Prozac or its generic Fluoxetine is increasingly being prescribed by veterinarians across the country to treat behavioral problems in dogs like fear aggression and separation anxiety. This practice of prescribing human medications for dogs has created a lot of controversy because many dogs don’t respond to this type of medication and will experience intense side effects.
Unfortunately, behavioral problems are one of the main reasons dogs are euthanized in animal shelters or surrendered to dog rescue groups by their owners.
Prozac, or Fluoxetine, is an antidepressant that increases serotonin levels in the brain. It is frequently administered to dogs for treating separation anxiety, aggression, and other anxiety-related issues.
Prozac is usually prescribed in combination with a behavior modification program. Once the anxiety or fear levels diminish, dogs are able to learn the necessary skills to help them cope with the object or situation that is triggering their anxiety. For this reason Prozac is often prescribed for a short period of time until the behavior modification program takes hold.
Veterinarians will start a dog on a small dose of Prozac that is less than the dog needs and then gradually increase the dosage. Increases in dosage need to be done cautiously because any sudden increase or decrease in the dosage of Prozac can cause severe behavior changes in a dog.
Prozac has some serious side effects for dogs and cannot be given to a dog taking any of the following medications: monoamine oxidase inhibitors, diazepam, phenylbutazone, digoxine, or buspirone (a generic of Buspar, a psychoactive drug used to treat anxiety disorders such as severe anxiety separation issues).
Any dog who has a history of seizures should never be given Prozac and dogs on Prozac for a long period of time will need to have their liver and kidney enzymes checked regularly as long-term use can cause damage to these vital organs.
The most common side effects that dogs experience on Prozac are changes in appetite, weight gain or loss, lethargy, weakness in the limbs, or diarrhea. Unwelcome behavioral side effects include anxiety, panic attacks, hostility and aggression, restlessness, irritability, hyperactivity, trouble sleeping, or increased depression.
Some additional serious side effects that require a veterinarian exam are tremors, muscle twitching or stiffness, problems with balance or coordination, confusion, or a very rapid heartbeat. Some dogs also develop allergic reactions that cause a skin rash or hives, difficulty breathing, or a swelling of the dog’s face, lips, tongue or throat. Any of these side effects necessitate immediate discontinuance of the Prozac.
Treatment with Prozac can sometimes be beneficial in improving problematic behavior in a dog, but any dog being treated with this medication is always at risk of numerous side effects and must be watched carefully for any indications of a problem.