Every morning eight-year-old Zac has his regular breakfast.
For the last three months his meal has come with one small addition – Prozac.
Zac is an English cocker spaniel, and when his owner David Wilson adopted him, he didn’t quite know what to expect. Zac’s personal ad came with the headline “Senior dog with special needs”.
It turned out each time Zac was left alone for longer than five minutes he became distressed and destructive.
“I think it was my second or third weekend with Zac and I had him in the wagon part of my station wagon and I popped into the supermarket for about 20 minutes and I came back and saw that he had pulled up all the leather upholstery from my seat and had pulled up all the plastic housing down the side of my car,” Wilson says.
Zac was soon diagnosed with separation anxiety and prescribed anti-depressants. The first being Trazodone, a short acting anti-anxiety capsule and the second being Fluoxetine, more commonly known as Prozac.
The vet treating Zac, Dr Gabrielle Carter, says she sees an increasing amount of pets with mental illness.
“We’re talking about mental illness in the same concept or the same way we would talk about mental health issues in people,” Dr Carter says. “We’re talking about animals that might have anxiety problems, perhaps depression, some phobias.”
And much like the case with humans, she says pets should have a range of medication available to them.
“If you had a dog that had a broken leg and it was in pain, you would give it a pain killer and if I’ve got a dog that is suffering from separation anxiety and is really distressed then I think we have a welfare right to relieve that distress and anti-anxiety medication can do that,” she says.
Since being on medication, Wilson says Zac has calmed down considerably.
“The destructive behaviour that we’ve seen in the first few weeks, we haven’t seen that for a couple of months,” he says. “We’re still seeing him bark or howl if left alone for longer than an hour but compared to what it was in the first few weeks the longest we could leave him alone was for five minutes.”
“I’ve got friends who roll their eyes at how much I’ve had to adjust my life to accommodate Zac’s needs. It’s just one of those things that you commit to doing and I can’t stop now.”
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