Severe Anxiety

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Severe Anxiety

Postby TrainTrax » Sun Jun 02, 2013 1:00 am

So, I caved and made an appointment for Honey to visit the vet on June 8th. Her anxieties have slowly progressed as she's gotten older into something that makes dealing with her a near impossibility. Just as a bit of background of Honey: I got her from a local shelter and she had some anxiety problems along with a general fear of men. The fear of men has waned over the years thanks to diligent work by me but her anxieties have only grown. It started as simple separation anxiety. Whining at the door for a few minutes if I left the room and that was it. While living in West Palm Beach, it progressed further. She would scratch and chew my door, drool and leave huge puddles. At one point, she managed to literally chew her way out of two metal crates in the span of a week. The first time she chewed her way out, I figured that the construction on the house next door had spooked her since she had always been fine in her kennel. Went out and bought a new kennel. She seemed fine with going in it, I didn't have to force her or coax her into the kennel. Told her to go into her room and she went straight into it. At work my cousin called me and told me that Honey had chewed her way out of the kennel and there was blood everywhere. Rushed home from work and took her to the vet. She had a hole in her damn lip. Needless to say, she hasn't been crated since then.

After moving back home, her anxieties seemed to subside a tad but these past few months have been almost miserable with her. It breaks my heart to know that the world suddenly is terrifying to her and I can't figure out why. Nothing about our lives have drastically changed. I'm working again but not long hours and not every day. And I've worked before while owning her and this level of anxiety is new. She is now at the point where she leaps, yes leaps, and throws herself against my bedroom door. She pants and drools to the point where I worry she might over heat herself (she gets super hot when she does it). And it's progressed so much further than just separation anxiety. If the back door bangs with the wind, there's imminent danger and she's panicking. If a truck backfires somewhere in the neighbors, we're under attack and she panics. If there's a thunderstorm, the house is about to be blown to smithereens and she panics. Hell, if the wind blows a tad too hard, there's a hurricane coming and she panics. I don't understand why the world is so terrifying to her. She just turned 5 in April and this is by far the worst she's been. She just doesn't seem to relax unless I'm with her.

Today, we moved my grandma and were gone for a bit of the day. Around 7-8 hours. They had been let out for potty just before we left and had eaten hours before hand. She pooped and peed before we left, so I know that wasn't the problem. However, while moving my grandma and nasty thunderstorm bared down on us, so I know the thunderstorm hit where I live. And I came home to this:

Image


She paced for about twenty minutes after I got home before snuggling into her little hide away in my closet and falling peacefully asleep. She has never been that destructive before. Now, she's never been reprimanded or anything when she panics. Even with that destruction, she didn't get screamed at or punished. I cleaned it up and went about my day. I don't want to correct her for anxiety because I know it isn't her fault. It wouldn't be fair to do that.

Am I the only one with a dog who's anxiety levels are like...off the damn charts? She has a vet appointment for June 8th to discuss medication options. I hate medicating my dog but I don't see any alternative to it. She's been on prescribed medications but it honestly didn't really do anything to help her anxiety. Does anyone have suggestions on what to try or what's helped your dog? The only thing that seems to level her out anymore is having me holding her and being in the room with her. That isn't feasible since I have to work.

Here's what she's been on or things I've tried:

Clomipramine (prescribed)
Melatonin regime (help her level out and relax. lolnope)
Happy Traveler (natural anti-anxiety supplement that made Honey lol)
Calming Treats (She lol'd again)
Benedryl to make her tired when she panics (fights right through it)
Thundershirt (She acted like it was an anxiety cape and it actually made her worse)
She has numerous spots throughout the house for when the world is coming to an end. (They help sometimes but it really depends on her level of anxiety.)
There's been a couple of other things I've tried but they escape me.


I don't want to dope her up on medications or have her be just a lump on the couch because of her medicine. I want her to have a good quality of life because as it stands her quality isn't the greatest. She spends a good 70-80% of her day panicking or having a meltdown because I'm not home. I want her present with me in life because she's my world.

