An e-mail list that I am on had a question about the cost of Prozac, and whether it was useful for dogs with behaviour problems.
I posted the following reply.
I’m not sure what happens in the US, but in Australia Prozac (or Lovan as it is called in the form available for dogs) is only available on prescription, so you need to consult a veterinary behaviourist. This costs about $650 for a consultation. The vet will take a detailed history and make a diagnosis and come up with a behavioural plan, as well as prescribing medication if she thinks it is appropriate. You then pay full price for it, whereas the equivalent medication for people is cheaper because of our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. I had been seeing a client with two very anxious dogs for several weeks. They were not making as much progress as I would have liked (or expected) so I suggested to my client that medication might help. I contacted a Vet behaviourist who I knew well, and gave her a brief history and she said medication usually helped with dogs with this type of history (lack of people socialisation as puppies). You can’t just get medication prescribed. You have to have the full behavioural consult, even though in this case I have considerable behavioural knowledge myself. Anyway, the vet put the dogs on Trazadone, which is a short-acting anti-anxiety med, together with Lovan (Prozac), which she said could take four to six weeks to kick in. The combination has worked well. It is not a simple fix-all. It lowers the anxiety or arousal level enough for the behavioural training to be able to kick in, which is what has been happening. They are still using Trazadone, because the Prozac has not had as much effect as the vet wants. She is adjusting the dosage and hopefully it will eventually get to a fully therapeutic level. Then the Trazadone can be withdrawn. I have continued to work on the behavioural strategies, and I e-mail progress reports to the vet from time to time. So my experience suggests that medication can help, but what is needed is an integrated strategy of medication and behavioural training, communication between client, trainer and vet, and with enough time being given for follow-up and adjusting dosages depending on the dogs’ responses over time.
I remember when the use of Prozac for dogs was first reported. Predictably, there was much hilarity and derision in the media – jokes about dogs telling their psychotherapist that they weren’t allowed on the couch and so on. Interestingly enough, Prozac was first used for dogs with severe dermatological problems, such as self-mutilation, because vets believed the anti-obsessional effect of Prozac would help to control obsessive chewing of paws and so on, which can be a huge problem with some dogs.