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Juju

The effects of Prozac

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Hi all,

 

I'm sure I will get a lot of negative support from my post regarding our dog going on medication for her behavior. However for us to manage her and for her to live a fairer life we felt it is necessary. I posted another post explaining most of our behavior issues we had with our pup, I think under something headed 'Anxious/aggressive border collie, or border collie snapping at kids' almost a year ago.

 

I am mostly posting this post to help anyone who may be going through the same thing as we have/are. I found there was hardly anything to go by on the internet, whether border collie or not, any help is good help. Also this is our experience only, everyone reacts differently and most importantly talk to your vet.

 

Let me just remind you we love our dog and as we have no children of our own we are able to spend more time and money than others may choose to in this circumstance. River is family, we chose to bring her home..we don't give up on family. The least we can do is try to help her through this confusing time.

 

From the age of 4 months we noticed aggressive behavior in our pup whom we chose from a recommended, registered breeder here in Perth WA. (I think differently of the breeder now) by 6 months of age we had our first behaviorist out, by 15months our 2nd behaviorist out, and then at 18 months, a friend of a friend dog behaviorist came out to see if there was anything they could suggest, this was more like a freebie, I traded a grooming service, so I guess you probably wouldn't count this guy! Anyway, I'll take all the help I can.

 

I personally have a background of dog and animal experience, but nothing can prepare you until you experience it first hand. From day one continuously to this day, we have kept up with her training and any social dog experiences there are. River excels in obedience and agility, has been trained and listens to commands. I wouldn't say she is a naughty dog due to lack of manners/training. One of the best things about her is she is always up to learn new things, she also just loves to be our personal assistant, taking things there, brining things here etc. Besides her aggressive unpredictable side, River is overly intelligent, sensitive, funny, social (although her anxieties would often get in the way of this bit) a great protector. Deep down she is the dog of your dreams and we felt she deserved an honest chance, she didn't want to be nasty and we were finding it very hard to teach her what behavior is expected from her at random times and how to control herself.

 

So our female, sterilized, border, now 21 months, had become very aggressive due to feeling very anxious most of the time, day in, day out. When she felt the need she would react aggressively to anyone, whether it was my husband or I, friends, family or strangers. Our second behaviorist diagnosed her with 3 major anxieties the worst one being personal space, or her bubble. She used to hate being touched and would react with a savage bite, same sort of thing if you were to pick up something off the ground near by her, like a pen, you invaded her space and without warning (besides the brief eyeball stare) she reacts and goes for you. A cat walking near her, snap! I can't begin to imagine the stress she was going through.

 

Her other anxieties were fears/noises & food aggression. When she would get herself in one of these angry states, she found it very hard to stop attacking (I'm talking about lunging to get to your face, wrapping her forearms around your leg to give her more control...shall I go on? It was frickin scary, especially when you need to stay calm! Anyway once we had got her to come back to Earth, (sometimes it could take 10 seconds for her to stop attacking,) with 1 of the few techniques we were taught, these aggressive reactions mentally affected her that bad that she would still be majorly touchy for a good 24hrs after. These attacks to my husband and I would occur almost daily or at least 3 times a week. It was bad. So we were all living on eggshells at these times. River was put on Endep by this behaviorist in early December of 2014.

 

My husband and I would spend hours each day doing behavior training, mostly to allow us into her space and to touch/stroke/pat her as you would a family dog. I'm talking hours, anyone that came over was given strict instructions how to interact, we always had food in our pockets, always wore long pants, always on the ball. Oh yes, always many tears shed. Then late Feb she finally did it, she had been making a bit of slow progress over the weeks (still couldn't really pat her for long, though) and my husband was chilling with her on the lawn. Without thinking, he plucked a blade of grass near her. Well she lost it. In the blink of an eye she had lashed out and got his face, there was a puncture wound on his nose and chin and a lot of blood, it was the first time she drew blood (and so far the only time) My husband is tough and went on to make a full recovery, after a detour to the medical. So we had that talk..again. I don't think I have ever cried so much, after all the work we had been putting in, she was still unpredictable and unsafe and can't be living a truly happy life for a young border collie herself.

 

After speaking with our vet we decided to swap her meds to Prozac and give her 6 more months just to see real improvements, unless something really bad happened in the meantime, then that was what we had talked about and agreed apon.

