Dog owners will soon be able to give their pets Prozac to treat their depression.The once-a-day chewable tablet, which tastes of beef, has been launched in the US and will soon be available in the UK after being granted a licence.Its makers say it can help cure ‘canine compulsive disorder’, which apparently affects thousands of dogs and causes excessive licking, whimpering and tail-chasing
The drug, called Reconcile, is also designed to curb the compulsive pacing, chewing and dribbling which its makers claim is a result of depression brought on by their owners’ long absences.The anti-depressant Prozac has been used to cure compulsive behaviour in humans, and works by increasing the brain’s levels of serotonin, a ‘happiness’ chemical.Trials involving more than 660 mentally-disturbed pets in Europe and the US produced improvements in behaviour within eight weeks.
Eli Lilly, the drug’s US manufacturer, said: ‘Treatment for companion animals is a relatively new area for us.’They point to research which shows that as many as 8 per cent of dogs suffer from canine compulsive disorder.Critics say gods are now being diagnosed with ‘lifestyle’ illnesses so that drugs can be marketed to treat them.Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist, said: ‘Most breakthroughs in dog behaviour are achieves by carrying a titbit and using it wisely, not by drugs.’Reconcile has now been granted a licence by the UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate.However, it was first licensed in the US three years ago for separation anxiety from being left alone for long periods.
The American Food and Drug Administration said it should be taken with therapy to modify the dog’s behaviour – and should be taken by puppies as young as six months.At the time, Steve Connell, Eli Lilly’s manager of consumer services for companion animal health, said that more than 10million US dogs exhibit strange symptoms from being left alone too long.’Lilly research shows that 10.7million, or up to 17 per cent, of US dogs suffer from separation anxiety,’ he said. ‘We’re thrilled that our first product for dogs can help restore the human-pet bond.’
He said research showed that 73 per cent of dogs taking Reconcile and undergoing therapy showed better behaviour within eight weeks, compared to dogs receiving therapy alone.The drug’s website says: ‘While you may not be familiar with canine separation anxiety, you are probably familiar with its symptoms.’While you are gone, your dog may do one or several of the following: chew destructively; bark or whine; inappropriate urination and/or defecation; drool; pace; tremble; vomit – or worse.
‘Separation anxiety is a clinical condition in your dog’s brain. Your pet is not a bad dog. Your pet’s behaviour is the result of separation anxiety.’In Britain, research for Sainsbury’s Bank in 2003 indicated that 632,000 dogs and cats had suffered from depression in the previous year.Nearly three times as many had suffered from behavioural problems which could be linked to depression, such as attacking furniture.Clare Moyles, Sainsbury’s pet insurance manager, said: ‘People are leading more stressful lives and unfortunately this can have an adverse effect on the health of our pets.
‘Cats and dogs can be very susceptible to their owner’s feelings and if they sense that they are unhappy they can become agitated or depressed.’Side effects of Reconcile can include lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, shaking, diarrhoea, restlessness, excessive barking, aggression and seizures in a small number of dogs.