Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Separation Anxiety, Doggie Prozac - Does the Pet Industry Lack Ethics?



I do not recommend the use of anti-depressant SSRIs (i.e. Reconcile) for dogs. Reconcile is actually Prozac. Prozac/Reconcile:
  • Will NOT cure separation anxiety, or any other anxiety for that matter;
  • Has many and serious, including lethal side effects;
  • Actually induces many of the symptoms of anxiety, and;
  • Can make the anxiety a heightened and chronic condition.
Separation Anxiety can be Summarized as Follows...
  • The Root Cause of separation anxiety is insecurity;
  • Provocation can be immediate or accumulated;
  • The Source of the provocation is predominantly caused by inadvertent human-based influence;
  • However the condition may also be triggered and/or exacerbated by a sudden traumatic event or an event in tandem with human-based influence;
  • The Result of provocation without proper intervention is a destabilized physiological state - 'an altered normal' which when addressed properly can be reversed.
So, Lets Have a Serious Talk About Doggie Prozac

In 2006, the pharmaceutical giant Lilly (also known as Eli Lilly), decided to launch a new drug in its line of pharmaceuticals for dogs.

This new wonder drug was actually Prozac (generic name fluoxetine, also produced by other companies under the trade name Sarafem, Fontex, etc.) an anti-depressant which is used for humans who suffer from depression and other mental/mood disorders (anxieties). The drug company renamed Prozac in order to re-badge it as a canine drug - its new name was 'Reconcile'  

Prozac is an anti depressant and an SSRI - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. SSRIs work by altering the action of the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Serotonin a) regulates aging, learning and memory; b) mood; c) sleep and other important functions. Unbalanced serotonin levels can play a role in anxiety problems, digestive and appetite issues. The range of common and rare side effects of Prozac are very extensive.
Lilly's pre-approval testing for human use, included testing of the drug on dogs. In one study,  six dogs were intentionally overdosed with oral fluoxetine (soon to be called Prozac). Five of these dogs experienced grand mal seizures. The study reports that 'the lowest plasma concentration at which a seizure occurred was only twice the maximum plasma concentration seen in humans taking 80 mg/day, chronically.' This means that in dogs, just a relatively small amount of Prozac is enough to create seizures and grand mal-seizures (lethal seizures) in dogs.

When Lilly decided to move forward with their new doggy Prozac drug 'Reconcile' they carried out additional 'testing' on dogs as part of the pre-approval process to obtain FDA approval to market Reconcile. In one such ‘study’ Lilly gave the drug to a 117 dogs. Three of the 117 dogs experienced seizures – for one of the dogs the seizure was fatal.   

In my opinion:
  • 3 seizures resulting out of 117 dogs tested reflects a very high rate;
  • 1 death out of 117 dogs tested is an unacceptable risk;
Another test of the drug was carried out on five beagles. Three of these five beagles either died or were euthanized due to severe damage resulting from the drug in the first six months of the study. Look at the numbers – that is a high incidence of serious side effects - including death.

In addition to the very real threat of seizures...
Doggie Prozac - Reconcile has More Side Effects
  • Anxiety - ludicrous as Reconcile is marketed to resolve anxiety;
  • Aggression;
  • Brittle Bones - taking SSRIs may double chance of bone fractures (serotonin has a significant role in bone density);
  • Excessive Panting;
  • GI Tract disturbance - also ludicrous. 
    • Consider the fact that the GI Tract health is indelibly linked to a healthy mind and balanced psychological state...the bodies second brain is the GI Tract.  
    • When the GI tract is under assault:
      • Your dog's immune system is suppressed leaving your dog susceptible to illness; 
      • The gut - when healthy, actually produces more mood-boosting serotonin than the brain does. (Serotonin a} regulates aging, learning and memory; b} mood; c} sleep and other important functions. Unbalanced serotonin levels can play a role in anxiety problems, digestive and appetite issues).
  • Hyperactivity;
  • Hightened risk of heart problems;
  •  Irrationality; 
  • Increased risk of diabetes;  
  • Pregnancy - dogs that are pregnant should not take Reconcile as it cases multiple serious complications.
If Reconcile has an extensive list of interactions with other mendicants - so it is of the utmost importance to ensure that - if prescribed - all interactions are considered...for example - interference and serious side effects such as:
  • Exaserbation of general side effects;
  • Overdose;
  • Rapid decrease on health;
  • Death.
Note that Reconcile does not start to take effect until  it has been administered for 10 to 14 days. In addition, Lilly wants your dog to be on the drug for a minimum of 8 weeks - plenty of time for extensive damage to be done to your dog by a drug that is aggressively marketed to 'help' your dog.

Antidepressants such as Reconcile can actually turn the anxiety into a deeper and chronic condition as many of its side effects are the same as the symptoms of the anxious condition.