Ugh. Dogs.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby TrainTrax » Sun Jun 02, 2013 1:31 am

I should also mention that she won't eat unless I'm in the room with her. The only time she eats without me is when she's really hungry or having a really good day. Which is rare.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby Misskiwi67 » Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:11 pm

I think its time to see a behaviorist. If you are already on clomipramine, then adding behavioral modification with the oversight of a boarded veterinary behaviorist is your best bet. It sounds like you've done a fantastic job with some of her issues, but this one is a big one to tackle alone.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby Red » Thu Jun 13, 2013 1:53 am

TrainTrax wrote:I don't want to dope her up on medications or have her be just a lump on the couch because of her medicine. I want her to have a good quality of life because as it stands her quality isn't the greatest. She spends a good 70-80% of her day panicking or having a meltdown because I'm not home. I want her present with me in life because she's my world.


My question is, every time people who have dogs with severe anxiety or serious behaviors that hinder the quality of life and oppose to medications....why? Why is that such an issue, if and when medications can potentially help? Let's look at your math for a moment. 70-80% of her time spent panicking is hard, really hard on the dog. We should not watch our companion animals live under chronic stress, when we can at least try something. That something is not just a magic pill (there are no magic pills) but behavior modification, management of environments etc. These things go together but, often, medications can take the edge off and can allow the animal to benefit from behavior changes protocols or just take a deserved break. I can see that you have done far more than the average dog owner would, much kudos to you, seriously. Take another step and try something else. You might not see all that you hope for, but to try given the circumstances is not wrong of you.

There are a lot of different meds on the market, and finding a knowledgeable veterinary behaviorist that can help you make good choices is gold. Where are you located? If no veterinary behaviorist is available then you might have to ask around and find a vet that has at least a bit of understanding of behavior and phobias , and appropriate meds. Unfortunately, that is like finding a needle in the haystack.Avoid the vet that sends you home with Acepromazine, please.

Dogs should not be a "lump on the couch" when on meds, that is not what should happen at all.If it does happen, the wrong medications or dosage are used. A lot of it is about trials, changes in dosage or meds and see what works for that animal. Sometime a combination of two meds is what helps. It takes diligent work from the owner, and vet, to keep track of what happens and change things accordingly. For example, if you are going to be suggested a panicolytic before an incoming storm, you should do a trial on baseline dosage for a week, to see what the effect is for that dosage without heavy triggering stimuli, and go from there. The storm hitting your house is not the time to try dosages and new meds, which happens all too often. Some dogs have a less than ideal response to benzodiazepines like Alprazolam (Xanax) , or other meds, that include increase of heart rates, vigilance, dilated pupils and hyperactivity.You see why to "try" the dog in the middle of a storm or situations that causes panic is not productive at all.

I know very well how hard it is to live and deal with such behavioral problems in dogs, as I have one. I say this just so that you don't think my post comes out of my rear end without any knowledge or empathy. Keeping that dog with me has always been about the quality of life he could have and I could provide, which included a period of meds at some point (Prozac), some years back.Not fond of meds if they are not necessary either.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby jamielvsaustin » Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:56 am

I know it's scary (the idea of meds)...and mostly I don't like to medicate dogs...but in this case, I agree with Red. Maybe you could PM BabyReba, I'm pretty sure she's gone through some diffrent types of medicines with one her dogs.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby BabyReba » Thu Jun 13, 2013 10:36 am

Hey, I'm a little busy today but I have lots of experience here. I have a medicated dog, and he's definitely not a lump on a couch. He's still a ball-obsessed nutball who will play all day. The difference is that he can now relax enough to play and enjoy his life with much less stress. More details and info when my day calms down.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby BabyReba » Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:30 pm

So here's my experience with dogs, anxieties and medication ... Button's had issues since we got him, but they became severe -- to the point that I was considering euthanasia -- about 2.5 years ago. We had "tried" various things, with varying small degrees of success ... a DAP diffuser, a Thundershirt, accupuncture, Benedryl, Happy Traveler, behavior modification always coupled with everything, and we'd even dabbled with a couple of drugs with the help of our regular vet, but nothing was ever quite enough to make a big or lasting difference. I finally decided to make one more last-ditch effort with a veterinary behaviorist, and I realized after meeting with her that though we had dabbled in some anti-anxiety meds, there were lots of things we could try that we hadn't considered at all yet, and the vet explained all of the steps we would go through -- medication, adjusting dosages incrementally, plus behavior modification -- to try to make some changes in Button's (and my) quality of life.

