Dog Anxiety
May 31, 2020 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering speaking to my vet about anxiety meds for my dog.

You know how everyone talks about how wonderful their rescue dog is, how they are so loved and fit right in? This is not one of those stories.

This is the story of an 8 week old puppy who is now 2 years old who causes me more stress than joy she brings to my life. She was fostered until 8 weeks with siblings, but without mom in the picture. I adopted her, thinking that at such a young age I'd be able to mold her into a good dog.

Despite proper socialization techniques, countless hours and money spent trying to address her issues, improvements are very, very slow. I've read every book and really put effort into getting her more calm. Exercise is great, but it never has an effect on her behavior.

What are her issues? Well there's a lot but her high level of anxiety affects everything else. She's afraid of most things, and as soon as we overcome one fear, another grows in its place. She goes into a panic, and it's like she can't take in or process anything. I feel like if I can't get her to downshift even a little, all the strategies in the world won't work. I don't want to give her up but I also can't leave my home for a night away because she's too anxious for other people and struggles with both people and dog interactions. I feel like I'm in prison.

I'm at the point of wanting to explore pharmaceutical options in combination with training.

What I'm NOT looking for: resources on dog anxiety (I have them), ridicule or being shamed for having a tough dog

What I want: whether dog anxiety meds were useful for your situation, empathy,
posted by Aranquis to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh yeah absolutely you should ask your vet about puppy Prozac. Sounds like you’re doing everything right and just sounds like you have a dog whose brain would experience better living through chemistry.
posted by supercres at 7:21 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]

I know several dogs from the rescue I support who benefited from anti-anxiety meds. Primarily Prozac. One that didn't really and ended up, I believe, going to live at the rural dog camp that supports the rescue. It's a heartbreaking problem. I don't think I've ever heard of any of them trying it and having a truly negative reaction, though.

There are also board-and-train places that deal with anxiety, though you need to research them carefully to make sure their approach agrees with yours.
posted by praemunire at 7:21 PM on May 31

We know in humans that one of the causes of depression and anxiety is just brain chemistry, and I can't see why this can't be the case in dogs as well.

Yes, worth a try!
posted by freethefeet at 7:27 PM on May 31

I had a dog that needed doggie Prozac. It really helped. No more shame in that than humans needing psychiatric meds. Or any other kind of meds for that matter.

Go for it!
posted by Neekee at 7:39 PM on May 31

Kitty Prozac really turned a friend’s awful cat situation into a completely manageable cat situation. It is okay to ask for help, it is okay to be frustrated and feeling at the end of your rope; you are trying to do what is best for a scared animal there are zero reasons not to ask your vet about this. Hugs to you and I hope your dog benefits.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:01 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]

My dog is on prozac and it changed our lives. Don't hesitate.
posted by juniperesque at 8:09 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]

My dog would wake up from a sound sleep biting and growling, drawing blood. Starting from a week on Prozac she wakes up, barks and mouths a little but can be calmed right down and starts cuddling for comfort. It’s been just about a year now, +100 to Prozac, I sometimes wonder whether I could have kept my dog without it. We tried trazodone PRN before that but it’s very hard to use an as-needed medication with an animal who is afraid of basically everything and can’t explain herself. Happy to chat more by MeMail.
posted by assenav at 8:19 PM on May 31

Should add: our vet recommended not even trying behaviorist or training until she was calmed enough by meds to be able to tolerate more stimulus outside of our immediate family.
posted by assenav at 8:21 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]

My very nervous rescue dog has thrived on Prozac for the past few years. He still has some anxiety, and he is VERY shy with new people, but it has completely transformed his destruction and allowed him to tolerate men.

Before Prozac he would destroy the house if he were left alone. If a stranger came into the house he would hide and growl. He would become so frightened at times he would lose control of his bowels and, well, you get the idea.

Now the destruction has all but stopped. At times he hides in his cage when people come over, but he is quicker to leave and warm up to them. And he hasn't soaked the entire upstairs of the house in diarrhea in several years, hooray!

