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Antidepressants for Your Pet

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The alarm goes off and though your eyes have been open for hours, you lie motionless as its infernal buzzing continues to pollute the morning air. You won't hit the snooze button because you’re not going to get up- you can’t. Such is the reality of a person with depression; a lack of serotonin can keep the best of us down, often proving inescapable without the aid of medication.

But this condition isn't reserved for humans; animals can also suffer from the debilitating effects of mood disorders. In fact, these disorders can be the root cause of misbehavior in particularly unpredictable or troublesome pets. These pets often have a more difficult time adjusting to chemical imbalances, due to their inability to seek proper help on their own. Instead, pets rely on their owners to identify and treat their problems.

When a pet is suffering from a mood disorder, even an expert might have difficulty isolating and identifying the source of the problem. These illnesses are most often manifest in the form of behavioral problems such as barking, inappropriate marking or defecating, and general destruction. These signs might warrant a consultation with your veterinarian to determine the cause of the problem and the best solution possible.

A Questionable Solution?

Though counseling and other options are available to help humans with depression, these options aren't as readily available for pets. Dogs or cats with anxiety have a wide range of products available to them to try to control their mood. Some products, like Feliway and Adaptil, use pheromones to elicit chemical responses in cats and dogs, respectively. These chemical responses can greatly influence the mood of pets and can reduce stress-induced behavior in most cases.

Despite these and other solutions being produced specifically for pets, some pet owners find that they are simply not enough. For these pets, there is still hope. Pet behaviorists have been prescribing antidepressants and other mood medication to pets for years. Some drug companies have even rebranded popular medications to sell specifically to pet owners. One such example is Reconcile, a beef-flavored version of Prozac made specifically for dogs.

This medical policy is surprisingly prevalent. Though many owners hesitate to give their dogs medication that was originally intended for humans, others are grateful simply for the possibility of finding an effective treatment. In fact, the National Pet Owners Survey of the American Pet Products Association estimates that in 2012, 2.8 million dog owners administered mood medication to their dogs.

If It Works...

It’s no surprise that the movement to medicate dogs has met with some opposition. Its opponents make the claim that prescribing these drugs is both unnecessary and dangerous. These critics cite the lack of hard science to support their usage and the toxicity of some medicines. Though it is true that an excessive dosage can be dangerous to both humans and pets, most pet owners do not administer medication without guidance from a professional.

Arguments against the use of prescription mood medication on pets are countered by supporters who claim that it was their last resort to treat issues that were potentially life-threatening. One blogger, A. H. Horowitz, recently wrote for Slate that she, like many other pet owners, had made exhaustive efforts to treat their pets before resorting to medication.

Many animals suffer debilitating effects of mood disorders that cause them to harm themselves and put themselves and their owners at serious risk. To prevent a pet from destroying itself, what pet owner wouldn't try anything? And if that method works- then the decision to medicate becomes a no-brainer. What do you think of using prescription medication to control pet behavior? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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