Many of us tend to see our pets as people, but what about treating behavioral problems in cats or dogs? I suppose it’s only natural that in some instances, people turn to medication for an answer.
When some people have difficulty with their pet’s behavior, such as obsessive compulsive behavior and aggression, they will have their veterinarian prescribe an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drug like Prozac or Valium to control the unwanted behavior.
In animals, obsessive compulsive behavior can manifest as constant licking or chewing, even ingesting non-edible materials, such as carpeting. Birds often exhibit obsessive compulsive behavior through plucking out their own feathers. This behavior can be destructive to homes and can endanger the health and well-being of the pet.
A well-known behavioral problem in dogs is separation anxiety, where the dog becomes extremely distressed when his owner leaves him alone. Some dogs are known to constantly pace, whine and/or bark, chew up and destroy anything and everything within reach, and even urinate and defecate inappropriately.
I have to admit that I am not in favor of prescribing pharmaceuticals to cats and dogs. I feel that just about every behavioral problem can be traced the need of proper training and exercise, even with cats. But then again, I haven’t owned an animal that has had extreme behavioral problems, and I realize that there may be situations where medication may temporarily be helpful.
I have seen cases where behavioral medications do work. One of my clients used anti-depressants for her cats and it worked wonders for one of her cats. Before being on the medication, her one cat was extremely
timid and very easily spooked. Not an easy behavior to work on, especially since there are other cats in the household.
She gave the cat a small dose of anti-depressants for a few months and the cat became more confident and outgoing. That effect continued to last even after she stopped the medication. Today, the cat is still medication-free and continues to be less skittish and more friendly and affectionate.
Unfortunately, the same medications didn’t have much effect on another one of her cats, who was a bit too hyper and wouldn’t stop chasing and tormenting the shy and timid cat. His behavior didn’t really change, so she stopped the medication and had to be satisfied that at least one of her cats had changed for the better.
If you’re having to deal with a pet’s destructive and unhealthy behavioral problems, first take him to the vet to get a thorough physical check-up. Sometimes behavioral problems are just a symptom of a physical illness. After eliminating any physical reasons for your pet’s problems, talk to your vet about your options, which should first include behavioral modification.
I still don’t feel that medication should necessarily be the first answer. Talk to a behavioral modification trainer
first and see if training can modify your pet’s behavior. Proper exercise and mental stimulation can do wonders too. This may take a bit of work on your part, and you must stay consistent and persistent. But, don’t your pets deserve it?
If Medication is Necessary
If you and your trainer decide that medication might help your pet, you should still pair training with any possible pharmaceutical solution.
Also be aware that medicating your pet might have unintended negative effects. Each animal is different and one might respond favorably to medication, while another on the same dosage might become more anxious or aggressive.
The medication may also have unwanted physical side effects. Talk to your vet and consult an animal behaviorist. Don’t be afraid to get second opinions on this subject to find out as much as you can.