The number of pets that are receiving psychiatric drugs for things such as hyper activity and depression are rising significantly over previous years. Just last year alone, Americans spent nearly $7 billion dollars on pills for their pets, which is an increase of 35 percent in just four years, according to David Lummis, a senior pet market analyst for Packaged Facts. In fact, Pfizer Drug Company has established a companion animal division which brought in nearly a billion dollars last year.
Not everyone agrees that drugs like Prozac and Zoloft are the best way to treat human conditions found in dogs or cats. The debate over whether or not this is the best way for pet owners to spend their hard earned money has opinions coming in from across the country.
Who’s For It?
One of the advocates of prescribing psychiatric medication to pets is Dr. Nicholas Dodman, founder of the Animal Behavior Center at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “There’s absolutely no doubt that psychiatric medicines that work on people also work on pets. I mean we’ve shown it over and over again, ad nauseum,” said Dodman. One of the pets he’s treated with human medication is a dog named Frisbee, who was brought to the center because he compulsively chased his hind legs between 10 and 12 times a day.
Dr. Dodman treated Frisbee with Prozac and a medication typically used for Alzheimer’s patients in an effort to reduce the dog’s compulsive behavior. Dodman doesn’t treat every pet with medication, just those he feels it will help. “I only use medicines if I think it will help,” he said. “Some people will say, ‘but I really wanted medicine,’ and I say, ‘your animal, your pet doesn’t need it.'”
When Dodman started using drugs meant for humans, he found that Prozac in various forms not only successfully controlled anxiety-related problems in dogs but also helped reduce some forms of aggression. This prompted Eli Lilly, the company that manufactures Prozac, to create a chewable, beef-flavored version of the medication specifically designed for dogs.
Who’s Against It?
Cesar Milan, animal trainer and “dog whisperer” from National Geographic’s hit show, said he is skeptical of using psychiatric medicines on pets. Milan firmly believes that with the proper behavior changes, love, and time spent, pets can achieve the same changes that human drugs might change.
“Unfortunately, everybody is looking for the quick fix, for the ‘I want to see dramatic change in my dog,'” he said. “Exercise, proper diet and tough love – showing your pet who’s boss – can cure psychological problems in pets in most cases.”
Veterinarians across the country have varied opinions on giving human psychiatric drugs to dogs and cats, mostly because they feel they are not informed enough to make that decision. What do you think…are you for it or against it?