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Medications may be prescribed by a veterinary behaviorist to help behavior modification.

Myth or reality?

There are a lot of misconceptions about “drugs” or medication used to help dog aggression.  Here is the reality about medications prescribed to dogs to help with aggressive behavior.

  • Medications don’t directly treat dog aggression.  They are prescribed to treat an underlying condition that may be influencing the aggression.
  • If your dog doesn’t need them, (i.e. if there is no biological need) the medicine will not work.
  • If your dog needs medication, it will allow your dog to be calmer and less fearful so your dog will be in a better position to learn
  • Medicine for dog aggression rarely eliminates aggression symptoms without other treatment methods such as behavior modification.
  • Medications for dog aggression are not a quick fix.
  • Medications for dog aggression don’t change your dog’s personality.
  • Medications for dog aggression don’t sedate your dog or make your dog dopey.
  • Medication for dog aggression does not cause addictions.

Regardless of any medications, a treatment plan still needs to address the learning component in dog aggression.  A systematic retraining, or relearning program such as the one we outline in our e-book, is necessary to change your dog’s behavior.

The medications often need some time before their full affects will have an impact (often up to two months) and may need to be prescribed for a minimum of 6 months depending on the situation.  The medications often need to be “ramped” up or down when starting and finishing the medication.  This means they will start on a small dose and slowly start to increase the amount over time that the dog takes, or when coming off the medication, reduce the dose or the frequency it’s taken.   Side effects are more likely during the ramping on and off phases.  Medications that cause your dog to be sedated should be avoided.

Tests prior to putting the dog on medication are a good idea to establish a baseline.  That way if a medication is impacting the dog in some other way, there is something to compare the results to prior to the dog being on the medication.

Which medication(s) and how much depends on a number of factors including the problems and symptoms presented (this may include more than just aggression), genetics, and the dog’s physiological make up.  The dog needs to be carefully monitored and sometimes the dose will need to be changed or the medication changed altogether.   In some cases more than one medication may be prescribed.

Here are some of the medication that are more typically used to treat behavior disorders that include aggression in dogs.  It is not a comprehensive list and your vetienrary behaviorist may recommend other medications instead or in addition to.

  • Amitrptyline HC1 (Elavil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Buspirone (BuSpar)
  • Propranolol (Inderal)

See > Medications That Can Cause Dog Aggression

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