I have some videos that I showed to the vet to show her the severity of what we were dealing with, but the problem was (and always has been) that he's never bad all the time ... his issues can be situational and they don't present when I want/need them to, so we talked about the percentage of his time spent being afraid/unhappy vs. being normal/joyful/happy ... and I realized as we were talking that his world had shrunk significantly over time. He was constantly worried, and I was constantly worried about him as a result. Though I wasn't really psyched at first about having to rely on drugs to regulate him, it became obvious to me that we didn't have a lot to lose ... worst case scenario, we'd try some drugs and they might not work or we might not like them and we'd take him off them. Best case scenario, he gets some of his life and happiness back. Some things we tried did not work well for him, and a couple of things made him worse, but then we found that a straight-up, old-fashioned dose of Prozac coupled with behavior modification (that will be something we always work on), some management (again, we'll always be working on management with him) and lots of exercise and mental stimulation can make a huge difference for him. He recently had some serious setbacks that I thought were going to mean that we had hit the end of our rope, but with the help of my vet (and the guidance/notes from Dr. JD) we are back to almost baseline normal for him.

But the end result? My dog is a happier dog, and I'm happier because I can relax with him and enjoy him. Button is not a zombie and he's not lazy and he's not drugged up ... he's medicated to make life easier for him and for us, and while I know using psychoactive drugs on dogs is not a good fit for all situations, I hate to see people rule it out when it could be a viable option for them. It still takes work to help your dog cope with the things that cause stress/anxiety/fear, and (as Red mentioned) there is no magic pill that will fix your dog. Button still has some issues, the meds just make it easier to work with him on those issues.

Button is still on -- and I'm certain he will be on for the rest of his life -- a pretty significant dose of Prozac. People who meet him don't have any idea that he's on any kind of medication, and some of my friends really have no idea that he's not pretty much normal. I have a few friends who say he is their favorite of my 3 boys

Here's a short Vine video of Button from last week. This is what he likes to do best:

https://vine.co/v/bLnTWUV6qUK?fb_action_ids=10151486304556943&fb_action_types=vine-app%3Apost&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby tiva » Sat Jun 15, 2013 12:59 pm

Dogs, like people, can have all sorts of chemical imbalances that make meds a great option. Meds absolutely don't need to turn a dog into a zombie, drugged out lump on a couch.

I started trying herbs and OTC meds, which was a huge mistake. APrescription meds are far, far better regulated than over the counter concoctions, which have zero regulatory oversight. Who knows what's really in that over the counter bottle of herbs? Often enough, it's mercury or lead, not the herb that's supposed to be in there. Pharmaceuticals have their issues, but at least you know exactly what's in the bottle.

My Vanya has been on fluoxetine (ie, prozac--$4/month generic) for 5 years, and it helps him enormously with his anxieties. It gives all the behavioral modification and training a chance to work. When Tiva started getting senile, we put her on it too, and it has also been enormously helpful for her. Basically, it's given her a few more months of happy life.

Why let a dog suffer because of our fears of medication? They aren't afraid of meds, and being open minded can help heal their suffering.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby TrainTrax » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:48 pm

Didn't even see all these responses! But here's what's happening with Honey now.

