The Side Effects of Fluoxetine for Dog Behavior Treatment

Fluoxetine, the generic anti-anxiety drug better known as Prozac, is increasingly being prescribed for behavior problems in dogs such as fear aggression and separation anxiety. However, there is some controversy involved since many dogs do not respond to medical treatment without behavior modification and some dogs experience dramatic side effects.

Use of Fluoxetine

Behavioral issues are one of the top reasons for euthanasia and owner surrender to rescue groups, so more attention is being paid to treatment of these issues. Fluoxetine is an antidepressant that increases serotonin levels in the brain. Fluoxetine is frequently used in the treatment of separation anxiety, aggression and obsessive-compulsive disorders in dogs. Paxil, or its generic paroxetine, is also used for treating behavior issues but is prescribed more for anxiety-related issues.

Behavioral medication is usually prescribed in conjunction with a behavior modification program. Often once anxiety or fear levels drop, dogs are more capable of learning skills to help them cope with the triggers to their anxiety. Because of this, fluoxetine is often prescribed for short-term use until the behavior modification program is showing progress. Other dogs might not be able to function without the drug and may take it indefinitely.

Usually, veterinarians will start your dog on a dosage much smaller than the dog needs and gradually increase. A sudden increase or decrease in the drug can cause severe behavior changes in your dog, so these must be done with caution. If you decide to discontinue use of fluoxetine, be sure to gradually decrease the usage. It usually takes six to eight weeks before the drug can be determined ineffective.

Side Effects of Fluoxetine

Fluoxetine is known to react with other drugs, so don't use it if your dog is on any medication classified as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (selegiline), diazepam, phenylbutazone, digoxine, buspirone, Preventic collar or Mitaban dip. Do not use on a dog with a history of seizures or liver or kidney trouble. Dogs on fluoxetine for long-term should have liver and kidney enzymes checked regularly as long-term use can cause damage.

The most common side effects of fluoxetine are lethary, change in appetite, weight changes, runny nose, dry mouth, drowsiness, weakness, sore throat, nausea or diarrhea. Behavioral side effects include anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, irritability, agitation, hostility, aggression, restlessness, hyperactivity, or increased depression. Since many of these are the problems fluoxetine is prescribed to decrease, medication may not be the answer for dogs who experience these symptoms. If your dog's problems seem to worsen during the first week, consult your veterinarian.

When large quantities are ingested, your dog may seizure. Other serious side effects that require a veterinarian visit are tremors, muscle twitching or stiffness, problems with balance or coordination, agitation, confusion, sweating or fast heartbeat. Your dog might also have an allergic reaction, which would cause skin rash or hives, difficulty breathing or swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat. If this happens, immediately discontinue usage.

Drug treatment can be an excellent tool in improving problem dog behaviors; however, it does come with its own set of risks. For greatest chance of success, pair medication with a behavior modification plan.