 

Before I go on ( and I'm sorry this is so long) We also got help from a Chinese Vet who prescribed River some herbs (Yes, as the reader, you are open to have your own opinion of going down this road, but we didn't have much time left and we needed to try everything if we were going to make the inevitable decision, I invite you to be the judge of my next part. I'm sure every animal will respond differently anyway, this is just our experience)

 

So the week she stopped her Endep was the same week she started her herbs (herbs take 1.5 weeks to kick in and still takes them to this day). 9 days after her last Endep she started Prozac, early March 2015. Prozac, from what I've heard and read usually takes 6 weeks to kick in. During those weeks many side effects can occur. The vets can tell you so much and the internet has bugger all on whats normal and what to expect. Again every dog is different. Which is one of the reasons why I am sharing our experience of Prozac. Behaviour training is still a must, the Prozac or herbs will not just fix a dog, they assist with the situation and it is up to you to do the real work. There is no quick fix for a dog with aggression issues. I kept a diary or each week.

 

So, Weeks 1-4 of the Prozac experience River was very happy, lovely to be around, tolerable, relaxed; wasn't always panting, wasn't always on the alert, face and eyes had relaxed expressions, accepted/enjoyed physical contact; very unusual. A changed dog. She was a little off food, and River eats anything at anytime!

 

Week 4, Touchy, reactive, lethargic/drowsy, runny nose. Much better appetite

 

Week 5, drowsiness gone, gets tired on walks, runny nose, cautious, reactive, overall improving but this week doesn't trust my husband.

 

Week 6, still tired on walks, far less reactive; only if you push her limits, reacts only with one snap then retreats, comes around after an attack much quicker like within the half hour (not 24hrs!) better with husband

 

Week 7- present day, a changed dog. River has and is improving all the time. We do far less behavior training now than we have been, but we haven't stopped completely. It has been weeks, maybe over a month since her last reaction. She is much more at a manageable state, even if we will never be able to trust her. We are so proud of how far she has come. She has had such a stressful puppyhood and now her confidence is coming right out into the world. She is amazing. She will come up and nuzzle her head in you lap for you to pat her head and face..a big no no months ago. She greets people with love and excitement and in return she gets pats, something she is learning to love, still only short and sweet so she always wants more. She is learning to back away when she feels uncomfortable instead of lashing out. She is getting more confident with other dogs, again short and sweet meetings only and no boisterous dog meetings for a while. I do not trust her with kids and will not have interactions for a while yet. I do feel she has always been scared for her safety and it has taken her a mighty long time for her to really trust my husband and I. Our dog does need time out from the world, and will probably always will. It is something the humans in her life need to respect, so, her crate is her safe haven; she does not get bugged in there. She needs to trust we respect that.

 

From our experience the tips I can give is no matter how high up you think you are in the dog world, if you find yourself with a dog with these type of issues, get yourself a good behaviorist. They are expensive, so you should look around and talk to people to find the right one. Furthermore, it is very, very time consuming and expensive in other areas and so if your heart is not truly in it or you just don't have the time, another decision may just be a safer, smarter alternative. Keep up with as much training as you can, find a club who will allow a dog with behavior issues to attend. All the training you put in, may in the end not be enough for particular dogs. We had a very rocky year and I can imagine there are worse off dogs out there than River. We are and still expect to keep up her behavior training for a long time to come. After seeing these improvements in just 2 months we are sure as hell not going to stop now. I'm sure there will be times that we might go backwards, but that's all part of it, we've seen first hand the goodness that can come out of hard work. River still takes Prozac and Chinese herbs, I've also added a Bach flower combo to her daily schedule.

 

Just remember, dogs are not naturally nasty and aggressive, there is always something that is triggered or something that is just not right in their mind. They are dogs, and they are trying to live in a human world. So who is in the wrong, really?

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this I hope I can help someone out there!

 

Judith

 

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It looks like you have really gone the extra mile to help your dog and are seeing significant progress. Your advice to seek professional behaviorist help is spot on with what many here would recommend. And, if just "working with" a dog is not sufficient to overcome the problem (or make it manageable) I doubt there are many people here who would disagree with seeking help from medication or alternative therapies that are suitable. As you say, every dog is different (and so is every situation) and what works in one case may not work in another.

