Does My Dog Need Antidepressants?

Here's what a vet says about depression in dogs ⛈

Ever wonder if antidepressants are only used for humans?

Turns out even our beloved pups might be prescribed these medications — and they can address both medical and behavioral conditions.

Are antidepressants used for dog depression?

“It is actually very rare to see antidepressants being prescribed for the diagnosis of depression in dogs,” Dr. Zay Satchu, cofounder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet in New York City, told The Dodo.

When it comes to depression in dogs, Dr. Satchu said that the cause usually tends to be related to something physical — like being in pain — that results in your dog appearing to be depressed.

In these situations, your veterinarian would help determine the underlying cause of depression and figure out how to fix it — resulting in a happier pup without the use of antidepressants.

Reasons why antidepressants might be prescribed to your dog

While antidepressants aren’t typically prescribed for depression, they’re still used for other medical or behavioral conditions.

According to Dr. Satchu, veterinarians do utilize SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) — such as Prozac — in dogs. However, they’re usually prescribed for conditions such as:

“We also use tricyclic antidepressants for types of aggression, separation anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders and some fears and phobias, such as thunderstorm phobia,” Dr. Satchu said.

Side effects of antidepressants in dogs

While there are side effects to all medications, some of the general side effects for antidepressants can include:

  • Gastrointestinal disturbance
  • Increased excitement
  • Increased sedation
  • Liver changes

“There are also larger concerns; for example, with SSRIs there is a very serious condition called ‘serotonin syndrome’ where an animal has too much serotonin in their nervous system,” Dr. Satchu said. “Dogs are more susceptible to this condition than humans.”

Because of this, it’s important that if your dog is prescribed antidepressants, both you and your vet stay in close contact about how your dog’s reacting to the medication and adjust as needed.

“Overall, behavioral medicine (just as in humans) is incredibly complex and detailed, and if you believe your pet requires behavioral intervention, it is highly recommended to speak with a veterinary behaviorist, or to at least spend the time having a detailed discussion with your vet,” Dr. Satchu said.