01.06.11: My Dog is On Anti-Anxiety Meds … Where Are Mine?

It’s wrong to be jealous of my faithful companion, and it’s not funny that he needs pharmacological intervention to manage his fretting.  However … it is funny to step back and think, holy heck, my dog gets Doggy’s Little Helper, and I don’t?  Where’s the justice in that?

Our wonderful German Shepherd mix, a rescue dog that came to us through Mister’s best friend and his family, is the ideal dog for us.  He’s gentle and loyal.  He loves to go running.  He kills the occasional rodent intruder onto our property.  He doesn’t beg for People Food, and he doesn’t jump up and terrify people.  He’s a lamb around Baby Girl.  He’s been my one constant over the past year, as Mister has gone to train for his new job, we’ve moved (sort of), and I’ve had a baby.  Dog has been through it all, sweetly and quietly.

He’s not without his quirks – who among us can claim to be quirk-free, especially those of us who’ve led checkered lives? – and the main quirk we have to manage is his tragic freak-outs during thunderstorms and fireworks.  He loses his poor little doggy mind and cannot calm himself down.  During storms, he goes to Mister and paws at him incessantly.  Dog is inconsolable.  And you can’t yell at him, you certainly can’t administer any discipline, because you’ll compound his freak-out.  So in our house when we had one, I would take him into the guest room and sleep there.  The system worked because (a) I’m a much heavier sleeper than Mister (I’m a heavier sleeper than many dead people), so I can nod off even when I’m being pawed at; (b) Dog eventually would quit bugging me, because it was the Man of the House/Leader of the Pack that he really wanted; and (c) Mister was close to losing his Mister-mind.

We give him plenty of exercise, and we tried giving him more when the weather looked suspicious, to wear him out so maybe he wouldn’t have the energy to be destructive, or maybe he’d be relaxed and not so bothered.  Didn’t work.  We tried giving him treats during storms so he’d have positive associations with the noise and mess … yeah, not so much.  We have Doggy Valium that we can give him when we know storms are coming, and it does take the edge off of his anxiety so he isn’t quite so frantic, but there’s often not enough warning for storms.  Plus, the poor guy is just dopey and thirsty for a day and a half afterward.  While we know it’s helping him not to be on the Freak-Out Spiral with quite as much intensity, it’s still unpleasant.

He also doesn’t handle change too well.  [Who among us can claim to, honestly?]

He gets nervous.  When we moved into our first house, he had terrible stomach upset issues (that was ever so much fun).  While we were at work, he clawed the doors in an attempt, I assume, to tunnel his way out of the strange new place.  He’s managed this transition to my parents’ house fairly easily, and I attribute that to his familiarity with my parents and this house, as we’ve visited for years, and to his close friendship with my parents’ dog, a ridiculous and happy-go-lucky female standard poodle.

All this to say, we’ve decided to put him on Puppy Prozac.  I can’t believe I just typed those words.  This systemic, longer-lasting anxiety medication is designed to help him experience fear and freak-outs without elevating to the level of destroying carpet, doorknobs, etc.  He’ll have to be boarded soon when we all take a trip, and then he’ll have to manage another move to a new house with no friendly poodle to distract him.  I fear he’ll have a rough time.

I talked my concerns through with our wonderful and understanding veterinarian, and she suggested, gently, that he might need a little more therapy.  Mister agreed that Dog needs some help managing his panic, and as a family, we need help managing his panic, too.

So this morning, I gave him three blue capsules, which he accepted gracefully with a cheese chaser.  I just hope the medicine doesn’t blunt his personality to the extent that we don’t know him.  The vet assured me that he might be a little slow as he gets used to the stuff, but that he’ll still be himself.  Just calmer when chaos strikes.  He won’t escalate into the frantic, clawing, breathless fear that is so upsetting for all of us.  Here’s hoping.

Being a Dog Mom isn’t easy.  And I reiterate – my dog is on Prozac?  Where’s mine?

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