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If your dog has separation anxiety, your veterinarian may suggest the use of medication as he is undergoing a retraining program. While it might be amusing to think of your dog taking Prozac, these drugs can make life so much better for anxious dogs, and their owners!
Behavior modifying drugs for dogs all work in a similar manner. They increase the amount of serotonin in their brain. Serotonin is often called the “feel good” chemical because it is creates a feeling of well being, reduces anxiety and causes a general improvement in mood.
In your dog’s brain, and in ours, serotonin is involved in transmitting messages between nerve cells. It is produced by a nerve cell and when it attaches to a neighboring nerve cell, it communicates a signal between cells. It is then released by the second cell, to be picked up again by the first cell for reuse – It’s a well organized recycling system.
Drugs such as Prozac and Clomicalm work by preventing the first cell taking up the serotonin, so more remains to be reused by adjacent cells.
These drugs are very safe to use. There is a small chance of side effects, but they’re uncommon, and rarely severe. Many dogs develop a mild upset stomach and nausea when they first start the medication, but this soon passes. Some dogs can have skin rashes and irregular heart beats when they are taking this type of medication.
You can have too much of a good thing. Excess serotonin can result in “serotonin syndrome” – depression, twitchy muscles and a rapid heart rate. It’s more common if your dog is being treated with more than one drug that increases brain serotonin. Fortunately , it’s easy to treat; your veterinarian will reduce or even stop the medication, and treat your dog with intravenous fluids and drugs to relax his muscles until he has recovered.
In Summary – These drugs aren’t designed to be a sole treatment for managing separation anxiety; they are just one part of a whole treatment plan which includes a structured training program under the supervision of a veterinary behaviorist.
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