Crazy Dog Lady, Why is William Medicated?

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!

This was the first time Willy jumped up on the bed with Crabby.  At the time we thought it was 'progress'.  Later we learned it was a Brownie Point score to show me he was a bigger man than Crabby.  The 2 have settled into a diabolical and devious competition to see who gets my favor.  No one gets aggressive, and it's absolutely hysterical to watch.  Like I have said, for the first time in my life, I have 2 men fighting over me.  Bummer is, it's my husband and my dog.
This was the first time Willy jumped up on the bed with Crabby. At the time we thought it was ‘progress’. Later we learned it was a Brownie Point attempt to show me he was a bigger man than Crabby. The 2 have settled into a diabolical and devious competition to see who gets my favor. No one gets aggressive, and it’s absolutely hysterical to watch. Like I have said, for the first time in my life, I have 2 men fighting over me. Bummer is, it’s my husband and my dog.

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.

Sweet William was never dangerous, he just needed guidance.
Sweet William was never dangerous, he just needed love, guidance and time.

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…

Willy awaiting surgery.  The little blue thing under his head is DASH!'s sweater, which I left with Willy so he could have something from home.  Pic provided by Daisy Mountain Animal Hospital.
Willy awaiting surgery, the same surgery where the remnant roots were discovered. The little blue thing under his head is DASH!’s sweater, which I left with him so he could have something from home. This picture actually rips at my heart a little.  Pic provided by Daisy Mountain Animal Hospital.

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.


48 thoughts on “Crazy Dog Lady, Why is William Medicated?

    1. Fifteen years ago, I put me on the Prozac and let the five dogs and the Cranky Control Freak work it out. I am much older and maybe a little wiser now as I have not replaced each dog that passed on, and after thirty years of the dogs pushing me out of my own bed, either I have learned to accept the things I could not change or I have lost my mind. Either way, I threw out the Prozac long ago and I almost feel free. I have one dog (or she has me) and CCF wants to take me to Paris, if we both outlive the dog whom he will not trust anyone to babysit. I’m not buying a beret until I actually land in Paris. Can you blame me?

  1. I understand Willy! I was on puppy prozac for a while after being rescued from the puppy mill. I had had no human socialization and was like a feral wolf, but now I’m a happy happy pup! Woooooowoooooooo!

  2. Like people, dogs can’t make progress while “in crisis,” so medication is needed to stabilize them. We had Isis on 80 mg Prozac when she died. Unfortunately, I never noticed improvements to her anxiety. I’m happy it seems to be working for Willy… And that he got his teeth fixed.

    1. Was Isis on Prozac or Fluoxetine?

      Fluoxetine isn’t actually Prozac, it’s just what we call it. Reading the label, it said that it only helps about I think it was 68% (some odd number, more than 1/2 but less than 3/4). It also said that it could worsen some symptoms, so we were prepared for the event it didn’t help. We got lucky.

      1. Yes and no. If as it was explained to me is correct, it’s the difference between ketchup and tomato paste. Same base, different makeup, different actions. I have heard tales told that dogs on actual Prozac had a higher success rate than those on Fluoxetine. There is a 3rd, similar drug as well, but I haven’t heard any feedback on it.

        Oxycodone to some people is an addictive drug that they will do anything to get. I take it at 1/2 dose and I’m totally knocked out for a day. Clueless as to how anyone can get addicted to it. I guess everyone reacts different, even dogs.

  3. I read your blog all the time. You’re super smart and unbelievably compassionate. I think with social media you need to ignore the nut cases that judge you when they don’t know the whole story and simply continue to do what you do. You’re a great dog mom and there is no need for you to apologize. I rarely comment on people’s blogs that I don’t know. I notice that typically I see the same people over and over negatively commenting. I don’t have a degree in psychology, but I’m fairly certain that all their chairs aren’t tucked underneath the table, if you know what I mean. The internet is their outlet and you are a victim of their bizarre interpretations. Many times I do believe reading comprehension among the many is non-existent as well. They read what fits into their narrow vision of the world or what what they want to exist so they can prove their superior intelligence (knowing deep down inside they’re not that bright).

    1. Some would say your statement about me being ‘super smart’ is a bit of a stretch…

      The pondering I did that lead to this post was that perhaps there are other people out there with a dog who might benefit from medication with the same belief that medicating is wrong. Hopefully our experiences, will help.

      It’s hard to get me to take offense, but if the statements might be shared by others and I can chime in with real world experience that might assist others, I’m all over it.

  4. Thank you for loving Willy AND Crabby. By giving Willy love, you gave Crabby love. You are a good wife and doggie mom.

    As one who will spend her life on medication to treat (not cure) migraines, and Prozac having been a part of that at one time, I completely understand that beings (human and furry) need medication to make it through life now and again. If he is on it for live, do NOT feel bad for one moment. Some of us need that, and you are giving him all that he needs. He’s already doing amazing things because of YOU!!!

    1. You have my sympathy for the migranes. I used to get them years ago, then one day, they just stopped. I feel your pain at the shuddering you do when someone standing in front of you complains that they are having a migrane. Only a migrane sufferer would understand the problem with that statement 🙂 and 😦

      With as much progress as Willy has made, and with the reduction in dosage that has occurred over the last year alone, I don’t think he’ll be a lifer, but If he is, oh well.

