Pet Prozac? Extra pet house owners flip to anxiousness meds and CBD for Fido


Alicea Howell got here residence from trip to seek out that her 2-month outdated whippet pet, Coqui, dug by the underside of a door body and the encompassing drywall of her Traverse Metropolis residence in the course of the night time to strive to flee to the surface world. 

It bought worse from there after Coqui tried to tunnel by the ground. Howell mentioned he turned extraordinarily delicate to high-pitched feels like a scorching pan on the range, forcing her to take the canine on walks anytime somebody made a meal.

“We bought to the purpose the place if we tried to prepare dinner in our residence, the canine was going to have a coronary heart assault,” Howell informed Bridge Michigan. 


Howell, who has labored for the final 19 years as a veterinary technician and now canine coach in Traverse Metropolis, knew that these weren’t typical rising pains of a younger pet and took him to see a licensed veterinary behaviorist. Coqui was recognized with common anxiousness dysfunction and prescribed Effexor, a every day anti-anxiety remedy. 

Prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety remedy for pets is changing into a extra widespread therapy as veterinary behaviorists prescribe them to their sufferers extra regularly for behavioral points reasonably than counting on coaching solely, Michigan State College Animal Behaviorist Marie Hopfensperger informed Bridge. 

There isn’t state or nationwide information on pet anxiousness med prescriptions, however a 2017 examine carried out by market analysis agency Packaged Information discovered that 8 p.c of canine house owners and 6 p.c of cat house owners use pet remedy to deal with anxiousness or for calming functions. In keeping with the American Pet Merchandise Affiliation’s 2021 annual report, 70 p.c of U.S. households, or roughly 90.5 million houses, have a pet, suggesting the variety of pets on anxiousness meds is within the hundreds of thousands.

And use of tension meds for canines and cats possible has gone up since then, counsel veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists who spoke to Bridge Michigan.

Additionally on the rise: over-the-counter pet CBD, in liquid and chewable type. CBD is a chemical present in marijuana however doesn’t include any psychoactive properties related to pot.

A 2021 survey carried out by the Middle of Canine Research confirmed that 51 p.c of canine house owners that took the survey reported having given their canine CBD. A 2021 market survey estimated pet house owners within the U.S. would spend $629 million in 2021 on pet CBD merchandise, up 48 p.c from $426 million spent only a yr earlier. 

The Michigan legislature handed a regulation in 2020 permitting veterinarians in Michigan to speak with sufferers about CBD use for his or her pets. Dr. Kellie Holmstrom, proprietor of the Animal Medical Middle of Marquette, informed Bridge CBD has its place in “the toolbox of medicines” for pets, however house owners have to be cautious to purchase the proper form.

A 2017 examine carried out by College of Penn researchers confirmed that just about 70 p.c of all on-line CBD commercials displayed false quantities of CBD within the merchandise. The Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) can be cracking down on industrial CBD promoting, which just isn’t FDA-approved. Regardless of solely being accepted by the FDA to deal with epilepsy in youngsters, CBD has been authorized for industrial buy in Michigan since 2018. 

“I do not advise getting CBD from the pet retailer as a result of I do not assume you possibly can make sure that that remedy is correctly documented that what you are shopping for is what you think that you are shopping for. Purchase it by a vet clinic or a minimum of get one which has the seal that paperwork what they’ve (in it).”

Holmstrom mentioned that CBD needs to be used as a fast answer in conditions the place animals may expertise extra stress or anxiousness than regular, as an illustration, if a canine is territorial when somebody visits the home. She mentioned CBD is much less efficient in actually excessive stress conditions for animals just like the barrage of noisy fireworks on the 4th of July.

“I feel it relies on what the animal’s points are,” Holmstrom mentioned. “We’ll have an enormous downside right here on Monday due to all of the fireworks and CBD just isn’t going to resolve that downside.”

Hopfensperger mentioned there are fast-acting prescription medicines, like Alprazolam, the generic type of Xanax, to cope with remoted incidents of elevated anxiousness from a specific stressor like fireworks. The fast-acting remedy is extra sedative than every day anxiousness medicines, which Hopfensperger mentioned could be a optimistic “if the pet might simply relaxation by the fireworks reasonably than be panting and pacing.”

Hopfensperger mentioned there’s a larger understanding within the veterinary world of how the drugs impacts an animal’s mind than when she began as a behaviorist in 2010 which has led to extra veterinarians prescribing it for points comparable to separation anxiousness, noise phobia and uncontrollable aggression. 

“What we’re seeing is a pattern in direction of veterinarians being extra snug prescribing behavioral well being medicines,” Hopfensperger mentioned.

Prescriptions for behavior-modifying remedy don’t require actions as alarming as what Howell’s canine displayed, Hopfensperger mentioned. She mentioned signs of pet anxiousness may be proven by elevated accidents in the home, elevated aggression in direction of different pets or animals or a noticeable change in consuming habits amongst different indicators. She added that it’s more durable to diagnose despair in animals than people as a result of indicators of despair like apathy are exhausting to identify in comparison with anxiousness which has “outward-facing indicators” that may disrupt the household’s day-to-day life. 

Antidepressants and different behavior-modifying medicines had been launched into animal care within the early 2000s, Hopfensperger defined, since the patents on widespread antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication meant for people expired. The generic types of well-liked antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft had been cheaper than the model names. 

“Once they went off patent and have become cost-effective, we had been capable of embrace them within the veterinary world since purchasers are sometimes paying for his or her pets’ well being care with disposable revenue,” Hopfensperger mentioned. 

Howell mentioned that her canine’s month-to-month Effexor prescription refill prices beneath $20, whereas Fluoxetine, the generic type of Prozac, may be bought from on-line pet retailers like for as little as $9 with proof of a prescription. 

‘It’s not drugging, it’s medicating’

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist at Tufts College and director of the Middle of Canine Research, informed Bridge prescribed conduct remedy works in related methods in all mammal brains, which means that canines and cats that take a every day capsule for anxiousness or despair will expertise an almost an identical response within the mind as people. 

“Extra serotonin equals much less aggression,” Dodman defined, “Much less serotonin equals extra aggression, together with in people. In case your serotonin will get too low, you do the final word type of self-directed aggression — suicide. Serotonin is the linchpin.

“So if you happen to’ve bought a canine who possibly you’ve got tried coaching for a month or two or six and it is not going wherever and also you add a serotonin-enhancing drug like antidepressants, comparable to Prozac or Paxil or Zoloft, swiftly you possibly can see the aggression soften away,”

For Howell, the anti-anxiety remedy meant that her household might have home-cooked meals once more with out having to fret in regards to the canine freaking out.

“Due to the drugs, I might get the canine to just accept reinforcement, practice with me, play with me, take good issues to create a sense of ‘Look, it is actually, actually enjoyable when dad cooks as a result of mother interacts with you and performs with you and provides you cool stuff,’” Howell mentioned. “Now he truly sits within the kitchen simply ready and begging for meals as an alternative of attempting to get out of the home.”

Because the medication act related in pets as they do people, Dodman, the director of the Middle for Canine Research, doesn’t see any moral points with prescribing mood-altering remedy for pets regardless of them having no say within the matter. 

He in contrast the pet house owners’ choice to get prescribed temper remedy for pets to a guardian in search of remedy for his or her baby.

“It is completely moral,” Dodman mentioned, “It saves lives, makes animals really feel higher, makes house owners much less prone to give up the canine. The variety of (animal) lives which have been saved is simply unbelievable.

“It’s not drugging, it’s medicating.”