Medication May Help Dogs with Separation Anxiety

Posted on May 28, 2015 16:01

According to a new study, the medical equivalent of Prozac for dogs may help in treating dogs with separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is a common behavioral problem seen in dogs, but the use of psychoactive medications to help them is currently widely debated. Treatment involving behavior modification and medication has been well-documented, but it is not clear if this linked to an improvement in underlying mood and emotion, or is simply the suppression of behavior.

According to this new study, dogs taking the Prozac equivalent were seen to be more optimistic. The study was led by University of Lincoln, UK researchers and revealed for the first time how animals felt during clinical treatments of behaviors linked to negative emotions.

Dog-owner Jess Cook signed up for the program with her dog Lexi, who was known to howl loudly on being left alone in the house. For a period of five weeks, seven-year-old Lexi took two tablets per day with butter. She also went through behavior management therapy.

Cook slowly increase the amount of time that she left Lexi alone, and the program eventually proved successfully, with Lexi having come off her medication. The medication given to the dog was fluoxetine, the same active ingredient present in Prozac for humans. For pets, this medication is branded as Reconcile.

Research lead Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, said, “For quite a while, I, like many others, have been concerned as to whether drugs such as Reconcile simply inhibit the behaviour and perhaps had no effect on the animal's mood. With the advent of new methods to assess animal welfare, we were able to answer this question and were pleased to see that, when the drug is used within normal therapeutic ranges, the dogs do indeed seem better.”

He added, “However, it is important to emphasise that animals were treated with both the drug and a behaviour modification programme -- with both being essential for effective treatment. Using the drug does seem to bring about a rapid improvement in mood while the animal responds to the training programme. The reality is, whether we like it or not, there are animals who are suffering and we need to take measures to both prevent the problem but also manage it as effectively as possible when it arises.”

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