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Question About Experience With Sertraline (Zoloft)

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I'm looking for experience anyone may have with using Sertraline (Zoloft) on their greyhound. Here's the background why: Last May my male greyhound, Star, was injured pretty badly with an object impaling into his side about 4 inches. He had stitches and a drain and in time he healed well physically. However, since that happened he has an extreme phobia of our vet clinic and has generalized it to all buildings that look similar to our vet building. He panics when we get anywhere near such a building. I've been working with him over the last 4-5 months to slowly desensitize Star but have not been able to make much progress.


As a result, Im working with a well-regarded veterinary behaviorist. We are trying different medications on Star to see if we can find the right one for him that will allow me to be able to work with him re: desensitization/counterconditioning.


We tried clonidine but that did not help and in fact made Star very restless. We discontinued that and tried him on buspirone. That didnt seem to help too much either, and then he had an interaction with the metronidazole that Star takes for his colitis, causing him to be very irritable. While on it he lunged at and actually tried to bite my husband. Because of this my husband and I are very hesitant to continue to try out more medications. Star is an edgy type of dog anyhow and it seems as though medications just increase that edginess. The biting incident really unsettled my husband and he really doesnt want anything like that to happen again. (Since we have taken him off of all medications, he is now back to his usual social self so it's apparent that the medications did affect him.)


However, my veterinary behaviorist wants us to try Star on Sertraline (Zoloft). He says that he has never seen sertraline cause aggression and thinks its a mistake for us not to try it with Star.


Has anyone used Sertraline on a greyhound and if so, have you ever seen that it could cause increased aggression?


Im a bit torn as I saw online from Drs. Foster and Smith that sertraline can cause stomach upset (a consideration with Star's colitis issues) and even though is sometimes used to treat aggression, in some dogs it can increase aggression. I mentioned this to my vet behaviorist and he said in his experience of over 25 years he has not seen a case where sertraline increased aggression, so I'm getting conflicting reports.


I have a call into my regular vet to talk this over with her as well, but wanted to see if anyone here has any experience with this.


Thanks in advance.


Pat Hall

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I don't have any personal experience with sertraline, but it looks like it might be a better candidate for helping your boy than either of the other two drugs you have tried, since it is used for panic attacks in people. It's also a completely different class of drug (a SSRI) than the other two. Prozac/fluoxetine, as suggested above, is also a SSRI class of drug.


There is only one drug approve for use with canines - Clomicalm/clomipramine (a tri-cyclic anti depressant). All other uses of anti-anxiety drugs are off-label for human prescriptions. So we really don't *know* for certain how any individual dog will react to any particular anti anxiety drug. The only way to find the one that works for yours is to try them for 8-12 weeks and see if they help in the way that you need it to.


I am a little surprised that your bahaviorist hasn't tried a short-term aa drug. Something like alprazolam (xanax, a benzodiazapine) or valium (also a benzodiazapine), that begins acting very quickly and is metabolized out of the dog's system rapidly, seems like it might be more useful for situational anxiety like you're experiencing. Unless he displays anxious behavior towards all buildings he sees outside, or you can't predict how he will react, where a more generally acting drug would be appropriate.


Another drug that has recently had widespread success, though it is not well-know by vets, is trazadone. It has a low incidence of side effects, and has a different mechanism of working on the chemicals in the brain. It also has the added factor of beingn fast acting and fast metabolizing, while still being able to be used in the long-term.


I hope you find something that helps your boy. Good luck!

Chris - Mom to: Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

52592535884_69debcd9b4.jpgsiggy by Chris Harper, on Flickr

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom, Lilly

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Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. I'll be talking with my behaviorist tomorrow about the next step with Star. Since his issues are definitely situational (vet buildings or brick buildings with glass doors), I want to discuss the alternative of a different short term aa drug rather than the daily sertraline. Thanks again - I appreciate the input and advice.



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