A new range of antidepressants aimed at pets suffering from behavioural problems could hit the markets in the UK later this year. Prozac-style drugs would help benefit 80 per cent of Britain’s eight million dogs, researchers say.
The study found that the idiosyncrasies of man’s best friend, such as chasing their tail relentlessly and barking at the door even when nobody is there, are often born from psychological problems such as anxiety and phobic behaviour.
The research found that eight out of ten dogs are now suffering from a range of behavioural conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The study found that vets are increasingly treating dogs for a range of conditions, such as anorexia, depression, sleeping problems and even ‘self-mutilation’. Scientists also warned that other household pets such as rabbits, cats and parrots, were beginning to suffer from similar behavioural problems. But critics have warned that labelling pets with such conditions and introducing Prozac-style drugs may simply be offering excuses for bad ownership. Hyperactivity was the most prevalent problem among dogs, with 60 per cent of animals suffering from the condition.
It was found that 22.5 displayed traits associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, responsible for behaviours such as tail-chasing and excessive paw-licking.
A further 30 per cent of animals were also found to have ‘phobias’ or ‘fears’, while 12 percent were found to have ‘separation-related problems’ when parted with their owner.
The scientist claimed that millions of dogs were suffering from such psychological conditions.
Dr Claire Corridan, who belongs to the Companion Animal Behaviour Therapy Study Group, collected responses from more than 1,300 dog-owners who observed their pets over a two-week period.
“We are seeing more and more behaviour problems in our companion animals. We all have busy lifestyles, so quite often cats and dogs are spending less time with their owners and less time being socialised,” the Daily Mail quoted her as saying. “It’s now not such a big deal to say you are going to see a pet psychiatrist or behaviour counsellor,” she said.
The leading vet said that relying on drugs to treat the problems could be dangerous and may not address the causes of behavioural issues in pets.
Critics have warned that labelling pets with such conditions and introducing Prozac-style drugs may simply be offering excuses for bad ownership.
Two behavioural drugs for animals already exist in the UK and a new product made by Prozac-developers Eli Lilly, will most likely be licensed later this year.
Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today, warned against ‘medicalising’ the behaviour of animals.
“Maybe people are becoming perfectionists 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,” she said.
“Also, if you medicalise your animal’s problem, it removes a bit of guilt and responsibility from the owner. You can say your dog is not a thug, he has a condition,” she added.