Dogs get ‘Prozac’ to control their behaviour
Up to 80 per cent of our eight million mutts would benefit from similar products to human antidepressants, a study found.
Traditional behaviour by dogs such as barking at strangers, cowering from fireworks or howling when left alone is now being reinterpreted.
Previously assumed to be natural reactions, the responses are now diagnosed as "hyperactivity", "phobic behaviour" and "separation anxiety".
Other conditions assessed by vets include sleeping problems, anxiety, anorexia, "self-mutilation", stress and depression.
The most common dog issue was hyperactivity, with 60 per cent of pets exhibiting this behaviour "frequently", "sometimes" or "all the time".
Research showed 30% of dogs have "fears" or "phobias", while 22.5% were described as having "obsessive compulsive disorders" - such as excessive paw-licking or tail-chasing - and 12% exhibited "separation-related problems" when parted from their owner.
One dog remedy drug Reconcile - made by the firm Eli Lilly behind Prozac - is used in the United States and expected to get a licence in Britain this year.
There are already two other similar drugs being used by vets.
The analysis, based on the responses of more than 1,300 dog owners who examined their pets' behaviour over a fortnight, was carried out by leading vet Dr Claire Corridan.
Dr Corridan, honorary secretary of the Companion Animal Behaviour Therapy Study Group - an affiliate of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association - said: "Eighty per cent of dogs have one or more behaviour problems.
"With 8 million dogs in the UK, extrapolated, that means 6.4 million dogs with one or more behaviour problems."
Dr Corridan even suggested that this was a "conservative estimate".
Her study involved many women and dog lovers who might be "less inclined" to identify problems with their pets.
She added: "We all have busy lifestyles, so quite often cats and dogs are spending less time with their owners and less time being socialised.
"It's now not such a big deal to say you are going to see a pet psychiatrist or behaviour counsellor."
Dr Corridan warned there was a risk that reliance on drugs could mean the root causes of a dog's problems were not addressed.
The research has prompted warnings that owners and the veterinary industry could be "medicalising" normal animal behaviour and providing excuses for bad ownership.
Vets are warning of similar behavioural problems emerging in cats, rabbits and even parrots.
Dr Corridan said there was a risk that reliance on such drugs could mean the root causes of a pet's problems were not addressed.
Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today, said: "Maybe people are becoming a bit more perfectionist and want their dogs free of all negatives.
"But this means you are not tolerating normal doggy behaviour. There are lots of things you would prefer your dog not to do, but that is part of having a pet."
Source: The Sun