This one didn’t really come as a question. It’s more a response to off-blog comments made by people who feel putting Willy on doggie Prozac is “cruel”.
The short answer to this question has 2 parts: Willy is medicated because a) Crabby won’t medicate himself and b) I can’t find a doctor that will give me Prozac to sneak into Crabby’s food.
Kid you not, Crabby and Willy are twins, separated at birth. They are both pig-headed, neither have ever been wrong a day in their lives, and both believe I am his property!
Seriously, though, Willy has a history: He came to us when he was 3 years old, never having had a real home or family, never having had the same pack for very long, and if you remember, he originally came from Afghanistan – not a good place for dogs even if there was no war, and before coming to the US, Willy lived in Pakistan for 13 months.
Poor kid, 3 years, 3 countries, and only 1 of those countries love dogs. He really couldn’t be blamed for his dislike of men, his nightmares, his sudden and without warning freak outs, his episodes where he simply went off the deep end, and the list goes on.
We did try working with him, but there was a glitch: Any hint of dominance toward Willy was met with defensive, not dominant, defensive, measures from Willy, which included teeth. I had a trainer out at The Ranch once and her recommendation was to put him down. She said he was dangerous.
Then came the day Willy drew blood on Crabby. Training wasn’t working, medication was the next step, so we went to the vet.
The Fluoxetine (Prozac) doesn’t really change Willy, it just removes the peaks and valleys. No more nightmares, no more ‘going off’, no more without warning freak outs. We still had plenty of issues, but the extremes were gone. Medicating Willy was never meant to be a cure, only a tool to be used in addition to training, in what we already understood would be a long journey.
Almost a year after Willy came to live with us, it was discovered that prior dental issues were treated by simply filing the affected teeth down to the gum line, the roots and the exposed nerves remained. This happened in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. The vet only found them when she had Willy under anesthesia, on his back, under a bright light, looking in his mouth while treating other issues. In a regular exam, it appeared the teeth were simply missing, so we didn’t know. That doesn’t mean I still don’t feel a little guilty…
At that time, Willy was on 20mg Fluoxetine per day. After the old roots were removed, there were drastic changes in Willy’s demeanor that could not have been attributed to his medication. For that reason, and assuming many of Willy’s issues were unrecognized pain related, we tried to wean him from his Fluoxetine over the next 2 months. About a month after being removed from the medication, some of William’s extremes returned, so he went back on it, but at 10mg per day.
Since that time, Willy continues to progress so we’re trying him at 5mg per day.
Next May, we will try to wean Willy again and see what happens. If the extremes don’t return, he is off for good, if they do come back, he will go back on his Fluoxetine, only at the 5mg dose, and we try to wean him again the next year.
If we only had 2 or 3 dogs, I might have tried to work through the residual demons rather than putting Willy back on the Fluoxetine, but there are only so many hours in a day, and too many dogs that need attention in those hours. I do continue to work with Willy, but I don’t feel it’s enough to help him without medicinal help, at least not yet. We’re getting there though! A part of me still believes I somehow failed Willy for having to medicate him to begin with, but as long as we keep our eye on the prize: no medication, I feel a little better.
To those who believe medicating Willy is cruel, and unfortunately, I don’t think they actually read this blog, I say this: Which is more cruel; medicating to get through the rough patches or messing further with an already troubled mind by rehoming? Worse still, isn’t putting a ‘problem dog’ down even more cruel? The goal is to get Willy OFF his meds, and happy and secure in his own skin, and it will happen.
To those who may be reading this and thinking I am offering up a ‘cure’ for troubled dogs: Think again. Medication is not a cure, it’s only a temporary, emphasis on temporary, tool. Without training at the same time, it’s pointless. Even then, don’t mistake laziness on the part of the human (not willing to work with the dog) as justification to medicate. The ONLY reason we broke down and medicated Willy was because his behavior toward Crabby escalated to the point of biting. Remember, Fluoxetine only smoothed out the extremes, we were left with plenty of problems to work through. Without that work, Willy’s progress would not have been possible.