  5. You are my hero! To H-E – Double Hockey Sticks with anyone who thinks they can judge you. Most people would have thrown Sweet William away (and by the beginning of his life stories they did). I have my own version of Crabby and I don’t think a little competition is a bad thing! Keep doing the wonderful work you are doing! Bless you and the whole family!

    1. You are correct. Willy wouldn’t be a live if he went anywhere else. People adopt from the war zone under the romantic belief that they are saving a refugee and said refugee will genuflect at their feet in gratitude. It doesn’t work that way. While some of Willy’s people are doing just fine, others were lost because people didn’t understand that there would be health and emotional issues that would take time to work out.

    1. I felt like a quitter when we went for medication in Willy’s case. Looking back, however, it really was the best thing. Getting him off will be better.

  6. Poor Willy has had a tough life. But if there is a bright spot, it was him finding you and Crabby. Hang in there, sometimes the biggest rewards take the longest to accomplish. Please keep us posted.

    1. Nothing to ‘hang in’ about. We knew when we said we would take Willy that he would come with a rather extensive luggage collection. All is swell.

  7. I think a camping trip with just me an Willie would do wonders. Snuggling in the Jeep, long walks in the dew laced fields, howling by the campfire, trying to catch the Jeep. : )

    1. I may be the only one who catches the evilness in that very last activity. OVER MY DEAD BODY will Willy ever go with you camping, alone. And for your statement, Willy would like for you to know that YOU will be on the dog bed during TV time this evening!

  8. Afghanistan is better for dogs that Vietnam.where “dog dinner” means something different than we’re used to.
    We use Dr Cohen, also in Anthem at Anthem Pet Medical Center.
    Ya gotta do what ya gotta do-good luck.

    1. I’m a tried and true Dr. Young fan Daisy Mountain Animal Hospital. She’s newish since January – at Galvian and Daisy Mountain. More than once she made herself available immediately for our emergencies. Oddly, our regular vet has always told us to wait. Needless to say, we are trending to a new regular vet.

  9. You worked so hard to get Willie to USA, and paid a lot of dollars, and went through an immense amount of hassle before he even set foot on American soil. When you say “Willie’s Demons” I think you are right, he has his own form of PTSD. He has been able to fit into your crazy pack, and for the most part, is really having a great time! – – and that is what is best for a dog!

    1. That any of the dogs made it out of Iraq and Afghanistan is an absolute miracle. There are a few orgs that work to make it happen, every one requiring extreme kudos.

      If we consider a time line that includes a lifetime, Willy has only been here only 1.3 (rd) of his life he has done very well. Without even considering medication, which never was even a thought, we figured a year at least before he started being a dog. So, in the scheme of things, he’s moved a lot faster.

      Then again, he passed the point of being a dog several months ago. Now he thinks he’s the man of the house:)

  10. Your pups are lucky to have you as family. I felt so bad for your baby after reading about the dental issue. Oh my gosh, can you imagine the pain. Don’t feel guilt, keep feeling love, you are an awesome fellow crazy dog lady! From one crazy dog lady, to another. P.S. on the medication thing, how could anyone else know any better than your family and vet? Keep up the great work!

  11. I’m so glad I found this post! I’ve recently made the difficult decision to start my dog on Prozac (Nuzak), and have really been feeling that somehow I’ve let her down by not “fixing” her without medication. My rescue dog also travelled a lot (originally from Botswana, then different shelters in southern Africa) before she found her way to me, and it’s clear not all of her life experiences were good ones! I haven’t even had her for a year yet, but she’s made great improvements with the help of a wonderful vet and behaviourist – who have differing opinions about medicating her. But bottom line is that I want what’s best for her and to put her at ease as we both get her to “OK” someday soon.
    Thanks for speaking up about this hard issue – sounds like everyone at Run a Muck Ranch is in good hands with you!

    1. If you want to, we can start a support group “Worried Dog Moms That Feel Guilty About Medicating Their Dogs, Even Through It’s OK – Provided They Don’t Use It As A Cop Out”. 🙂

      Have you considered writing a post of your experiences both before and after? I think it’s very important that as many people that have been through this tell their stories. Perhaps we can learn from each other.

      1. I like it! Now that’s a support group I could totally get behind! 🙂

        I think you’re right, I should make some time to put my own experience out there too, because if the stats are right, there are tons of people grappling with this who aren’t talking about it either! It somehow makes it so much easier when we know we’re not alone, right?

      2. No, we’re not alone! Please write your story! I am waiting anxiously to see if you tried a trick I didn’t think of! Also, your med is different than Willy’s. Curious as to how it works. That being said, Willy is doing fine on the Fluoxedine – so I see no reason to change, but still, if yours has a different action to it, never hurts to discuss with the vet if one is kinder and gentler than the other…

      3. Looks like it’s also Fluoxedine, just a different “brand” name. I think I’ll do a series of posts on what we’ve experienced and tried over the past few months. I’ll let you know when I get the chance to write them up & post them!

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