To assist us with some of these more difficult cases, veterinarians have at their disposal a number of excellent and often effective medications to piggyback a desensitization protocol. I say “usually” because not all individuals respond positively to therapeutic intervention. Dosages of medications often have to be adjusted, and training MUST take place concurrently – meds in and of themselves DO NOT resolve severe behavior problems. Knowledgeable handling is imperative at all times. The goal is to hopefully wean the dog or cat from medications at a future date. Having an open dialogue with our veterinarians is an absolute necessity when the discussion centers around an unresolved behavior problem and the role that pharmacology may play in rehabilitation.
Pioneers in the field of therapeutic intervention, like Dr. Nicholas Dodman of the Tufts Veterinary School of Behavior, have significantly impacted for the better the lives of many companion animals. We must keep in mind that identifying a “cause” for neuroses and psychoses is not necessary to attempt a dual approach to rehabilitation. As a dog breeder, I can identify that most of the problematic individuals presented to me are born with unstable temperaments. Do these genetic instabilities exist in purebred breeding programs? In selective breeding, these issues of poor temperament are selected against, and typically have low percentages of surfacing. Certainly inappropriate handling and management can and does exacerbate the instability. Random matings of individuals raises the chance for more erratic and variable temperaments, anxieties, and reactive behaviors.
To assist with more difficult and chronic problems affecting a dog or cat’s quality of life, a number of choices exist, some of which can include:
>> Clomipramine (Clomicalm) can be used for some compulsive behaviors, i.e. tail chasing, snapping at imaginary lights (or butterflies, bugs, etc.), digging, inappropriate consumption of non-food materials (rocks, stones, cans, etc.), separation anxiety, sound sensitivity, thunderstorm phobia and more.
>> Fluoxetine (Prozac) has been reasonably effective with dog-on-dog aggression, anxiety, and fear-induced people aggression, general anxiety, depression, and a number of compulsive behaviors.
>> Buspirone (Buspar) has been increasingly effective with urine spraying in cats, fear/anxiety, and in some dogs exhibiting aggression with high prey/defense drive.
All medications take time for a therapeutic titer to build. All medications can also have side effects. Many owners cannot “pill” their pets successfully or consistently – this being a typical problem with many cats in need of medication. There’s a lot to consider before embarking on psychotropic intervention. Side effects, breakthroughs, a false sense of security on the part of owners with reactive dogs, are the land mines all the way. To be continued…
Feel free to call us with any questions at 518-828-6044, or visit the website at www.cghs.org. Stop down and see us at 125 Humane Society Road, off Route 66 (about a mile south of the intersection with Route 9H) in Hudson. Our hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on Wednesday and Sunday.
The Food Bank is open to any from the public in need of pet food or for those wishing to donate food anytime during business hours. All of our cats and kittens are “Furrever Free” with all expenses paid. Spay/neuter clinics for cats are $65 male or female, including a rabies vaccination and a 5-in-1 feline distemper combination vaccination. Nail clipping services are available every Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. at the shelter, no appointment necessary, for a donation of $5 for cats and $10 for dogs.
Charlene Marchand is the chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. She may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.