Mr. Good Boy the Dog is Not a Good Boy at the Veterinarian
May 21, 2010 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Chinese herbs for dog anxiety?

I have found a new veterinarian for my dogs. Dog # 1 went earlier in the week and although nervous, she did well. Dog # 2 went today. It was awful. Dog 2 has never had a good vet experience. He had to be muzzled which I understand but even then he was so freaked out that he power crapped an arc of shit all over the walls of the room. To the vet's credit he laughed and said he had never seen an animal do that. He has been a vet for 30 years. Long story short, he prescribed prozac and suggested that I might want buy some of the Chinese herbs that he sells. No hard sell and he didn't bring it up again and I did not buy any. I really like the vet and we have worked out a plan to desensitize Dog 2 for his next official visit. I plan on visiting the clinic for short amounts of time over the next month to just walk the dog around and then leave. Now that I am done blithering, has anyone ever used herbs/prozac successfully on their dog? Any advice appreciated.
posted by futz to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Any advice appreciated.

I haven't worked herbs with animals, though I'm finishing studies in acupressure overlapping with traditional chinese medicine.

1) Chinese herbs (at least as sold in the US) tend to have milder effects and require more regular doses for effectiveness (than Western medicine). That said, you're going to have an easier time NOT overdosing the dog.

2) Most health issues when looked at through a TCM lens might have 3-4 completely different possible causes. Depending on which one of them it is, you'd treat differently. Western medicine folks tend to find 1 or 2 and throw it at everything... which tends to be hit or miss for effectiveness.

If it's a super big problem- see if you can find an acupuncturist who works with animals to do the assessment. You can then buy herbs yourself or see if the vet's herbs match up.

Once you have an assessment of the TCM pattern, you can even call folks like Health Concerns to get an idea of dosage. Since the medicine is in pill format, you can just mix it in the dog's food.
posted by yeloson at 4:53 PM on May 21, 2010

1) LOL about the power arc of crap

2) "Chinese Herbs" that some vague street term I don't know, or did he just suggest checking out some Asian junk for no good reason? Why is there any remote reason "Chinese Herbs" are a thing to recommend as opposed to the tons of worldwide medicinal herbs? Catnip has a sedative effect on humans. Long story short, FIND OUT WHAT IS IN THE "CHINESE HERBS" and then do research on the ingredients. And if he won't tell you, seek another vet. Because it sounds like a crock.
posted by carlh at 4:59 PM on May 21, 2010


If it's only when the dog goes to the vet, I wouldn't put it on prozac. Ask the vet to prescribe some ACE- it'll knock the dog out for the time at the vet and it's pretty cheap/not a daily thing.

Chinese herbs? Really? To each his/her own I guess- I do believe in pain management, but would like to see some evidence that it works before sinking any money into it.
posted by TheBones at 5:16 PM on May 21, 2010

And "yes," prozac does have a pronounced effect on dogs, would I put my dogs on it for a bad experience once a year? No way!
posted by TheBones at 5:18 PM on May 21, 2010

Ok, first of all I appreciate the answers. I didn't include all the info that I should have b/c I didn't want to ramble on excessively.

What is TCM?
What are Chinese Herbs? That was what I was wondering.
The vet does do acupuncture but there is NO WAY my dog would let anyone do that to him.

More background: He was dumped near my house 2 years ago. He is 3 years old now. He was emaciated and his testicles were horribly swollen. I put water and food near him and totally ignored him for about 4 days. If I even looked at him he snarled and growled. One day I came home and he was waiting on my front porch so I let him in. He was well trained by whoever owned him previously. He did sit/stay/down/shake/roll over! He was/is a perfect gentleman at my house. I did everything to find his owners. When I took him to get neutered the old vet freaked out b/c Mr. Good Boy is a pit bull. He barked and growled at them and said that I needed to help them sedate him. Ok, fine, so I walked w/ him into the back room and there was a post that they has me loop his leash around. It all happened so fast. I thought they were (maybe? they explained nothing to me) going to pull his leash so that his nose was close to the pole and then stick him in the hindquarters with a sedative. Nope, the vet tech yanked the leash hard and slammed Good Boy's head into the pole and he pissed and pooped and passed out and THEN they sedated him. I was so freaked out. I was speechless. I was shocked. I left. They called me to come pick him up hours before he was ready to be released b/c they didn't want to deal with him while awake. Long story LONGER, he is great with me. Takes awhile to warm up to strangers or friends of mine. Do I completely trust him? No. Has he bit me? Yes, when he was coming out of anesthesia. Can I clip his nails? No. He growls and nips near my hand. He is an anxious/fearful dog. I was hoping that prozac would take the edge off. As to the Chinese herbs issue...I have no fracking clue what that even means. Sorry so long!
posted by futz at 6:30 PM on May 21, 2010

You need to find a good canine behavioralist and trainer first and foremost. Finding a way to mildly sedate the dog at the vet is a good idea... but that doesn't address the greater problem.