The original vet appointment I had to cancel because I called into work early. I, of course, rescheduled it but ended up whisking her off to the vet on Saturday because of what she did Friday. On Friday, she managed to chew through the wire that provides power to my room. She chewed about a foot section of it off. Honey is really very lucky that she didn't shock herself and start a house fire. The shock would have likely killed her. I felt devastated and felt completely at a loss. Her anxiety had reached the point where she was going to severely hurt or kill herself. The damage to the house can be fixed. That is not even a factor in any decision I made or would make about Honey. Everything can be fixed and replaced. Honey can't be replaced. She's my first priority in life. Given that, I went into the vets office feeling as though I had no choices left for her. It was either Prozac (or any SSRI) or I had to put her to sleep. Now, I understand the flack I might receive for that kind of statement but I assure you it came from a place of what could be best for Honey. Yes, it would make my life easier. Yes, I could fix the power and wall and not worry about it happening again. I could leave my house and not have my own mild panic attack worrying about her. But I would be devastated. My heart would be completely crushed. She is my life. I can't imagine living without her. I've never had such an intense bond with a dog before and I factor that a lot to the things we've been. Both with life and her anxieties. I sobbed throughout Friday night, on the way to the vets office, in the waiting room and with the vet. I was a mess. Putting a dog to sleep for anxiety has never really been something that I would see myself doing but I didn't see many option left. To put it simply, when I leave the house, Honey has a complete and utter panic attack. The vet explained it as having the one person in life that makes you feel completely safe being ripped away every single day.

Honey was not put to sleep. The vet that I spoke with has a dog very much like Honey and explained that there was a couple of medication choices. She completely explained that the medications wouldn't make her a zombie or just a sedated mess. Touching on what Red said, I'm not sure why I thought Honey would have been a lump on the couch. I suppose I could attribute that to the fact that you always hear about people on SSRI's and other anti-anxiety or anti-depressants describing themselves on zombies. I was under the impression that Honey would be a zombie or a dog that still panicked but was just sedated. That's apparently far from the case. We are on day two of Prozac and the changes have been subtle. She's also on a small dosage of melatonin to help keep her calm until the Prozac takes full affect. I've noticed that she still wants to be near me but in the intense way that I'm use too. She isn't panting or drooling nearly as much and just seems chilled out. Relaxed. I noticed that she is peeing a bit more frequently but talked to a vet tech friend of mine and that seems to be a side effect of Prozac. Not a terribly common on but a side effect. If it doesn't let up in a couple of weeks, I'm going to have her checked for a UTI. I doubt she has one as there isn't blood in her urine, she isn't straining and it started today. But to be on the safe side, I'll have it checked. We're doing one Prozac a day until her anxieties completely seem to dissipate. After that, we cycle through one more prescription of Prozac before weaning her off of it for two months. If her anxieties returned, back on the Prozac we go. I have a feeling she will just be a Prozac dog for the rest of her life but maybe not.

And the behaviorist. I spoke with a couple of them and explained my situation, showed them the pictures of damage to my room. Basically, the gist of what I was told, was that during desensitizing her, she couldn't be left alone for an extended amount of time. Unfortunately, that isn't an option. I have to work. And of course I'm gone for hours on end (never more than seven hours). I was also suggested taking her to a dog day care. But she's dog reactive and most dog day cares around here won't take pit bulls. There's also the fact that I'm not a fan of dog day cares. And Honey has proven that regardless of who is with her, she doesn't relax. Even when someone is home with her, she paces, pants, drools and whines. If she's in my room, she does all those things and leaps up, throwing herself against the door. She even does that while alone in the house. My mom has come home and found my bedroom nearly shoved to the opposite side of the door. It took my brother throwing himself against the door to correct it. So here is the game plan that has been come up with. I'm going to work with Honey as much as I possibly can while working. My trips away from the home will be limited from 20-40 minutes while I'm not working. On the days that I work, it was suggested that I get up pretty early (I already do) and fake leave the house a couple of times. Gather all my belongings for work and walk outside, start the car and drive around the block. Come back home, put my things down and continue about my mornings. No excitement or acknowledgement of anything. Just going about business. The time will become longer the more relaxed she becomes. All of this will be done while on the Prozac. It would be impossible without it. Honey and I have a loooooong road ahead of us but I'm glad she's here to walk it with me. It won't be easy, nothing with this dog ever is, but the small baby steps we'll take will be that much more rewarding because of it.

