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Fluoxetine for Dogs: Using Prozac® or Reconcile® for Canine Behavioral Problems

November 16, 2019

Canine behavioral problems are frustrating for owners and are one of the leading reasons dogs are surrendered to pounds and shelters. Fluoxetine is one of the behavior modification medications which may be used to treat dogs for various behavioral problems.

What is Fluoxetine?

Fluoxetine is probably better known as Prozac® when marketed for people. For animals, fluoxetine is marketed as Reconcile®.

Fluoxetine is an antidepressant in the selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. As a SSRI antidepressant, fluoxetine differs from other medications such as clomipramine which act as tricyclic antidepressants and therefore act on the central nervous system through different mechanisms.

Fluoxetine exerts its influence at the pre-synaptic neuron level by inhibiting the uptake of serotonin. It does not act as a sedative.

Fluoxetine is a fairly long-acting medication, with an elimination half-life of 2-3 days for fluoxetine and 7-9 days for norfluoxetine (an active metabolite of fluoxetine).

 

How is Fluoxetine (Prozac®, Reconcile®) Used in Dogs?

Fluoxetine (Reconcile®) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an aid in the treatment of canine separation anxiety in conjunction with behavioral modification training techniques. Fluoxetine should not be used solely, without the use of behavioral modification, as the behavioral modification training is the process by which the dog learns new and proper behaviors, with fluoxetine simply making it easier for the dog to learn the desired behaviors.

Though separation anxiety is the only behavioral problem which fluoxetine (Reconcile®) is labeled to treat, fluoxetine is also used off-label to treat several other behavioral problems in dogs, including:

  • thunderstorm phobias
  • numerous other phobias and fears
  • canine aggression
  • obsessive-compulsive canine disorders

As with canine separation anxiety, when used to treat any other canine behavioral disorder, fluoxetine is best used in conjunction with behavioral modification techniques.

Because fluoxetine takes approximately 10 days to reach steady-state concentrations in the blood stream, many veterinary behavioral specialists advocate the use of shorting-acting "rescue" drugs, such as alprazolam (Xanax®) or diazepam (Valium®), to help calm fearful or anxious dogs during times of intense need during the first 10-14 days of treatment with fluoxetine. For instance, a dog owner dealing with a dog suffering from separation anxiety may be advised to administer alprazolam to the dog shortly before leaving the dog alone in the home to produce sedation for a short period of time, allowing the fluoxetine blood levels time to reach an effective level.

Potential Drug Interactions with Fluoxetine

Fluoxetine is known to interact with other drugs and may enhance or interfere with the effects of these medications.

  • Fluoxetine may increase the half-life of drugs such as diazepam and alprazolam, making them more effective for an extended period of time.
  • Fluoxetine may increase the extrapyramidal effects of haloperidol.
  • Fluoxetine may increase the blood levels of lithium.
  • Fluoxetine may increase the side effects seen with L-tryptophan, tricyclic antidepressants and buspirone.
  • Fluoxetine should not be used in conjunction with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, such as l-deprenyl or selegiline, because the combination appears to result in increased morbidity.
  • Fluoxetine is tightly bound to plasma proteins and its effect on other drugs which bind plasma proteins is unknown at this time.

Potential Side Effects When Administering Fluoxetine to Dogs

Side effects noted in dogs receiving fluoxetine include:

  • lethargy/calmness
  • gastrointestinal effects
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • hyperactivity
  • panting
  • lack of appetite

Fluoxetine is known to alter blood glucose levels and it should be used cautiously in dogs with diabetes mellitus.

Rarely, fluoxetine has been found to produce signs of aggression in previously unaggressive dogs.

Using Fluoxetine (Prozac®, Reconcile®) to Treat Behavioral Problems in Dogs

Fluoxetine (Prozac®. Reconcile®) may be used, in conjunction with proper behavioral modification therapies, to correct or treat several behavioral problems in dogs, including canine separation anxiety and other phobias or fears. When coupled with appropriate training techniques, fluoxetine can be quite effective in treating various behavioral issues for many dogs.

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