rarely anything wrong with using medication until you can handle the problem without (of course, in some cases that's never, but for many it's attainable). If you don't let yourself become dependant on them, then the stigma against them doesn't need to apply. It's like injuring yourself. You can go get it fixed up, but you may still need to take pain meds until the injury is healed. Fixing the symptoms until you can fix the problem. Just my thoughts anyways.

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I agree, so much. There is such a stigma about medicating, both dogs and humans. But sometimes it really is just the chemicals. I had the same experience at Ruth dealing with my own depression....But I encourage you not to think of meds as a bad thing. Medicine is medicine, whether it's for the brain or the body.

 

 

If your dog had diabetes or an infection, you would not hestitate to use meds. In this case, your dog has an abnormality in brain chemistry. It is not your fault, although I suppose that the environment could have made an underlying problem worse.

I now deeply regret not medicating that dog. It would have improved her (and my) life so much.

 

 

Medication saved my life. It wasn't a matter of me not trying hard enough - my brain chemistry just isn't normal. The right meds make a huge difference.

 

See this, this is why I love you guys. I have seen so much mental health stigma recently: people refusing to deal with mental health issues because 'they're not crazy', people going off medication for depression because 'I'm better now', "we all know people with depression, well, they kind of cause it don't they I mean they could get better if they bothered", the secrecy and gossip about diagnoses... And then I come online and there's this.

 

If this was an encounter in real life I would be inviting everyone back for alcohol right now. And possibly handing out chocolate.

 

Nathan: I understand the idea that some people want a pill for every problem, I've seen that a lot too. But if it helps her, why not? You'll always get a few people who will say "It's just a dog", "I don't believe in medication" etc. At the end of the day it's your dog and you can do what you like, and if you think she needs it well you're in more of a position to know that than they are.

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I'm firmly in the it-just-might-be-worth-a try camp. Sometimes the anxiety and phobias are just too much to cope with, and they can prevent any sort of behavioral intervention from working. I've seen too many dogs (mostly in rescue) where the meds were the key to helping them attain a life approaching normalcy.

 

I can also offer first hand experience in saying that Prozac saved my life. It's been many years since I've needed it, but without it I wouldn't be here today.

 

As for what medication, that's something you and your vet should decide together, not something you should take advice over the internet about. It may actually be a good idea to see a veterinary behaviorist, which is comparable to a human psychiatrist, who is better educated in the specifics of using meds and can also help you work out a behavior modification plan to augment the meds, and hopefully, eventually eliminate the need for them.

 

And, yes, the meds will probably change her, but hopefully only in the very best of ways if they can help her let go of her anxiety.

 

Very best wishes in helping your dog allay her anxiety and become all she has the potential to be.

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I had valium to give Kipp as needed for his thunderphobia. It greatly improved his quality of life during storms. I wouldn't hesitate to look into drugs as part of a protocol for dealing with signifficant anxiety issues.

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Nathan, if I give you my address you can send me some chocolate! I wouldn't mind at all - dark chocolate, please, with caramel if it's available. ;) A nice beer or glass of pinot noir would be a great alternative . . .

 

I'm glad you feel supported here. And glad you ask questions and think about the answers and then come back to ask more questions. Your girl has a wonderful owner and is lucky to be part of your family.

 

A small caveat - it sometimes takes a bit of trial and error to find out which drugs work for which individual, brain chemistry is not the same from person to person or dog to dog. If several people show clinical signs of depression, it doesn't mean that they all need the same drug or even the same amount. I was fortunate that it only took me two tries to find the medication that worked so well for me. Shoshone was fortunate that clomipramine was the first med we tried and it worked like gang busters for her.

 

Good luck! Let us know how it goes for you all.

 

Ruth and Agent Gibbs

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A small caveat - it sometimes takes a bit of trial and error to find out which drugs work for which individual, brain chemistry is not the same from person to person or dog to dog. If several people show clinical signs of depression, it doesn't mean that they all need the same drug or even the same amount. I was fortunate that it only took me two tries to find the medication that worked so well for me. Shoshone was fortunate that clomipramine was the first med we tried and it worked like gang busters for her.

 

Good luck! Let us know how it goes for you all.

