In certain cases, your veterinarian may decide to prescribe medication to help in the treatment of a behavioural problem. A combination of drugs and behavioural modification is the best way to tackle such problems.
Over the past few years, there has been a surge in the use of medication to solve a range of behavioural problems in pets. However, using medication presents some disadvantages, and you should be aware that this option is not a “magic bullet” that will effortlessly and speedily resolve the problem. The boundaries of medication use include the possibility that there will be negative side effects, cost, the time it takes for it to be effective, limited information on the most efficient medication is, and the likelihood that the problem will re-emerge once the medicine is withdrawn.
All medications have the ability to cause harmful effects, although modern medicines for pets are well tolerated. Stomach upsets that result in a lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhoea are the most common adverse effects known. There could also be increased lethargy or inactivity as the medication kicks in and starts to take effect. A number of severe effects include inflammation of the liver (which could be deadly), seizures, or other signs of poisoning seen in rare cases. Most of the drugs used for behaviour problems in pets were intended for use in humans, with very few of them having FDA approval for use in animals, although this is not illegal. This means that the information on whether such drugs are safe, toxic or effective in animals is limited.
As this is still practically a new area of veterinary medicine, thorough research has not been performed in many cases. Veterinarians regularly must depend on case reports, their personal medical experience, and presentations at meetings to know which medications and what measured quantity to suggest. Just like in humans, individual pets show variations in response. Consequently, there will always be the aspect of trial and error in judging whether a certain drug will be able to solve a behaviour problem.
There is always the risk that once the medication is discontinued, the unwanted behaviour will return, even if behaviour modification or environmental changes are incorporated. Some problems might necessitate treatment for a year or longer. Many medical cases involve a period of several months.
Although there are drawbacks, medication has the potential to be quite useful in most pet behaviour problems, such as fear-related issues like separation anxiety and thunderstorm phobias, obsessive behaviours, and even aggression. The most appropriate medical advice you can get is from your veterinarian.