A concerned dog owner cured her pooch’s severe separation anxiety – with PROZAC and THERAPY.
Jess Cook’s dog Lexi would become so distraught when left alone in the house neighbours would complain about her howling.
As a result Miss Cook started giving the Labrashepherd, a cross between a German Shepherd Dog and a Labrador Retriever, Prozac.
Prozac, the trade name for fluoxetine, is typically used to treat depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety in humans.
“Lexi would cry, scratch the door, rip things up – you name it, she did it,” the 25-year-old, of Lincoln, said.
“It got to the point she’d have to be put in a crate every time I went out so I decided I had to do something about it.”
She heard about a University of Lincoln study testing the effects of an animal equivalent of Prozac on pets.
For five weeks in 2013, Lexi, now seven, took two tablets a day in some butter.
She also underwent behaviour management therapy, which taught her to cope better with being separated from her owner.
The therapy looked at retraining Lexi to associate being left alone with something good, such as a treat or toy.
Miss Cook, a student, slowly built up the amount of time Lexi was left unattended for.
It proved successful and now she has come off her medication.
“She was miraculously cured,” her owner, who adopted her from a rescue home when she was 18 months old, said.
“I’m not a vet so it’s hard to say how much was the tablets and how much was the therapy,” Miss Cook said.
“But now I can leave her alone with no problems whatsoever.
“Before, she’d start to panic the second I left the room. I’d always hurry home because I felt guilty about leaving her.”
The study recruited dogs showing signs of separation anxiety – one of the most common behavioural complaints among pet owners – and determined whether they were feeling ‘optimistic’ or ‘pessimistic.’
This was done by putting out a bowl full of food, then moving and emptying it.
The dogs were assessed on whether or not they expected food to still be in the bowl after it had been moved.
At the end of the study, dogs that had been using the medicine and therapy proved to be more optimistic.
As their mood improved, their anxiety also proved to wane.
Research lead Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, said: “For quite a while, I, like many others, have been concerned as to whether the drugs simply inhibit the behaviour and perhaps had no effect on the animal’s mood
“With the advent of new methods to assess animal welfare, we were able to answer this question and were pleased to see that, when the drug is used within normal therapeutic ranges, the dogs do indeed seem better.
“However, it is important to emphasise that animals were treated with both the drug and a behaviour modification programme – with both being essential for effective treatment.”