I'm gonna go through and read all the posts and answer whatever questions may not have been answered. Also, thank you guys soooooo much for the advice! I truly do appreciate it and it's nice to know that I'm not stuck in this boat alone. And Red, I never think you're talking out of your ass. I know you are one of the few people on this forum that could give solid advice about this kind of situation.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby TrainTrax » Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:05 pm

Red wrote:There are a lot of different meds on the market, and finding a knowledgeable veterinary behaviorist that can help you make good choices is gold. Where are you located? If no veterinary behaviorist is available then you might have to ask around and find a vet that has at least a bit of understanding of behavior and phobias , and appropriate meds. Unfortunately, that is like finding a needle in the haystack.Avoid the vet that sends you home with Acepromazine, please.


My vet is actually pretty well versed in phobias and anxiety disorders in dogs. Her dog is very much like Honey, as I came to find out. She was exceptionally knowledgeable about the medications I've had Honey on previously and what I needed for her now. She listened to all my concerns about the medication and all my concerns about Honey in general. She did very well in explaining to me what to expect from Honey with the Prozac and made it clear that it wasn't a miracle pill. I didn't expect it to be but it helped me realized that if Honey has a set back one day or the Prozac doesn't work quickly enough, that I don't give up. A few days before Honey is due to finish this prescription (a month), we are to go back and evaluate the situation. If dosage needs to be changed then we can do it but if it stays the same, we stay the course. In short, she was awesome and helped me feel at ease about the situation. Well, about at ease as I could feel.

Dogs should not be a "lump on the couch" when on meds, that is not what should happen at all.If it does happen, the wrong medications or dosage are used. A lot of it is about trials, changes in dosage or meds and see what works for that animal. Sometime a combination of two meds is what helps. It takes diligent work from the owner, and vet, to keep track of what happens and change things accordingly. For example, if you are going to be suggested a panicolytic before an incoming storm, you should do a trial on baseline dosage for a week, to see what the effect is for that dosage without heavy triggering stimuli, and go from there. The storm hitting your house is not the time to try dosages and new meds, which happens all too often. Some dogs have a less than ideal response to benzodiazepines like Alprazolam (Xanax) , or other meds, that include increase of heart rates, vigilance, dilated pupils and hyperactivity.You see why to "try" the dog in the middle of a storm or situations that causes panic is not productive at all.


I actually didn't even bring up her storm phobia with the vet. It completely slipped my mind that morning. At the time, her separation anxiety was the biggest issue to tackle. But I think with the Prozac, she should be able to weather the storms without too much of a problem. However, I will likely give her a melatonin in the morning if I know we're due in for storms. If that doesn't seem to work then the vet and I can evaluate it and see what she needs to be on.

Again, thanks a ton for the advice. I really appreciate it. It helps a lot to hear from people who have ridden in the same boat as I, along the same chocolate river with their dogs lol.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby TrainTrax » Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:23 pm

BabyReba wrote:So here's my experience with dogs, anxieties and medication ... Button's had issues since we got him, but they became severe -- to the point that I was considering euthanasia -- about 2.5 years ago. We had "tried" various things, with varying small degrees of success ... a DAP diffuser, a Thundershirt, accupuncture, Benedryl, Happy Traveler, behavior modification always coupled with everything, and we'd even dabbled with a couple of drugs with the help of our regular vet, but nothing was ever quite enough to make a big or lasting difference. I finally decided to make one more last-ditch effort with a veterinary behaviorist, and I realized after meeting with her that though we had dabbled in some anti-anxiety meds, there were lots of things we could try that we hadn't considered at all yet, and the vet explained all of the steps we would go through -- medication, adjusting dosages incrementally, plus behavior modification -- to try to make some changes in Button's (and my) quality of life.


That was basically where I was at this weekend. I had to consider the possibility of putting her to sleep. It was horrible. But this paragraph reads so much of like what I've tried with Honey. The medications and the "natural" things. None with any results. I've always tried the behavior modification but it never seemed to help because the drugs weren't helping enough. But now we have a set in place plan. Our vet is awesome and the behaviorists I spoke with have helped with advice.