Despite the dangerous nature of the drug, Reconcile was approved by the FDA in April of 2007 – of course Lilly began to aggressively marketing Reconcile to veterinarians right away.  As part of their marketing campaign they created a website for the product. Much like the campaigns by *IAMS and *Ralston Purina (you know the cute TV commercials), Lilly's ‘Reconcile’ website is filled with pictures of adorable, HEALTHY dogs who are standing beside chewed furniture etc. In small print further down the web page Lilly states that the adverse reactions of the drug, include: seizures, weight loss, lethargy, depression, decreased appetite, vomiting, tremor, diarrhea, restlessness, otitis externa, disorientation, incoordination, constipation, excessive salivation. Lilly also states on marketing and labeling information that Reconcile should not be used on dogs with epilepsy or a history of seizures, and also states that ‘Seizures may occur in dogs treated with Reconcile chewable tablets, even in dogs without a history of epilepsy or seizures.’

The Reconcile site also says ‘The effectiveness and clinical safety of Reconcile chewable tablets for long-term use (i.e. for more than 8 weeks) has not been evaluated.’ Yikes! Then it says ‘It can take time to see improvement in your pet's behaviors. If you don't see immediate improvement, continue with Reconcile for as long as your veterinarian has indicated. Don't give up! It is important that you continue the medication as prescribed.’ Quite a sales pitch.

After Lilly launched Reconcile in April of 2007, they did what they know best – bribe Veterinarians to prescribe the product. When Lilly reviewed their sales later that year – their animal health care sales in the US had increased by 18%. Great marketing job of a lethal drug with at best serious side effects - all for something that can and should be cured via dealing with the psychology of the situation – the true root cause.

The Division of Surveillance for the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine sent a warning letter to Elanco – sighting them for suggesting (on their website and other marketing materials) that ‘the product is more effective than has been demonstrated.’ The FDA warned Lilly-Elanco to change its marketing materials and Web site text.  The FDA noted that Lilly had neglected to mention that simple behavior modification on its own – without drugs, worked nearly as well as their drug. Had the FDA seen what someone who understands dogs can really do they would have understood that b-mod accomplished with psychological intervention works many times better than any drug. 

In response to the FDA, Lilly developed a combo approach which they called the ‘BOND’ program – offering a several week ‘training’ course in combination with use of the drug. BOND stands for:
  • Be positive;
  • Only reward calm behaviour;
  • No more drama when coming and going, and;
  • Develop the dog's independence.
 On the BOND Training section of their website site Lilly notes ‘This process may take a week or more, depending on the individual dog.’ Yet Lilly also states that the drug should be used for 8 consecutive weeks or more – illogical? Nope, not if you are greedy. In the US alone it is reported that there are 10.7 million dogs with separation anxiety. Multiply that by the cost of a month’s supply of the drug and you have quite a profit for Lilly. What a racket – ethical, I don’t think so.

The sad thing is that many veterinarians don’t think twice about prescribing such drugs - they, like Lilly, are in for the profit and/or do not understand the severity of the side effects and/or would rather make the $ than recommend a reputable professional that could cure the separation anxiety without further harming the dog. 

I have worked with many clients who were told by a veterinarian, trainer and or behaviourist (yeap, in some cases all three) that the only solution (to their dog's anxiety) is doggie Prozac or euthanasia. Yet by utilizing my methods – which are humane – the separation anxiety is cured. The same is true for hyper active behaviour. I also address diet as nutrition is directly linked to mental health (as well as physical health).
Some people try ‘Thunder Shirts’, Flower Essence, special spray collars, etc. but it has been my experience and that of the people that come to me that such interventions are at best not so effective

We  humans have all we need within ourselves to effect a cure for things like separation anxiety…self-awareness, self-restraint, self-discipline used to enable truly aware communication. Invariably it is us - the human that needs to be trained in the art of communication and patience. This is what I teach my clients. I teach my client's to understand that dogs love logic even more than humans do - how can I say such a thing? Because it is true. Dogs are very aware, very insightful communicators. We humans have a bad habit of not being that thing first that we want our dogs to be...meaning self aware, self disciplined, self restrained, self regulating. Emotion begets emotion. Tension creates tension, guilt, frustration, angst creates anxiety - this is pure logic. Surely as an intelligent species we should have the intelligence to de-create such conditions we unintentionally foster upon our dogs without further harming the dog. To understand separation anxiety  -  its cause and a humane, effective, logical way by which to resolve the condition you can read this.For more insights into what might work, does work and what does not work you can read here.

Oh and about all those 'cute' adorable dog food commercials on TV curtsey of Purina and Iams...

Iams and Ralston Purina not only invasive and lethally test their products on dogs (and cats) they are also responsible for so many pets acquiring chronic health issues, from serious reoccurring ear infections to renal failure, diabetes, cancer etc. You can read more on that here

Equal or even worse than these products are many of the products sold in veterinarians offices. Two such examples-  the veterinarian line of ‘Royal Canine’ dog kibble and Hills Dog Kibble. Check out the ingredients and then go to my article on choosing a Good Dog Kibble. The number of clients I have worked with - who were advised by their veterinarians to place their dog on these costly but very damaging foods; is numerous. Many were paying $100 for a bag of food only to find that their dogs acquired chronic ear infections, renal issues and worse.

