This is My Dog on Prozac

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Fletch_blogDespite appearances in the picture to the left, I did not make a Miniature Pinscher skin-suit out of my dog Fletcher. It was simply bath time, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to illustrate what a giant pussy he is, figuratively speaking. Seeing him cowering in our massive pit of a bathtub, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the infamous scene in “Silence of the Lambs,” you know the one: “Put the fucking lotion in the basket!” Ah, good times. But anyway, that is my dog Fletcher, and although he is pretty well-behaved and stoic when it comes to bath time, he, even when I’m not quoting lines from demented serial killers, does scare easily.

Tonight is July 2nd, and the homies in my barrio are already Clint Eastwood-ing it up and pretending their firecrackers are .44 Magnums and every time they go snap-crackle-pop I can imagine them saying, “Go ahead, make my Independence Day” or some such shit. The point is, I don’t understand why 1) Everyone has to start their July 4th celebrations so fucking early and 2) The allure of firecrackers and noise-making shit to begin with. I haven’t really been into fireworks of any kind since I grew tits and found out boys were interested in them, but the male gender seems to never outgrow the need for things that go boom. At least the the colored, sky-bursting light show variety of fireworks make some sense – they are pretty and give you something look at while you drink beer and snuggle with your boo. I still don’t get the 2 second bang and it’s done kind. (Again, it can’t be a coincidence that these attract the males. Two second bang anyone? Sounds like my twenties.)

So, where does this tie in with my pathetic dog pictured above? Well, like I said, he’s less Canis domesticus and more Felis fraidycatius. My sweet boy has an anxiety disorder that would make Rain Man on a Southwest airlines flight look like Cool Hand Luke. Everything freaks him out. Thunderstorms and fireworks are the absolute worst. As I type this, he is shaking like a crack addict next to me, drooling on my keyboard. As revolting as that is, he used to be even worse. Fletcher used to get his invisible knickers in a twist at something as banal as the noise the TV makes when we turn it on and off. He’s evened out ever so slightly since we consulted with our veterinarian and got poor Fletcher on Prozac.

That’s right. My doggie is a card carrying member of the Prozac nation. Actually, we carry his card for him. Like millions of unfortunate Americans, Fletcher has been left behind by our hit-and-miss insurance system, so we signed him up for a CVS membership program so we could get his prescription at a discount. I’m not sure if they don’t realize he’s a dog, or think he’s some emotionally tortured genius dog, because his prescription bottle warns Fletcher Wiltzius that he should not drink alcohol or operate heavy machinery until he knows how his Prozac will affect him. I’m going to go ahead and say that he shouldn’t be doing those things anyway.

We didn’t take the decision to medicate our dog lightly. We tried other things first. Mostly yelling, which didn’t work, oddly enough. I watched Cesar Milan’s show where he gives a crazy dog the evil eye just once and that dog goes from urinating on people’s legs and biting them in the face to instantly mowing the lawn and helping the homeless. I didn’t glean any useful tips from him either. Since Fletcher’s anxiety mostly manifests itself with him barking nonstop, I bought one of those citronella collars that sprays every time the dog barks and buckled Fletch in. Within two minutes, the collar reservoir was empty, our house was stinky but mosquito-free, and Fletcher was still barking. So much for that.

We tried a few different drugs and settled on the Prozac. It’s still an imperfect solution. Fletch still freaks out when things get extra scary, like now with the asshole kids and their firecrackers. Or say, the entire hurricane/storm season from May through September. For times like these, he also has a prescription for Valium that he gets “as needed”. What people don’t understand is that having an anxiety-prone dog is, in itself, anxiety-inducing. I have my own prescription for Xanax. Nights like these are a “one for Fletcher, one for Mommy” situation. At least I don’t have to hide mine in a piece of sausage.

We have another dog named Lucy. She is pretty normal, or at least as normal as normal gets in this household. She has a bit of a weight problem, but living with all of these crazy fuckers will cause one to “stress eat”. Trust me, I know. She’s my angel. She gets a little anxious with the fireworks and thunderstorms too, but she just does a little submissive pee and hides in the closet like a normal dog. (I may be losing track of what is normal at this point.)

Both of my dogs came from a shelter, so who knows what kind of crazy shit they dealt with before I got them. (If I drove an SUV and were a little more bourgeoisie, I would say, “They’re rescues!” in that voice that lets you know that I think I saved the world by adopting them. But really, I picked up a couple of used dogs, I didn’t cure malaria.) Every time I look at my pre-owned bundles of joy, I think, “You little shits, no wonder you ended up with me. Who else would put up with you?” But we’re a perfect fit. They may be purebred pains in the ass, but I love them all the same.

