Many people take medications to improve their mental health. Medication is routinely used to stabilise your mood and control socially limiting anxiety disorders. Animals also have problems with mental health and anxiety disorders that can make it difficult for them to be happy and functional animals.
Many owners think that more intense behaviour training is going to solve any behaviour problem in their pet. Changing the environment so your pet is more settled and can’t show unwanted behaviour can be helpful. Environmental enrichment and positive owner/pet interaction can also help with behaviour. However, each time your pet shows unwanted behaviour, that behaviour becomes learned behaviour and it is more likely to be repeated.
Some animals can’t learn better behaviours because they are too anxious in their environment to able to learn. If you think about being anxious as a person, you often don’t make sensible decisions. Animals enter the fight or flight mode when they are anxious and are then likely to show fearful, unwanted behaviours.
Medications come in various classes but can be grouped into short term and long term medications. All behaviour medications have different effects on each individual animal. Effects can also be highly variable depending on the animal’s state of arousal.
Short Term Behavioural Medication
These tablets or liquids are given prior to anxious events such as fireworks, thunder, travel and short term changes in environment.
The effects of medication are variable and really need to be adjusted over time to a level that suits your pet. Medications are rarely effective if given when the animal is already frightened and aroused. The aim is to medicate at least an hour before the event.
As with all behaviour problems, modifying the environment to lessen the exposure to the frightening event is very useful.
Long Term Behavioural Medication
Daily medication to stabilise mood and decrease anxiety can be very helpful to allow your pet to learn calmer behaviours. This is not an instant fix and often changes can be mild to moderate.
When long term medication is prescribed it will take 2-3 weeks for your pet to adjust to the medication. Some animals are a little off their food, or just not themselves. This often balances out at about the third week.
Their are a number of of long term medications. Often a combination of tablets are prescribed and doses are adjusted for the best results.
Medications are usually given for at least 3 months and many animals are happier and healthier if they stay on the medication long term. At Pittwater Animal Hospital any pet on long term medication needs to have a yearly medication review with blood tests. Changes in the bloods that happen with age or from disease can effect how medications are processed. At medication reviews the dose is adjusted, behaviour discussed and a full health check performed.
At Pittwater Animal Hospital we have many pets who have had improved behaviour, happiness and general well being after starting long term behavioural medication. Most animals to not need these medications, but if your animal does, it can be a valuable tool in helping you and your pet have a more settled and happier life.