Recommending prozac just for vet visits and the whole chinese herb thing sounds really sketchy. How did you find this vet?
posted by canine epigram at 7:39 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Anything that does have an effect is a medication. If the Chinese herbs have an effect, they are a medication; they may have side effects, they may have interesting toxicities, they may do interesting things in combination. That they are called "herbs" does not make them any more, or less, effective than anything else with an active ingredient.

If he honestly thinks the "herbs" (medication) might help your dog, then he ought to be able to help you investigate the ingredients to be an informed owner.

It sounds like your dog could use a sedative for vet visits (and I can certainly understand it, poor guy). I think Xanax might be a better sedative than Ace, since Ace can have an interesting adverse effect, but you'd want to discuss it with your vet.

Your description of his behavior doesn't necessarily indicate that he needs Prozac, but it's worth trying if you think he is overly anxious and needs the help; you're there, I'm not. I've used it for an extra-anxious dog, and some of his anxiety symptoms (OCD licking, for example) did improve. The suggestion of a behaviorist is an excellent one.

Biting coming out of anesthesia is nothing exciting. There's a reason animals are usually confined for that; behavior can be unpredictable. Have you registered a complaint about the veterinarian who abused your dog and sent him home in an unsafe manner?
posted by galadriel at 7:58 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey there, I just joined MetaFilter to answer your question! I'm a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. My name is Hilary Bolea, and the name of my business is Old Town Dog Behavior.

You should really call me at (202) 725-5598 -- I'm happy to give some free advice over the phone to a dog owner in need, especially one who rescued a troubled stray!

I have worked with a number of cases like yours -- former strays who are anxious/aggressive at the vet, and in other situations. These situations call for sensitivity and care, and an "easy does it" approach. The treatment you describe on your dog's first vet visit is awful, and as you know, it made the problem a lot worse. I wish I could say it was shocking, but I have seen it so often -- situations where a vet could use counterconditioning technique for 5 minutes and examine the dog without a problem, but instead, restrains and the situation deteriorates . It's important to know that vets are not dog trainers or behavior experts.

I don't have any thoughts for you on prozac or Chinese herbs, but I could talk to you in more detail about the desensitization routine, and give you some tips. It's easy to mess up. :) It would be good to have a professional show you, in order to avoid some common mistakes at the beginning. In case we don't talk, I will leave you with one tip here -- when you are trying to help the dog relax near the vet's office, make sure there is never tension on the leash. Phobias are created when a fearful dog is restrained. If, at any time, your dog is pulling away from the office, you should immediately let him go in the direction he wants. At the same time, let him know that if he is able to take the tiniest baby steps toward the office, that he will get wonderful rewards like chicken and roast beef, at the closest point to the office. You want to use a classic "whispering" technique -- if he's able to walk one foot closer to the office and remain calm and responsive, you reward him with the chicken, AND he gets to walk away from the office - so he can calm down and relax for a moment. Then try again, and maybe get a foot closer, then reward, then distance.

Remember, slower is gooder. If you can tell you are making progress, you are going too fast. If it looks like nothing is happening, you are doing it just right. (Monty Roberts, the original horse whisperer, has a saying: "If you approach it like you have 15 minutes, it'll take all day. If you approach it like you have all day, it'll take 15 minutes."

If your dog goes from "green zone" (relaxed, breathing easily, responsive, taking treats) into "yellow zone" (tense, panting, stiff tail, stiff ears, non-responsive, not interested in treats), you have gone too far too fast. The key is keeping your dog in the "green zone" the whole time, and slowly, gently expanding the green zone.

I recommend a book titled, "Cautious Canine" by Patricia McConnell. Call me if you have questions or if you want to talk this over! (202) 725-5598

- Hilary Bolea, Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Old Town Dog Behavior
posted by oldtowndogs at 10:36 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Since your vet brought it up, why don't you just ask him exactly which herbs he recommends?
posted by wongcorgi at 11:41 PM on May 21, 2010

It's like some variation of "Shen Calmer". I have used it for my reactive dog and it was mildly effective at taking the edge off but I stopped using it and switched him to Xanax that works better and doesn't blunt his whole personality the way the Chinese herb seemed to. You have to give most Chinese herbs twice a day, you can't just use them when you need them.

You can try something like GABA (they have it at big vitamin/health food stores), which can relieve anxiety to some extent, or use Xanax. If your dog has an overall anxiety problem, daily meds can really help.
posted by biscotti at 4:57 AM on May 22, 2010

Wow, thanks Hilary! I will give you a call. That is very generous of you. I will try you later today. I have some errands to run in the meantime.
posted by futz at 7:24 AM on May 22, 2010

You're welcome! :-) Typing all that helped me get to bed!
posted by oldtowndogs at 8:12 AM on May 22, 2010

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