 

Ruth and Agent Gibbs

I second this! One of my dogs has a huge noise anxiety. Twice this caused him to bolt. The first time we got him back with in a half hour (survived crossing a busy road) the second time he was missing for over twelve hours overnight. Fireworks go off here every night here in the summer and often during the day. I tried behavior modification but he was completely shut down. He lived in terror. I went to my vet. She consulted with a behaviorist. The consensus was to put him on Prozac to try and ease the generalized anxiety and use Xanax for the evening fireworks, thunder, or the step kids over for the weekend.

 

The Prozac was a nightmare for him. It made him worse. But the Xanax worked wonders! It made it possible for his brain to engage again! So we were able to start really making progress on behavior mod. We were able to use less xanax over time.

 

There are several psychotropic drugs available. Don't give up if the first try or two does not work.

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Alprazolam (generic Xanax- it's cheap) has made a world of difference for my weirdo dog. It's only as-needed for noise phobia, and while it stopped the blind panic, the biggest effect is that it allowed him to think & respond to behaviour modification. When storms come up now, he goes and hides in one of his "spots" instead of racing around terrified. (And my other dog sits in front of the fridge, since thunder = pills = peanut butter all around.) The alprazolam has not "changed" Hoot at all- he's still as weird as ever- aside from making him temporarily a bit drowsy.

 

It's certainly worth a try for your dog. Like others have said, don't give up if it doesn't work the first time. Ask your vet for a small RX so you're not wasting money on a bunch of pills if it doesn't work. If drugs can improve your dog's quality of life, what do you have to lose?

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I eventually felt I had to put Jake on medication. He picked up some new noise phobias and his thunderphobia was getting worse too. When I asked the vet if I could put him on valium she recommended Alprazolam saying she had had better results but we could always change it if it didn't work for him. Thankfully it did. If I can manage to give it to him an hour before the storm hits, Jake has no problem with it (nor with firecrackers and gunshots).

 

FWIW, a friend of mine has one of Jake's littermates. Toby has a much more severe case of thunderphobia. My friend put Toby on Prozac but said it didn't do him any good. She switched him over to Alprazolam and told me it has helped him a lot too.

 

Your vet might recommend a medication when you have the discussion with him/her so that might help in making the decision on what to give your dog.

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Dear Doggers,

 

I've never needed drugs for my dogs but, as working sheepdogs in a stable farm pack, my dogs don't endure the very real stresses many solo pet dogs face.

 

If I were in a more usual situation and had a dog with separation anxiety, training (for its own sake, to empower the dog and strengthen bonding) would be my first resort. But if that failed, I'd try drugs. You bet.

 

Donald McCaig

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I was/am someone that tends to think we rush to meds to fix our problems...

 

I couldn't agree with this statement more. I feel like, on the whole, our society leans towards taking a prescription before trying other alternatives first. I'm not just talking about mental health issues... I feel like it's even becoming more common for a doctor to write a prescription for a physical issue that might just as easily be taken care of with a change of lifestyle or diet. In many cases popping a pill is easier then making an effort to change the way we live, whether that be eating better, taking time to meditate and get away from high stress situations, or exercising more.

 

Having said that, I don't see the function of resisting medication either. If other alternatives have been tried and the problem still exists why would you not then turn to medication as an option??

 

Based on your OP it sounds like you and your wife have been actively trying to help your dog cope with her stress and anxiety for years but it's only getting worse. I hardly think this puts you into the catergory of someone who is "rushing into meds". At this point I think you'd be doing your girl a disservice not to at least try medication and see if it could help her out, especially if your primary concern is about whether or not other people will think you are crazy. :)

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I know people who changed their doctor because the doctor stopped giving antibiotics for the 'flu. Physios and podiatrists will tell you that there is a substantial proportion of people out there who will be disappointed or even angry if they're told they can just do stretches instead of getting a $300 orthotic.

 

In both cases the attitude is "He didn't bother to try and help me!/You mean you're going to do nothing for me?"

 

My doctors have been very careful to emphasise self-care, exercise, and diet first- but they always look a bit like they're expecting resistance if it's a self-limiting condition and they decide not to give a 'treatment'. But then I suppose that's for physical ailments- mental ailments people are more likely to think are 'all in your head' and can be controlled with willpower.

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I drug my dogs up over the 4th. No apologies. The poor things are absolutely miserable and then I get miserable because they are such a mess. I used to dread the 4th for weeks before it got here. Now I only dread it for a couple of weeks. I have a guy across the street who puts on a whole fireworks display in his backyard. First all the kids do the little fireworks for hours and then at about 9 the big show starts. It's a good thing I don't own a gun because I would be really dangerous after listening to all of that and trying to keep my poor dogs calmed down for hour after hour.