Please try it! It's cheap and you will both be so much happier if it works.
posted by Amy93 at 8:58 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]

Definitely worth asking your vet about exploring your options. Meds work well for many dogs.

If there's one available in your area, you could also consider consulting with a board-certified veterinary behaviourist (the dog equivalent of talking to a psychiatrist rather than a GP). They're not cheap, unfortunately, but sometimes that level of expertise is needed. (To be clear, this is a vet specializing in animal behaviour, who can prescribe meds, not one of the random trainers calling themselves behaviourists)
posted by randomnity at 9:05 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]

The Adaptil pheromone collar works wonders on my otherwise extremely anxious rescue dog. ( Also getting enough exercise.)
posted by aniola at 10:35 PM on May 31

My dog is on doggie Prozac. It works amazingly when I am able to make sure he takes pills twice a day. When I am not, the benefit is much lower but that is literally the only thing keeping it from being totally life changing.
posted by corb at 1:38 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in, don’t hesitate to try meds. We eventually had to give up a rescue dog due to anxiety issues but if we hadn’t tried the Prozac,a) I would have always wondered if we had tried everything and b) we wouldn’t have been able to continue to foster him the amount of time required to find him a better forever home. Prozac didn’t ‘cure’ him but it was so so so helpful in making him more ok. And so much props to you, I totally know what you’re saying about being in a prison - take care of yourself!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 4:44 AM on June 1

Like many above, Prozac was literally life changing for our dog. We did a ton of training as well, and still do (it's always a work in progress), but the Prozac allowed us to do exactly what you were talking about-- giving our dog space for the training to work. I'm so glad we have it.
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 4:44 AM on June 1

She goes into a panic, and it's like she can't take in or process anything. I feel like if I can't get her to downshift even a little, all the strategies in the world won't work.

This sounds like an excellent use-case for anxiety medication. Our dog went through something similar, and a course of medication really helped.
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:46 AM on June 1

Meds definitely helped our rescue dog. We were actually given two kinds (can't remember the names at the moment) - one was longer lasting and meant for long-term behavioral changes, and the other was for acute anxiety situations so we could do things like get her in the car. She transitioned from a situation that sounds similar to yours to a pretty well socialized dog; she's never going to run up to a stranger wagging her tail, but we can leave her with friends or at a boarding facility, and she'll come hang out with friends when they visit if no one's being too rowdy.

Our regular vet has a working relationship with the Tufts veterinary school, so all of this was handled through their animal behavior department. If you can find someone with behavioral experience, I think it was very worthwhile. The cost of the behavioral vet included the meds and six months of follow-up phone interviews. I think she was ultimately on the meds for about a year.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:47 AM on June 1

I have an anxious dog. Runs from people. Doesn't like noises outside. Doesn't even really like being outside. It was like this for years.

I took him for a psych evaluation and they prescribed anxiety meds. I'm not going to say he's a completely different dog, but he's a lot better. He doesn't run from people, he eats amazingly (apparently my struggles with getting him to eat were due to anxiety? Who knew) and he can go outside and even sniff a little!

If you have the financial resources I highly recommend getting a proper behavioral/psych eval of your pup. Mine lasted about 2.5 hours and cost about $400 but it was well, well worth it.

Anxiety is real. It's a struggle. It can be helped. Don't give up!
posted by Automocar at 6:29 AM on June 1

This may also interest you.
posted by aniola at 11:12 AM on June 1

My friend, those of us with "Open-Box Dogs" will never shame you. My own used dog is also showing behaviors we don't like, and we're having the same discussion about maybe CBD. (Of course, he goes WILD at the vet, so that's maybe going to be a phone consult...)

Good luck, and bless you for giving this beast a chance at a good life. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:09 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

I know two poodles on dog Prozac. They seem definitely the better for it. Why not try it out for a few months? If you don't like the effect on her, you can try a lower dose or stop. It doesn't hurt anything to try.
posted by amaire at 1:11 PM on June 2

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