But the end result? My dog is a happier dog, and I'm happier because I can relax with him and enjoy him. Button is not a zombie and he's not lazy and he's not drugged up ... he's medicated to make life easier for him and for us, and while I know using psychoactive drugs on dogs is not a good fit for all situations, I hate to see people rule it out when it could be a viable option for them. It still takes work to help your dog cope with the things that cause stress/anxiety/fear, and (as Red mentioned) there is no magic pill that will fix your dog. Button still has some issues, the meds just make it easier to work with him on those issues.


This makes me feel a lot more comfortable with the thought of having Honey on Prozac for pretty much her whole life. I'm not going to joke with myself and say that Prozac won't be a lifetime thing, I am fairly convinced it will be. But knowing that a dog who sounds like he was in the same situation as Honey, is thriving makes me feel kinda okay about the medication. I'm still not thrilled, I think because it partly makes me feel like a failure. I've always been very hands on with my dogs. And knowing that I have to rely on a drug to help "fix" Honey makes me feel like I didn't do enough when she was younger. I'm sure that'll pass in time when I see the progress we make.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby Red » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:51 am

TrainTrax wrote: We're doing one Prozac a day until her anxieties completely seem to dissipate. After that, we cycle through one more prescription of Prozac before weaning her off of it for two months. If her anxieties returned, back on the Prozac we go. I have a feeling she will just be a Prozac dog for the rest of her life but maybe not.


Be careful with the on and off thingy. If she does well on it, a maintenance dosage might be best for her. Did your vet warn you about the use of other medications or over the counter supplements when on Prozac? You mentioned she is on a lower dosage of Melatonin but I'd stay away from that too, since you started her on Prozac. Is she on Tramadol for anything?

Hope that things get better for your pup. She is lucky she has an owner like you, very lucky.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby TrainTrax » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:13 am

Be careful with the on and off thingy. If she does well on it, a maintenance dosage might be best for her. Did your vet warn you about the use of other medications or over the counter supplements when on Prozac? You mentioned she is on a lower dosage of Melatonin but I'd stay away from that too, since you started her on Prozac. Is she on Tramadol for anything?

Hope that things get better for your pup. She is lucky she has an owner like you, very lucky.



I'll talk to the vet about just continuing with a maintenance dose. The vet did want to try weaning her off, at least once. See if with the behavior modification and the Prozac would make it possible for her to be weaned off for good. I don't think it's possible, I'm quite sure she'll be on Prozac for the rest of her life.

And yes, we talked about the over the counter supplements and other prescriptions. Honey isn't on other medications and doesn't get Tramadol. She had specifically asked me about Tramadol as she knows we have it in the house (my mothers dog get a daily dosage for hip dysplasia) but she doesn't get any of it. The vet said that the mild dosage of Melatonin for a week while on the Prozac should be fine. It was more to keep Honey relaxed and to keep her from doing anymore damage to the wall or herself until the Prozac took total affect. She's being weaned off the Melatonin starting today.

But overall, she's doing incredibly well and I'm quite pleased with the results.

And thank you. She makes me want to rip my hair out sometimes. I can't even imagine was the typical dog owner would want to do lol. My mom has always said that when I went to the shelter looking for a dog, something was watching over Honey. I went in there looking for an older dog with a friendly and stable temperament. I ended up leaving with a four month old, emotionally shut down and anxious puppy. She's tested my sanity numerous times but I love her.
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Re: Severe Anxiety

Postby tiva » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:33 pm

I'm very glad that you've started her on fluoxetine, and that your vet seems knowledgeable. If fluoxetine doesn't work at first, there are all sorts of things to try: adjusting the dosage, changing the timing, trying one of the other good drugs available for anxiety. So don't despair! And don't worry about having your dog on a drug for life. There's no shame attached to it. I've been on my share of SSRIs, and I never felt like a zombie or drugged--I felt like I was able to start the healing process. I hope your dog feels the same, and you too!
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