My Pet was Prescribed Fluoxetine for Separation Anxiety: What to Know Before Discussing With Your Veterinarian

Prescription Drugs

My Pet was Prescribed Fluoxetine for Separation Anxiety: What to Know Before Discussing With Your Veterinarian

Anxiety.Pet Health.Pet Medication
Bre D’Alessio South
By Bre D’Alessio South
Jul 16, 2019
Large brown mixed breed dog with separation anxiety laying on a bed with its face between its front paws.

Six years ago, I adopted my first shelter dog. I can still remember touring that shelter, listening to the rattles of paws on wire doors, the pacing of nails on cement, and the howling of so many dogs looking for their forever home.

The experience was full of emotions, ranging from excitement to absolute nervousness.

I had just taken on the responsibility of another living creature, and while my dog’s history was unknown (she was a stray dropoff who appeared to be house-trained but not microchipped), I was looking forward to settling her into a new forever home.

Her freedom ride was exhilarating.

After the first few days at home, she quickly began to break out of her shell. It’s estimated rescue dogs can take between 30 to 90 days to get fully acclimated to their new environment.

As our dog started to realize my partner and I were safe-keepers, we began to see more of her personality, including more tail wags and a quicker step in her pace on walks. But we realized there was a bigger issue.

When we left the house, the physical act of us leaving sent her into a spiral.

Dogs and Anxiety

Separation anxiety wasn’t a term I’d heard until my first dog adoption. Our first encounter with her anxiety was after coming home from a short errand. She had clawed most of our front door and had begun chewing floorboards. Portions of our carpet had been shredded into pieces, and her gums were bloody from constant chewing on our wood paneling.

Her solution to us leaving was to break through the door she last saw us exit from.

Initially, we tried two different crates and began the process of crate training. But trying to crate train a dog (perhaps 2 or 3 years old) who had never been in a crate, proved unsuccessful.

She eventually got used to it but was still in distress even confined to a secure area.

After breaking through two crates, we found one sturdy enough to keep her in. But she continued chewing on bars, causing extreme discomfort to her gums and would pant excessively, saliva constantly drooling down her neck.

All this proved she was in extreme distress whenever we left her alone. Crate or no crate.

For most rescues, it’s unknown where their stories began, and what they endured.

Separation anxiety cases are most common with rescues due to the trauma they likely faced prior to adoption. Dogs, like humans, can compartmentalize trauma. But unlike humans, dogs can’t talk through their experiences.

They are left to show only a physical response to distress.

For us, it meant our dog would dig excessively, bite at the metal crate poles and salivate nonstop while panting excessively.

After two failed crates and the realization she was under extremely uncomfortable, I booked an appointment with my vet to learn more about options.

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Fluoxetine Prescription for Pets

Fluoxetine, more commonly known as the human prescription drug Prozac, is prescribed to pets who exhibit anxiety on a regular basis. Fluoxetine, like any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), works to increase serotonin levels within the central nervous system.

The increase of serotonin helps to balance the system and alter neurotransmitters in a specific way; serotonin helps to reduce destructive-like anxiety behaviors, such as chewing on crate wires or digging through floors.

During the discussion with my vet, we determined the correct dosage for my dog’s size and the specific behavior she exhibited. Because the physical act of us exiting the house occurs daily for our dog, we give her the same dosage of fluoxetine at the same time regularly.

A conversation with your vet will help determine what dosage, and how often the drug should be administered. If your pet is triggered by seasonal anxiety like fireworks or long car trips, taking the medication every day might not be required. Your vet will know the proper medication course to take based on your pet’s history.

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Side Effects and Managing Pet Prescription Costs

It’s been six years since that magical ride home from the shelter, and my dog has been on fluoxetine for all six years. We initially gave her the same dosage twice a day, but after two years, as her routine became more regulated and her trust for us stronger, we dropped the dosage down to once in the morning.

It’s unclear whether she will ever be fully off the medication because us leaving for work every morning is still a source of discomfort for her.

We’ve tested leaving her out of the crate for 20 minutes as a trial run, but even six years later, she’ll start pawing at the front door and begin her panting cycle.

A safe sturdy crate and a regular dose of fluoxetine are needed to ensure she’s not in distress and in a safe place both physically and mentally.

Be sure to discuss with your vet about possible side effects your pet might experience with the introduction of a new drug, and keep in mind that all pets will react differently.

When I adopted a dog, I didn’t know I would be budgeting medication cost as part of monthly spend, so having a tool like RxSaver has helped me cut a 90-day supply down to $9 at my nearby pharmacy.

Anxiety in Pets Can Be Treated

Pets are family. It’s critical that their lives are comfortable, and as a pet owner, we can feel out of control when we can’t get to the root of their anxiety and discomfort.

While I may not know what my dog’s life chapters looked like prior to her being rescued, I do have control over making sure any future anxiety she faces is met with love and care.

If you feel as if your pet is exhibiting anxious or destructive behavior due to distress, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to chat through their health history and the best course of action.

Bre D’Alessio South

Bre D’Alessio South

Bre D’Alessio South is the content marketing manager and managing editor of RxSaver. Her writing focuses on health care, mental health, and gender rights. At RxSaver, she also serves as co-lead for the employee resource group caRe, which focuses on mental health and chronic health support in the workplace.

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