Puppies on Prozac

August 7th, 2008 by Kathy McManus

Should pets be medicated? Or are we projecting?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Cats on Quaaludes.

Dogs on downers.

Pets on Prozac.

Fido has a new medicine chest. And though it’s still stocked with worm and flea treatments, it increasingly includes medications that were originally developed for humans. On the front shelf: behavior modification and “lifestyle” drugs, now for pets.

Is your dog overweight? The first canine obesity drug is available to help him slim down. Is your dog lonely? “Reconcile” was developed to help man’s best friend deal with separation anxiety when man has to leave his best friend alone all day. The drug works like Prozac, though the doggie version is chewable and tastes like beef. Is your pooch having “senior moments?” There’s a pill for that too--the same medication used to treat Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases in humans.

Are pets mimicking their owners’ behavioral and lifestyle problems?

“All of the behavioral issues that we have created in ourselves, we are now creating in our pets,” says Dr. Nicholas Dodman, founder of the Tufts University Animal Behavior Clinic, “because they live in the same unhealthy environments that we do.”

According to a New York Times article titled “Pill-Popping Pets,” Dr. Dodman’s theory suggests that humans and their pets share similar causes for what ails them. “Whether cubicle or cage-bound, we get too little exercise; we don’t hunt, run or play enough to produce naturally mood-elevating neurochemicals.”

And the new prescription treatments, The Times says, are sometimes more for the convenience of owners than they are for the health of the pets.

Modern owners are increasingly trying to “sterilize” pet ownership, says veterinarian and animal behavior specialist Ian Dunbar. “What people want is a pet that is on par with a TiVo, that its activity, play and affection are on demand,” Dr. Dunbar says. “Then, when they’re done, they want to turn it off.”

“In the wild, the dog’s major activity is looking for food,” Dr. Dunbar explains. “What most owners do is they feed the dog in the bowl, and within two minutes you’ve stolen his raison d’etre. So now the dog is looking for activity, which we label ‘trouble’ and diagnose as all sorts of things like compulsion and separation anxiety.”

Tell us what you think: Are we responsible for making our pets fat…driving them to despair…making them lose their minds? Could it be that when we look at our pets, we see a bit too much of ourselves?