Better Living Through Chemicals: Why You Shouldn’t Rule Out Meds

Better Living Through Chemicals: Why You Shouldn’t Rule Out Meds

There is no doubt that there are many people benefiting from behavior modification medication. Lives have been saved. People are now leading productive lives when they were previously devoid of hope. Sadly, there are also probably nearly as many people misusing said meds. That is unfortunate but that doesn’t take away from the successes. Medication can get a bad rap. It’s overused but it’s equally underused. For as many people who are misusing it, I would venture to say that there are nearly an equal number who could benefit from it in their life.

Dogs are no different in this area. They can benefit as well. I can’t count how many times I run into resistance with some pet parents whose dogs are so stressed, they are not truly functioning. We expect so much of our dogs with what they “should” deal with yet we don’t see their pleas for help. If everyone had the ability to effectively communicate with their dogs, I have no doubt that the need for behavioral medication would drastically decrease. But the two way communication is lacking too much at this time to close that gap from education alone. Medication can be a real savior.

Image of Dover (white dog) finds peace in the crew with his meds. Dover is a white setter-like dog pictured laying down with 4 other medium sized dogs.

Dover (white dog) finds peace in the crew with his meds.

This is not to say that medication fixes everything. Not at all. The works still needs to be done. That’s where people like me come in. We teach the pet parents to read their dogs better, provide them safety and help them overcome or learn how to handle their fears and function better in their world. The medication, however, makes that path far easier in many cases. And in some instances, can mean the difference between retaining a loving home and losing it because of issues that are too hard to overcome.

My biggest frustration with this issue is when someone says that they want to try medication as a last resort. It shouldn’t be a last resort. If your dog has a physical ailment and needed medication for that ailment, would you withhold it to see if he could overcome it naturally? Of course not! Not if you are a responsible pet parent, that is! You wouldn’t give that a second thought, yet so many people are willing to let their dog suffer mental anguish when there is relief so easily accessed.

On the other side of this coin, just as in humans, are the pet parents who want everything fixed with a pill, without the modification part? There are no magic wands. Both have their roles to play. In most cases, medication is meant to be used to pave the way to better mental health. It’s not meant as a permanent solution. However, there are exceptions to this. Just as with people, there are dogs who simply have some crossed wires and are missing some vital chemicals in their brain. The medications supply those missing links and all is much better with their world because of them. These are the dogs needing seen by veterinary behaviorists who can give them the best of both worlds. My job is to determine which situation I am dealing with. In my own experience thus far, the issues have been environmental and adjustable.

The difference that medication can make in lives should be respected, not dismissed. There is a place for it. Balance is important. Natural remedies are crucial to many behavior modification plans but the use of one does not preclude the use of the other. I recommend both in conjunction with one another. I urge you to consider medication if your dog’s situation calls for it. It’s not a cop-out. It’s you respecting that your dog needs help. Feel free to comment about your own experiences with this subject in the spaces below. No judgments, only admiration for being open minded.

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  1. Mary withrow March 27, 2014

    Good morning! Excellent blog as always. I was wondering what your thoughts are on shelter dogs and meds. We all know a shelter is a stressful place to be for an animal, but some dogs are much more stressed than others and something like Composure or similar meds would help. Do you think a dog has a less chance for adoption if a potential adopter knows meds are a “necessity” for the dog? There is always the chance that post-adoption and life in a home would then eliminate the need for meds and that would be made clear to the adopter. I’m looking for your opinion which I value very much. Thanks!!

  2. Anonymous Coward March 27, 2014

    I have struggled with this issue myself with one of our dogs. I wish I wouldn’t have considered medication as the very last resort, maybe if I started earlier I would have been able to curb some behaviors a lot more easily. One of our dogs came home with severe fear of strangers. No history of abuse, just genetic tendency (her mom and brother were exactly the same) and she grew up in a farm for the first few months with several other dogs and only 2 people. Only after she started with the anxiety meds, and months of training, she was able to come to a manageable state and not bark at visitors for an hour straight. She didn’t turn into the friendliest dog, either, of course, but at least now she barks a few times and eventually chills out and lets most people pet her. It’s impossible to know, but maybe if I started right away with the meds instad of only working on training for a year she could have become even more confident and relaxed around new people.

  3. Debby March 30, 2014

    The author says:

    Mary, excellent question. First off, Composure is not a medication. It is a natural compound that can be bought over the counter. I see little success with that though it can’t hurt. I strongly believe that medication needs to be an option with shelter dogs as needed. Any adopter who would let that deter them is not an adopter you want for a dog anyway. In most cases, once in the right home, with proper behavior modification, the medication can be weaned off. But some need is longer term depending on the issue.

    Anonymous, thanks for sharing your story. I hope that it helps others make the right decision.

  4. sukiko April 16, 2014

    Thanks a lot. This article really made me think. I guess i will have to talk with my Trainer.

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