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Veterinarians began prescribing the antidepressant fluoxetine – sold under the brand name Prozac for humans – for stressed pets after the drug was approved in Ireland for dogs.
It is sold as a Reconcile and is used to treat dogs who are feeling blue or who miss their owners so much that they injure or cause harm to themselves to the property of their owner.
The drug’s approval is welcome news for veterinarians and pet owners who see an increase in mental health issues during the lockdown.
The veterinarian Dr. Claire Corridan said she worked with customers whose dogs cause thousands of eUro’s worth of damage to their homes as they attempt to claw their way back to reunite with their owner.
“Reconcile is best known as Prozac, so this is a drug that has been around for a long time in human psychiatry,” she said.
“It’s brand new here and has been licensed in the last few weeks, even though it’s been licensed worldwide for a long time.”
She described it as a “mood modifier” and said it was used to “stabilize the animal’s mood, increase serotonin, and reduce cortisol, which is their stress hormone”.
Dr. Corridan, who is based in Limerick, said veterinarians are seeing a Separation anxiety increases in pets when owners leave home for even short periods of time as restrictions have been eased since lockdown.
Describing the two main symptoms of a stressed animal, she said that some pets become anxious, “hyper-vigilant, looking for their owner, walking between doors and windows and getting restless” while others become visibly depressed, refusing to eat or use toys play and show a complete disinterest in anything other than their owner as soon as they return.
Dr. Corridan regularly asks customers to film their dogs’ behavior to assess the level of fear.
“I’ve seen footage and photos of human houses with thousands of eUro worth of damage caused by animals trying to get to them. It usually focuses on the windows and door frames, ”she said.
Dr. Corridan said dogs can also harm themselves if they have no other option to deal with their distress.
“They start licking and chewing the skin, and that releases endorphins that help them feel better. It is synonymous with a person pulling their hair or injuring or damaging their skin. “
In the past, veterinarians here could only prescribe dogs the human version of Prozac and found it difficult to get them to swallow the drug because of the taste.
Higher doses for human treatment also meant the tablet had to be disassembled and ground into food.
It got stronger on that pet mental health since the pandemic, but Dr Corridan said it is important that the mood-altering drugs are only used as a short-term solution to encouraging the dog to behave healthier, rather than as a “quick fix”.
“The most important thing is that medication alone won’t solve the problem,” she said, adding that veterinarians should only use treatment in conjunction with behavior change.
“If an animal is physiologically stressed when an owner leaves the house, it is sometimes just so stressed that retraining is impossible because it cannot concentrate for a long time, just like a person who suffers from depression, that is Medication. ”Can help reduce her stress levels and improve her mood enough that we can work to retrain her.
“Ultimately, we train these animals to cope with the time they spend alone, so we use medication on their side Own is not a quick solution. “
DR Corridan said it takes time and perseverance from the owner to get his dogs back to a place where they can feel happy and safe in their own company.
“I often encourage people to think about filling their dog’s life with positive things like toys, tennis balls, shoes, or feeding their meals with food dispensers, or even going on a treasure hunt in the garden that they can enjoy when the owner isn’t there is, “she said.