 

Very best wishes, and thank you for sharing your experiences and journey with River!

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Thank you for sharing your story. Bett was prescribed Prozac after a consultation with a Vet Behaviorist. Personally, I never saw much change, especially not anything like you are describing. I've read similar stories to yours. She's been on it for 6 months now.

 

We doubled up the dosage and still no dramatic change. I continued with all her training, and have never been sure whether it was the the training and/or the drugs that have brought on the improvement.

 

Since then I have reduced the Prozac back to the initial levels, and there was no adverse affect. The behaviorist thinks the Prozac is making a difference, I'm still not so sure. In fact, I'm tempted to wean her off it to see if there is any change.

 

I enrolled her in a Reactive Dog class and it was a bit much for her, so the behaviorist prescribed Trazodone for situational use. There I saw a difference. We have discussed switching meds for her once her PDA has been repaired; there is a drug used to help with more impulse control, can't remember the name.

 

I do think behavior meds are a good thing, as long as owners know that they must be used in conjunction with training and that they aren't a magic pill.

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I am glad to hear the River is less anxious and aggressive, and that you and your husband can now feel that you live with a dog, rather than a time bomb.

 

I think experiences and anecdotes about responsibly dealing with a mentally unbalanced dog (not due to training or early neglect, but rather a biochemical imbalance) are valuable for other people to read. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

 

I don't think anyone here will blame you ('negative support') for putting your dog on a psychotropic drug. In fact, quite a few members here do have dogs that exist more peacefully in this world through the help of anti-anxiety meds.

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I personally experienced a dramatic change when I got the right medication for me for ongoing severe depression. I also saw a dramatic and very positive difference in one of my dogs when I got her on the right medication for her.

 

I am the very last person to advise against medication. Some individuals, no matter where you go, are going to be anti-meds. Let them. You and I, and every person who has had similar experiences, know that we're doing the right thing.

 

I'm very glad you persisted and found a way to help your girl be happier and calmer. You're a wonderful dog owner, and your girl is lucky to have you.

 

Ruth and SuperGibbs

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These are the things I think about when I read posts (here and elsewhere) from people struggling with an anxious and reactive dog but resistant to try drugs because it feels "wrong" to them.

 

I know that the medication makes my reactive dog so much happier, more relaxed, less fearful and anxious. His life is far better than it was before. I wish I started him on it sooner.

 

No, its not a panacea; no, it doesn't mean you still don't have to train him; no, it doesn't work for all dogs. But when it works it helps so much.

 

I'm so happy that you are seeing such positive results.

 

And as an aside, if you don't think the Prozac is helping, there are several other meds available. Maybe your VB can have to switch meds and see if that helps?

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My Dean Dog was on meds - not prozac, but something similar - for years for his noise phobia/anxiety. It helped him so much and I never regretted the decision. To my surprise, he was able to be weaned off eventually, and he's doing awesome. I know that won't always be the outcome, but in his case it was.

 

You have to do right by your dog. That is a lesson I re-learned in a completely different context recently. Sometimes that won't be popular. Sometimes there will be individuals who just don't get it and openly (or - worse - subtly, but obviously enough) criticize you for it. It is best to take that in stride as a given and go on to do what you know is right.

 

I have once again been liberated by having conviction of this fact. I hope the OP will be, as well.

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Judith ( Juju) thank you for sharing your story. I fully appreciate that things have been very difficult for you.

 

To me, I think your story is truly inspirational and may well act as an example to provide some additional options to owners who are struggling with their own reactive dog.

 

I hope River continues to do well - she has an awesome owner to help her.

 

I wish you both all the best

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Thank you for telling us your story. I don't know how anyone could fault you for going the route of medication at the point at which you did so. I think you deserve kudos for sticking with this dog through such difficulties; many people would not.

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There are dogs prescribed drugs for behavioural issues that could be dealt with otherwise and there are those that can't. I am against too ready over prescription, I am not against drugs per se.

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Thank you for sharing your story. I have a couple of posts on here. One is just the journey with Jade ( I have been her foster mom for the last year and a half and just posted that I have adopted her) and the other is a bit on Prozac. Would you be willing to share more about the Chinese herbs. Jade is taking Prozac and a vet prescribed Comp Sure for the last two and half months I am looking at Healing touch and essential oils to try and get her to the next level. She is said to be a border collie/black lab mix...but there is some greyhound or whippet in her background somewhere. We also had the discussions of putting her down after she bit my boss...I just wasn't ready to give up on her.