 

It would sure be worth a try.

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Been through all the above types of experiences, regarding both my physical and mental health. It's a tough road sometimes for me, to wake up and realize how long I've been dealing with this pain or that mental condition and It Hasn't Worked. My friends are good barometers, I rely on them to help me realize if it's time for a different approach.

 

I feel like I'm hyper-vigilant sometimes, always alert to how long this spell of depression has lasted, or when was the last time I actually laughed out loud. I'm taking some strong pain medication right now for a back problem that I waited too long to get help for, and the medication is helping the pain. BUT, it's a narcotic, so I'm a bit more depressed, and am reminding myself several times a day that The End of My World Is NOT Near. And my friends are awesome, checking up on me and keeping me in touch with reality.

 

Self-regulation is an art form, I've come to believe. We have to do this kind of scrutiny on our dog's behalf, because they can't. I'd be a lot quicker these days to work with a behaviorist if I had any inkling that Agent Gibbs wasn't a happy boy.

 

Ruth and Agent Gibbs

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Tommy, I rely on generic benedryl for the 4th, and sometimes around New Year's too. I'm not close like you are to all those explosions, thank goodness. We do hear them often enough that the benedryl is handy.

 

I like what Camden's Mom said, too. If what you're doing doesn't work, time to try a different tool.

 

And Simba, I can see it in my doc's face when he offers me a prescription and I ask if there's something else I can try first. He looks surprised!

 

Ruth and Agent Gibbs

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I can't tell everyone what their honesty and sincere comments mean to me. The whole idea of putting anyone(esp our dogs) on medication always has a negative stigma behind it. But, I think our dog is truly struggling w her anxiety. Tommy Coyote, I too am dreading the fireworks, but prob not as much as my Cola.

 

Ruth, what kind of beer do you want? After doing all the yard work and mulching the flower bed, I'm drinking a Sierra Nevada Hefeweizen right now... Pretty good, but that's prob for another forum...

 

On a more serious note, talked to the vet yesterday and we're going to talk next week and discuss some things. I feel "OK" about this, and really appreciate everyone's feedback. I guess my only other questions would be how often do I medicate my dog? Everyday w dinner? Only when it seems like she needs it... She's pretty calm when not having one of her pacing, scratching the door, barking at the sound of us closing a kitchen cupboard fits. Honestly, questions for the vet next week...

 

Once again thank you everyone!

 

Nathan

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On a more serious note, talked to the vet yesterday and we're going to talk next week and discuss some things. I feel "OK" about this, and really appreciate everyone's feedback. I guess my only other questions would be how often do I medicate my dog? Everyday w dinner? Only when it seems like she needs it...

 

 

That would probably best be answered by your vet or a veterinary behaviorist after you go over your dog's history and map out what you're trying to accomplish.

 

If it's mostly noise phobia that has certain triggers (i.e. thunderstorms or fireworks) then you might dose as needed. If you've got more generalized anxiety then you might need to dose daily. It all depends on your dog and your situation.

 

So figure out what exactly you feel the pressing issues are that need to be addressed. Figure out what your goal is. Write it all down. Then talk to your vet with those issues and goals in mind.

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Some drugs need to be given daily and build up in the system before you see results.

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Nathan, have to give the beer a serious thought. Will let you know. I tend to like lighter tasting beers, but can't come up with a type or brand right now.

 

As far as how often to give meds, your vet will tell you. If I recollect correctly, Shonie got one dose a day, could be wrong it was many years ago.

 

And jvw is right, many of the anti-depressants need to build up and achieve a level in the system. Not all, the medication I take is pretty fast acting, I noticed a difference within a couple days. The clomipramine that Shonie was on is one that needs to build up, like for a few weeks.

 

And what Maralyn said is right on, as well. If your dog is only anxious during thunderstorms or fireworks, or other specific noises or activities, then you might use a drug that is fast acting. If it's generalized anxiety, it's more of an all the time thing. BUT, listen to your vet.

 

And Tufts University has a consultation by fax service - you send them the details, (there might be a questionnaire involved) and they give a recommendation.

 

Ruth and Agent Gibbs

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