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Drugs For Moody Mutts June 3, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Animals, Dogs, Drugs, Psychology and Behavior, Think About It.


If you didn’t already know, dogs sometimes need drugs too – just like us humans. In fact, a new drug has just been approved for dogs. It’s an antidepressant called Reconcile. If you’re not familiar with antidepressants for humans, these are drugs that work for conditions like depression or severe mood swings. Pills for a sad pooch? It seems a little far fetched but it’s true.

The drug itself is called fluoxetine and Reconcile is just the brand name that it’s sold under. You might have even heard of another brand name drug for treating depression in us humans – it’s called Prozac. Fluoxetine is the active drug in Prozac as well.

Off-Label Use

If you already know about a friend with an antidepressant-treated dog, you might be wondering: What is Miss Weird Scientist talking about? It’s not a new drug! This all comes down to something called off-label use, which veterinarians and our own doctors can and often do. Basically, a drug gets approved for one or more different health conditions. A vet can, however, still prescribe it for a condition other than the one it was approved for initially. It’s a legal practice although not everyone agrees with it and not all doctors or vets will practice it. The approval of Reconcile to be used specifically for dogs with behavioral problems means that it will get prescribed more often. So even though vets have been prescribing dogs antidepressants made to treat human depression for years, they now get to give specially dosed and yummy flavored treats to your family pet.

Um Ok..So How Does It Work?

The whole idea behind Reconcile is that it treats behavioral problems in dogs. Dogs (and humans too) have neurotransmitters in the brain that release chemicals like serotonin to keep our moods stable and also regulate things like appetite and sleep. Antidepressants are thought to correct abnormal brain chemistry and so they alter how these chemicals are regulated. This means that if a dog seems shy, nervous, aggressive or barks a lot – basically what we call antisocial behavior – he or she would probably be a candidate for Reconcile.

Having Loads Of Options

While options are good, it’s even better if they include non-drug ones too! The thing that really ruffles my feathers is I can see the potential for lots of owners who don’t look after their dogs to just stuff their hounds with drugs when the problem itself is easily corrected without pills. How about taking your dog for regular walks and fresh air? Maybe cuddles and kindness each day as well? For those who love and care for their pets but still find that there are issues, Reconcile may then be appropriate.

I will admit that dogs can get depressed, although it’s not the same as depression in humans. Perhaps a small percentage of these dogs will benefit from Reconcile. But there definitely needs to be a strict set of standards to actually assess whether your furry friend needs an antidepressant and other non-drug stuff should be tried first to treat behavioral problems.

I’ve thrown in a rather sad picture of my dog. He’s actually really happy and I think he’s just pouting so I can give him a few of his favorite liver treats. At least his treat will be real food and not the beef flavored antidepressant Reconcile.

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1. kelsey - November 14, 2007

good artical i am writting a report for science an dthis caught my eye!! so thanks for the info!!

2. Miss Weird Scientist - November 15, 2007

Kelsey: Thanks. I’m glad it was useful! I wish you all the best with your science report. :)

3. mskristin - June 17, 2009

You’ve apparently never lived with a dog with separation anxiety! It is heartbreaking. I could hike with my dog for 5 hours then go to leave him home for a quick trip to the store and he’ll still FREAK OUT when I leave, even if I just put shoes on to leave, & then bark & poo after I leave. Sure, the drug will get abused by people too lazy to properly care for their dogs, just like people abuse other pharmaceuticals. But, after living for 2 years with a dog with severe separation anxiety that is not mitigated by proper attention and exercise, I’m hoping this drug is something that can relieve this huge stress on my dog & my family.

4. Miss Weird Scientist - June 17, 2009

Ms Kristin: Yep, I can appreciate that it’s really exhausting and difficult to handle a dog that has separation anxiety. I can also see how this drug might offer hope as well. But, my opinion is that Reconcile should come after all other non-drug options have been considered where appropriate.

I really hope your dog (and yourself/family) get relief!

5. Caroline - March 14, 2010

The vet prescribed Reconcile to my dog because she also has severe separation anxiety. We’ve tried the training and she goes on 30 minutes walks daily (she’s a small terrier mix and tires quickly). On the weekends, we generally walk her for over 1 hour.

It is awful when we have to leave her alone. She chews everything she can get to, pees, poos everywhere, barks and cries. I really didn’t want to give her the drug, but training alone will not work with her, unfortunately.

She is a shelter dog and has been abandoned and abused before, maybe that’s where she got the trauma. Idk… But I’m hoping the drug works, otherwise I will have to be on the Dog Whisperer show soon.

6. Miss Weird Scientist - March 15, 2010

Caroline, I can see that the drug has given you some hope. I imagine it’s very difficult knowing your dog is so unhappy when you have to leave. It’s good to see you care about her so much and have tried other options. I think you are a wonderful example of an owner who has done her best with non-drug options and is using Reconcile as a last resort. Keep me posted on your dog’s progress!

7. Mr.Science - March 16, 2010

My dog Nellie is a bordicallie and she is very sensitive to storms in fact she will follow me into the bathroom. Once my nana was taking a shower ans my dog hopped in! We brought her to the vet and the vet procribed my dog Benidrill! My nana is very sensitive to dogs rights and a very serious Vegitarian and stuff like that so she refused to give Nellie and medicine as she thought Nellie would get over it someday.

P.S. till this day nellie is terribly frightend by storms.

8. Miss Weird Scientist - March 18, 2010

Tiko isn’t a fan of storms either! Yep, it isn’t easy deciding whether to give your dog medications or not. But sometimes, they do help.

9. Walt - August 17, 2011

Great stuff, just simply amazing!

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