 

She also listens to me fairly well. We are working on behavior all the time and thinking that some agility training might be a very good thing for her. I have a behaviorist on board that has been with us since about the 2 week mark of me having her so she really sees how far Jade has come. She is the one who actually suggested it because we had pretty much hit a brick wall and she felt like the Prozac would help Jade be able to take more in....instead of just shutting down when it became too much.

 

We have seen come from not hardly being able to get off the couch to playing with the other three dogs in the home and actually adapting her play style to suit each dog. We have a shitzpoo that is mentally challenged and she has sort of adopted him and looks after him. When he goes out, she goes out...even if she just went. Waits on him to get outside and go down the steps.

 

Jade has a good heart....just wired incorrectly and the fear is horrible for her.

 

Thank you for what you have done for your girl. It takes dedication, patience, love, tolerance three times over for these dogs and it ain't easy!

 

Teri

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Hi Teri,

 

Congratulations with your achievements with Jade. It sounds like you are making patient progress like us with River. It is very rewarding hard work but when you start seeing results, you realize you made the right decision to persevere.

 

I always enjoyed agility with our previous dog and was very excited for River to reach 14months of age so we could start up at the soonest opportunity. River lacks confidence, part of her reasons for her aggression. Agility works wonders for her confidence. Besides the part where she is super fast, energetic, eager to learn; teaching her an obstacle for the first few times eg Dog Walk, I could see she was scared, worried, unsure. After a few goes she gets more confidence, and then more and more. Letting her watch others have goes really helped, kind of like she was learning from her friends :) I wasn't in any rush, but she is a fast learner

 

River is almost 2yrs and I'm very proud of her level at agility. She was never a very good sheep herder, I think because she lacked confidence & the sheep knew this, but agility seems to be therapy for her in a way. She can do all 12 weavers in a straight line & if it wasn't for me stuffing her up with my turns and crosses & forgetting the course, we could almost be trialing!! Haha, but its so fun and some nights at training I can't stop giggling..maybe its therapy for me too?!

 

At agility, River wears a yellow vest that says 'Give Me Space' Most people at training know River now but there are quite a few similar looking borders, that I think it would be an easy mistake to think River was someone else. Also it helps when she needs to be staked while

I help set up a course. This vest, I feel helps our situation as people are more aware and it is much easier to explain she has issues. These days River is more than happy to greet & be patted by others (infact, some would think I'm telling fibs about her behavior..thats how far she has come) However I need to keep reading her face and tail as to when to say 'that's enough patting' & then a big thank you to the person & a reward for River. Its much more easier for us.

 

I totally reckon you should give agility a go. Just take it slow & be proud of her progress. There will be times you will go back a few steps, but with the right dog club, you will have endless amounts of support.

 

As far as her herbs she takes everyday go, I personally have always had the feeling they are helping her for the better. Just this week, the selected herbs she has been on since the beginning (LDXGT..Long Dan Xie Gan Tang), my Chinese Medicine Vet instructed I try wean her off them & then onto a new type. However a few days after I started to wean her off, she got a bit touchy & weird in a negative way, now she is back on her normal dose and things are good again. Maybe she was having a bad few days, I'm not sure, but I honestly believe they are helping. If you have any Traditional Chinese Medicine Vets in your area, I would shoot them an email and ask a few questions. I am glad I found our vet, she also suggests acupuncture for her aggression but as much as I would like to give that a go, River would hate it to be touched and held down by someone else..maybe later..

 

Good Luck with your little Jade, she is a very lucky dog to have found you guys.

If there is anything else I can help with, let me know :)

 

Judith

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Judith,

Thank you so much for the information on the Chinese Herbs. I will see if we have a Chinese Vet around here and I will talk to Paula as well. Paula is very much open to trying whatever it takes to make Jade feel better and we have talked about the agility as well. As a matter of fact I bought some Petco agility toys just to have some fun in the back yard with Jade and Mollie the bitchy Boston Terrier. :)

 

I will keep you posted on what I find out.

Thank you again

 

Teri

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