Meds:  friend or foe?

Hesitant about behaviour medications? You're not alone...


Many dog owners have instant negative reactions to the thought of medicating their pet for a “behaviour problem”.  It conjures up feelings of disgust, anger and outrage.  Many owners imagine drugged out zombies. They may have feelings such as:

A cop-out.
Too extreme.

There are some simple truths however when it comes to mental health and medical therapy.

In anxiety (and other mental health problems, such as phobias and obsessive compulsive disorders), there are major neurochemical abnormalities and imbalances in the brain.  These mental health conditions are medical conditions of one of the body’s most important organs, the brain.  Just like we would treat a diabetic with insulin, or a epilepsy with anti-seizuring medicaiton, when there is a true diagnosis of a mental health disorder many (not all) require treatment to correct and address the neurochemical imbalances within the brain.

Medications help us to change the pet’s emotional state:

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Medications are not a quick fix but if used apropriately, will hugely facilitate the behavioural modification process which should always accompany any behavioural treatment plan. 


Some medications can take time to have noticeable effect.  For example Lovan-Prozac may take 2 months before any changes are appreciated by owners and even longer to help rebuild a normal brain.  

There is a tendency for owners to be concerned about the use of medication and perhaps even be hesitant about their use:


Behavioural problems are the number 1 killer of dogs in the Western World.  Behavioural problems affect our animal-human bond, the quality of life of the pet and may also result in relinquishment and or euthanasia.  Medications can be extremely helpful in treating underlying abnormalities of neurochemicals of the brain the manifest as part of behavioural problems in our pet.

Medications are only a quick fix:

Medications alone are not a quick fix and importantly they should always be used in conjunction to behavioural medication for the treatment of diagnosed emotional health disorders . Not all behavioural problem(s) will require medication in part of the treatment plan, however for many cases, medication may be necessary to  facilitate behavioural modification. This is because the brain is only capable of learning new things when it is calm, NOT when it is in  panic, anxious or reactive mode.  

Are medications even safe?

There are potential side-effects and risks of any medication, however your veterinarian should ensure that we balance out the potential risks with benefits.  There is no one-all fits all when it comes to medical treatment of behavioural diseases.  Each animal requires an individualised plan and owners working together with the veterinarian to fine tune the patient’s treatment plan based on their response.


The good news is that they don't have to be sedated at all.  In fact, for most instances we don't want the pet to be sedated.  The goal of using medication is to treat underlying neurochemical abnormalities in the brain associated with their emotional health disorder, whether that be anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsion, reactivity or impulse control and even cognitive decline.  

Check out the video of my very own border-collie, Mieke on TWO behavioural medications for her anxiety, fear aggression and storm phobia. Before treatment Mieke wouldn’t want to go outside if there was even the slightest possibility of rain or storms. With her behaviour treatment she is coping really well with the prospects of a storm coming in and it sure as hell isn’t slowing her down.  She sure as hell doesn't look sedated or drugged out!