5 thoughts on “This is My Dog on Prozac

  1. I was researching prozac for dogs purely out of curiosity and came across this post. Enjoyable read, but it sounds like a lot of your dogs’ issues are being fed/enabled/exacerbated by your own behaviour, state of mind, energy, and attitude towards them. I have a rescue GSD who was abused and petrified of everything, even a rubbish bin, in the beginning. I introduced a no-nonsense training plan that involved high levels of exercise, leash work, obedience, all with a positive and fun emphasis. For example I used hide and seek with her favourite squeker ball to slowly desensitize her to objects she was afraid of going near, such as cardboard boxes, washing baskets, plastic bags, etc. For the training and obedience/leash work it was about laying a foundation of what was expected and rewarding when the dog CHOSE to perform the wanted behaviour that we had clearly shown him, it was not the old-school method of achieving desired behaviour through fear of punishment/correction. Around the clock structure is crucial, to not let the dog start falling into old habits – he has to know exactly what you want of him and where he should be and what he should be doing 24-7 – which meant that yes I even crated my GSD at night in the beginning [not needed anymore though]. I never let her see that I felt sorry for her or what she may or may not have gone through before I rescued her (dogs live in the moment, not the past), I never put human emotions or expectations on her like it sounds like you are doing to your dogs (albeit unintentionally), and I never allowed her fears and anxieties to dictate or alter the programme. I gained her trust, and she learned to just put her head down and follow behind me as nothing bad will ever happen when I am in control of the situation. I had the help of a great trainer in Australia, Steve Courtney at K9 Pro, as well as Jeff Gellman in the USA from Solid K9 Training. I believe this around-the-clock structure is what enabled Jessy to get past her fears and anxieties – now there is almost no new object she doesn’t walk right up to and sniff voluntarily (instead of running in fearf) and we can literally walk through a thousand people marching tightly together in a crowd without any issue – something that was almost unthinkable to me when I first got her. Sure some things here and there still startle her, but she doesn’t shutdown or try to run or tremble or cower, she gets over it and moves on in literally a matter of seconds. 99% of the time she is now a happy and balanced dog, and an even bigger upshot is she is wonderfully obedient! A complete turnaround from the cowering, shut-down, totally untrained ball of fear and nerves that she was when I first got her. Let’s be realistic, dogs have survived for tens of thousands of years without prozac or valium etc, and any true expert will tell you that these are not a replacement for proper training and behaviour modification. I am not an expert at all, and maybe I’m wrong, but the whole idea of dogs being on anti-depressants just seems ridiculous to me. It sounds like you love your dogs a lot. Let them be the inspiration for you to become a stronger, more stoic source of leadership in their lives. I guarantee that if you can change your behaviour and the emotions you project towards them, their behaviour will in turn change for the better. Dogs are a mirror to their owners – if we are anxious, they will be anxious, and that vicious circle continues. Don’t enable fearful/anxious behaviour by rewarding it with affection. Try to ‘think dog’ and treat your dog as another dog would a bit more. It’s hard, believe me I know, I have been guilty of anthropomorphism plenty of times. Read a bunch of books on dog psychology, watch videos from a whole range of trainers and rehabilitation experts online, take in as much knowledge from as many different schools of thought as possible on the issue. Go and see rehabilitation experts, or if you can’t make it to them have a Skype session – many rehabilitation experts offer this service at an hourly rate. Cesar Millan is just one example, a lot of people think he is at an extreme end of the dog rehabilitation spectrum, but his basic philosophy of – exercise, discipline, affection (in that order!) – and remaining emotionally neutral when interacting with dogs is something that ALL experts agree on, without question. Dogs don’t feel sorry for each other, as much as it’s noble that humans do, this emotion does not help our four-legged friends in any way.
    Sorry for writing so much but the picture you drew of your poor little dog seemed like he was living a life completely paralysed by fear and toxic energy, which is just so unnatural and unbalanced for a dog. I promise you that you have it in you to transform his life for the better, as long as you can realise and accept, as I did with my rescue, that the change starts with your behaviour and attitude and only then will it filter down to your beloved dogs. Best of luck 🙂

  2. Harpgal

    I found this today while googling for symptoms of dogs on prozac. I’m damn near willing to end it all over this, since in 10 years, I have not been able to fix my dog. Two years of obedience classes, plus on-going training with a dog trainer, walks everyday plus extra chuck-it runs at the ball field, herbs, flower essences, a Thundershirt, cuddles, ignoring, car rides, etc. Nothing really stops the episodes. He’ll be somewhat ok for months, then some switch flips and it’s pure hell. No one gets any sleep and the unending shaking is draining to everyone. So we’re at the prozac point. It’s just his second day and while he finally slept last night, he is pathetic today. (Still playing frisbee, though!!) I’ll give it a few days and see what happens. By then, I may need the meds, too.

    Anyway, your post made me laugh, in spite of all the crap. So thanks!

    And to ANDREWHENDRY – you were able to get your dog stabilized and that’s great. I would agree that probably too many dogs are medicated due to the owner’s laziness and ignorance. But not all. My dog not only survived a major trauma as a puppy (fire burned down the shelter she was in and killed many of the dogs) but he also developed a digestive disorder that requires constant vigilance on my part to help him. I’ve done so much and given so much of myself to this dog This is one more step, but should it fail, there’s not much more I can do.

  3. Susan Moore

    Hi there,

    I have had my doggie on Prozac for 9 days. On day two she walked like she was drunk and had great difficulty negotiating stairs. A day later it was like nothing happened. She was back to her insane, barking, jumping self. Sever aggression toward other dogs. Then on day 8 it was like a switch flipped. She is lethargic, having tremors (not seizures), won’t eat her breakfast, and is not going potty. I called my vet’s office, who told me to book with the dog behaviourist they recommended, but did not comment on these symptoms. The web info is vague. Loss of appetite and shaking are listed as the most common side effects. Has anyone had this experience – the tremors I mean? And did it pass as they settled in to the regimen. I feel terrible. The good news is that she has stopped licking hot spots and barking excessively.

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