Did you know that Pet Smart does not carry one safe truly nutritious dog kibble among all the products on their shelves? 

Walmart supplies a huge percentage of the dog kibble to pet-owners in North America - all of the dog kibble products Walmart sells are seriously damaging to your dog's health.

Much like any sector of industry - ethics are not a strong feature in the Pet Industry. 

I will provide you with a very recent example – I received this yesterday…

Hi Karen,
Our 13 1/2 yr. old pitbull recently had a laryngeal tieback surgery that required her to be fed entirely differently than ever before. She had always been on Evo (grain free) and baked skinless chicken. Now, the doctors prescribed that she must eat wet food only and be hand fed in small meatballs. The surgery itself is quite intense but the rehab is even more so. Phoebe has always had a very delicate stomach. I noted that to the doctors. We tried every premium canned food , all with the same awful results...diarrhea. She was sick all of the time and loosing weight rapidly. Every time that her stomach sent acids etc into her throat, she would faint...it was beginning to be a daily occurance...her life was all day sick on the couch, not wanting to eat and needing to relieve herself every two hours. We were a nervous wreck about the fainting, as was she. The doctors finally agreed to allow me to make a gruel out of her kibble and process it together with her chicken and feed her in tiny meatballs, by hand. She remained sick to her stomach still. They then decided to put her on an antibiotic and two stomach meds...much to my dismay...but, I was desperate to make her well and felt completely out of control with the situation. Finally, I woke one morning 5 months had passed and I had had enough...I was reclaiming my dogs health and happiness that day. Period. Your recipes for homemade dog food had the exact same ingredients as the premium kibble only minus the elements that I long suspected had been a source of aggravation to her digestion. Anyway, the food had everything that she has loved all of her life! Well, I made the first batch and she went nuts...now, this is a dog who I was forcing food on...and it would come out just as fast. She has been on your recipe for one month now. She is gaining back the weight that she lost. Her brindle colors are bright again. She is perky...grabbing toys and wrestling with the other dogs and greeting everyone at the door as they come home at night. Her bowel movements are absolutely perfect...I mean PERFECT!! I cannot thank you enough...my family cannot thank you enough because you have brought joy and health back into her life. And, the best news, she is not on any stomach meds at all! Her doctors keep insisting that she would have been fine to stay on the kibble! NOT SO. She is a completely different dog today than she was a month ago and it is all because of the food. PERIOD. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you...by the way, the other dogs love it too! We all really appreciate you and your recipe more than you will ever know! Love, Phoebe and family
Debi Beno

Today, Debi went to her veterinarian to inform them of the good news, this is what she wrote me after her visit…

Thank you for the links, I look forward to reading them today! Just wanted to share with you my experience yesterday...I have been so excited to share my news of Phoebe's progress with her doctor that I decided to give him a call yesterday...omg...one of his nurses is always very interested in asking about Phoebe so, when she answered the phone, I thought that I would also share my exciting news with her...she actually froze on the phone and, when she was able to recover her wits, she (in a whisper tone) relayed to me that the doctors are going to be "very upset" to hear of me feeding her this way! UPSET????? So, you are telling me that they will be UPSET that Phoebe is feeling GOOD ?( I said to her). Oh Debi, she said, there is NO WAY that you can be giving her all of the vitamins and minerals that she needs by making food for her...then, one of the doctors walked out (over hearing our conversation) and began to lecture me on my deciding to do this!!! I did not even wait for her doctor to come out, I simply looked at the room now bursting with staff and said, " If ANY of the doctors here had been able to make her feel this good, with all of their prescriptions and advice and medical expertise, we would not even be having this discussion"...and I left. Wow...when a caretaker is telling you that your patient is doing great for the first time in 6 months, I would have thought that they would have a way different response....how terribly disappointing. Thanks again for the links...maybe I will send them to the vets office :)

Trust not the pet industry, trust your instinct…which is what a dog does :>)

As an intervention coupled with effective training methods - ensuring that your dog has enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids in his/her daily diet is a safer, more effective way (than Prozac) to support your dog in over-coming anxiety issues - you can learn more about that here.

I advise my clients to get their dogs off of these toxic, carcinogenic, non-species appropriate diets ASAP and replace them with an appropriate dietary protocol and remove all toxins from the health care regimen. Examples of some of the many dietary interventions...

And that IS the honest truth - for the health of your dog.

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld 

1 comment:

  1. Whoa! 2 years ago when I first rescued my pittie, we realized he was having separation anxiety. My vet prescribed this med. I actually still have the bottle. We used maybe 3 pills and then I took him off it. I can't remember exactly why I did other than the fact (1) I really didn't want to medicate him; and (2) we decided on changing his behavior by trigger words "be back", leaving for a bit at a time and coming home, and placing a few small treats in certain areas of the house when we leave. Thankfully, we were able to get him over it. This Reconcile sounds horrible imo and I do remember the pamphlet saying something about seizures and other bad things. Glad I didn't continue with it. Great post.


Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

4.0 Leave a Comment

I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats