Anti-depressants replace play time for cats and walkies for dogs

In the UK an ever increasing number of cats and dogs are being given antidepressants because they are being left alone for hours at a time by their owners.

Antidepressants for cats and dogs

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This information comes from veterinarians. They said that it was becoming increasingly common for owners to administer drugs to their cats and dogs to treat separation anxiety, excessive noise and aggressive/destructive behavior.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) found that more than 25 percent of dog owners in the UK left their pet alone for at least five hours during weekdays. In addition, 250,000 dogs never went for a walk with their owner.

The fear is that too many pets are living isolated lives which could lead to serious problems.

Vets are prescribing drugs such as Clomipramine and Selegiline both of which treat aggression and anxiety. Clomipramine was created for humans to treat: depression, phobias and obsessions and ‘cataplexy’ (sudden loss of muscle control perhaps triggered by anger). I don’t see this drug as suitable for a lonely dog. As for Selegiline, this is for humans who have Parkinson’s disease. It helps to control it. How is this suitable for cats and dogs?

Perhaps I am being naive but this all seems very wrong to me. The answer is not to sedate and zombify our cats and dogs because they are forced to live in an unsuitable environment created by people. This is starting off with a human-created bad situation and then compounding the problem with bad treatment.

The common sense answer is to remove the cause of the so called behavior problem, which on the face of it looks easy: spend more time with your cat or dog and if you can’t find someone who can.

I believe that this snippet of UK cat and dog news is a case of the UK following the USA. That may be unfair but until I read this news I felt that mood enhancing drugs were used more often in the US than in the UK but if I was correct, the UK appears to catching up. They say the UK follows the USA. This may be an example.

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14 thoughts on “Anti-depressants replace play time for cats and walkies for dogs”

  1. Michael your comments about the over-diagnosing of depression are echoed by a number of well respected university professors. The threshold for clinical diagnosis has been lowered in recent decades to include symptoms (loss of appetite, feeling sad, difficulty sleeping, stress etc.) which every single person on the planet will experience at some time in their lives.

    The pharmaceutical Companies have a lot to answer for. Peddling their legal “highs” and creating millions of addicts has made them very rich in the process. Now they’re targetting our pets 🙁

  2. After being harmed by a pharmaceutical I’ve been doing a lot of research into many different types of drugs, primarily psychotropic medications. I believe that psychotropic medications as a whole create more problems than they solve.

    There are natural things you can take that work just as well to combat depression and anxiety. Why is no one looking into natural cures for pets? Probably because you can’t patent a vitamin or herbal supplant so there is little money to be made.

    I like L-Theanine for myself I like L-Theanine. You can get it drinking green tea. It blocks glutamate and raises dopamine and serotonin. After taking some Theanine capsules or drinking green tea I just feel like I’m really enjoying whatever I’m doing. Even folding socks is fun. Take it and do something actually fun like petting Monty and the effect is amazing.

    People in online forums for benzodiazepine withdrawal describe its effects as subtle. I think people need to get more in tune with their emotions, with their mental state, and not try to medicate everything away. Perhaps the best things in life are always subtle, but we must learn to be mindful of them.

    A dear friend of mine also going through the hell of living with a damaged nervous system is in that state because a doctor thought she needed a benzodiazepine to get through the death of her mother. What is wrong with just feeling sad because her mother died? Why must every normal feeling be medicated away? And now we want to do that to our pets!!!!! That’s terrible because once a body becomes dependent on the drug the withdrawal is far, far worse than the original condition for which the drug was prescribed.

    Right now I can hear Monty’s throaty purr as my husband is petting him– roughing him up, as Jeff calls it. He strokes Monty in both directions, rather vigorously, roughing up his fur, causing Monty to just explode into a noisy purr. Then Jeff pats Monty gently and calls it kitty bongos– like he’s playing the drums on Monty’s body– and Monty purrs louder. Jeff can play with Monty’s ears and tail and rub his belly– all the things cats don’t usually like– and Monty just purrs and purrs. He comes to Jeff every morning for attention. He also likes it when Jeff strokes him with his feet Sometimes Jeff uses Monty’s stuffed toys and plays with him, Monty happily biting the toy and purring the whole time.

    I think a session of play and petting is all Monty needs to be happy, not strong drugs! Monty obviously adores Jeff and usually sits on him while we are in bed watching tv. My husband works 12-14 hours most days. He often goes to work in the dark and comes home after dark. He still finds time for extended petting/play sessions with Monty every day.

    • I believe that psychotropic medications as a whole create more problems than they solve.

      There is a general feeling in the UK that doctors are over-prescribing mood enhancers and under advising on alternatives such as physical exercise. Walking 30 mins per day is worth one pill, I reckon.

      Natural cures for pets is a great idea. We don’t really hear about this. We write a lot about ‘behavior problems’ which are sometimes treated with drugs when just giving a domestic cat a good environment will fix the problem.

      I could not agree more about people not being willing to accept being sad as a normal emotion. People are not prepared to feel sad nowadays. It is part of the consumer society. Buying your way to happiness.

      We are meant to be sad sometimes. We have no automatic right to be happy.

      • Exactly, Michael! Not only do we not have a right to be happy all the time, we should not want to be. It is out of struggles and adversity that we change and grow. Some of the world’s greatest music, literature and art came out of great tragedy and difficulties. I tell the kids in my music classes to ponder whether Beethoven’s music would have been as good if he had not lost his hearing and had so many troubles in his life. He poured out his suffering into some of the greatest music the world has ever known, and there is much hope and optimism in it as well.

        What if Tennyson had never loved and lost? “Tears, Idle Tears” would never have been written. And what is wrong with “looking on the happy autumn fields and thinking of the days that are no more?” Sometimes when we cry our tears of sorrow are tinged with feelings of joy.

        We can’t grieve a loss without first having been given magnificent blessings. We expect the blessings without the grief. The universe, as it now exists, does not permit this. I believe it was made the way it is now by a loving God, and He did it for our benefit, that despite our sinful condition (that threatens to separate us from Him) we might be drawn to Him in our hour of need. We medicate away that hour of need to our emotional, psychological and spiritual harm. To try to do the same to our animals, when a little time and attention from us could solve their problems, is not only foolish, it could be considered cruel.

        A human can weigh the risks and decide to take a psychotropic drug. Animals have no choice and no voice. Strong drugs should always be the last option for them, after other approaches have been tried.

  3. Vets and shelters don’t really have time to do these kinds of investigations. I usually had a half hour wait with my previous vet, and the waiting room was packed. My new vet did ask about what I was feeding my cat, which I’d never been asked before. I consider this an important question.

    Shelters do have adoption forms, and some of the basic questions are listed to see if the adopters work, have a yard (for dogs), know the costs involved, etc. But people who want an animal (in the moment) will say whatever they need to, in order to get the animal. Unfortunately, there’s really no way to know if the people are really good candidates. And circumstances change with divorce, moving, illness, etc. The pet is at the mercy of these events.

  4. i believe that these drugs r useful WHEN USED & PRESCRIBED APPROPRIATELY. some animals DO need them, but certainly NOT simply due 2 an owners lack of responsibility, & compassion 4 their animal. i CAN understand how animals can b left alone 4 over 5hrs a day(weekdays)as most people work 8hrs a day. the problem isnt how long they r away its what they do when they r at home. if an owner isnt spending time with their pet by playing with it & showing it affection of course there will b problems. if u r married & u ignore ur spouse(or kids, if u have any)the same thing will happen. we call them “behavior problems” cuz the animal cant tell us whats wrong like people can, & that makes it easier 2 justify them being given these meds. what NEEDS 2 happen is BEFORE the meds r prescribed there needs 2 b a questionnaire & a serious dialogue between the vet & owner about what goes on n the home, the time they spend together, & the owners expectations. which as im sure some have noticed is the same thing people r asked when they get a pet from the shelter as a screening process so pets r not given 2 people that have unreal expectations, no time 2 spend, or potentially dangerous living conditions 4 the animal. unfortunately, many vets seem 2 b lazy n this regard, or they get a little extra 4 how much they prescribe per quarter. cynical, i know, but what other real reason could it b? when i was n the mental health field doing direct care i was always taught that u go from the least 2 the most restrictive n terms of how u deal with behavioral issues. medication, like putting “hands on”(i.e. restraints)is always 1 of the last things u do. its NEVER the 1st. it appears, by this article, that they r doing the opposite. times r different though. maybe im missing something…but i dont think so.

    • if u r married & u ignore ur spouse(or kids, if u have any)the same thing will happen

      A neat analogy and so very true. We have to work on our relationships to make them prosper.

      I agree with your slightly cynical assessment of vets prescribing mood enhancing drugs. You aren’t as cynical as me 😉 .

      I agreed too about medication for behavioral problems should be the last resort but they are becoming a convenient quick fix.

  5. If my pet needing calming, I would try homeopathics or flower essences before drugs. They don’t have the side effects, and can be very helpful.

    Yes, there are many people who have pets (and children) that don’t care for them very well. The problem is the ease of which conception takes place, and of course with animals it’s never just one kitten or puppy, so we have multitudes of shelter animals, who would be euthanized if they weren’t adopted by people who don’t really know how to care for them. Probelms everywhere you look.

    Education is the key, and willingness to learn is a primary factor.

    Also, depressed and drugged humans will most likely have depressed animals. When people can’t take care of their children, they won’t take care of the pets, or even themselves.

    • Also, depressed and drugged humans will most likely have depressed animals.

      I think that is a good point. Perhaps there is a section of society which has sort of given up and lack aspiration and ambition and have a pet to help support themselves but the person does not have the self-discipline or desire to interact sufficiently.

      • It can also work the other way. People suffering with depression sometimes find that having another living creature reliant on them, motivates them to get up every day and venture outside with them.

        There’s probably a myriad of reasons why some pets are not getting the proper care and attention they deserve.

        I’d be interested in knowing more about the source of the PDSA’s findings and whether that data was analysed in detail. It could provide useful insights on how best we can help people take better care of their pets.

  6. I’m strongly opposed to the use of anti-depressants to treat behavioural problems. Not only do they have some horrendous side effects, but they only ever treat the symptoms and never the underlying cause of the behaviour.

    It’s a disgrace that 250,000 dogs are never taken for a walk by their owners! Those people should not be allowed to have a dog as they clearly cannot provide the mental and physical stimulation required to keep a dog happy and healthy.

    As the PDSA was the source of this information, can we assume it was based on their patients? If so, that is even more worrying because to qualify for PDSA vet care one has to be in receipt of certain government benefits not usually available to those in full-time employment. Which means that some people are at home all day with their pets, but still never take them out for a walk 🙁


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