Ziggy is a 2 year old male desexed Chihuahua and for the past year has been on a combination of medications for behavioural reasons because Ziggy has a mental health disease. He finds it hard to focus, is highly reactive to new situations, is constantly 'on edge' about his environment and is scared of most other dogs.
His condition was affecting his quality of life because he was constantly anxious and unable to learn new information, meaning the owners couldn't train him or even effectively acclimatise him to his environment.
Companion animal mental health is a real issue in many pets and is becoming a more acknowledged part of veterinary medicine; we prescribe medications for physical ailments, and just because we can't see the brain doesn't mean it does not require medications to help it function better.
We have a variety of drugs available that will decrease animal's anxiety levels (not just sedate them), decrease their fear and thus allow them to learn new more appropriate responses to every day or novel situations. Together with environmental management and behavioural modification, these animals can have a much improved quality of life.
When Ziggy came to his new home he was approximately a year old, was not used to being left alone and not fully toilet trained. He was anxious about many things. This was due to a combination of his genetics, his past experiences and what he had learnt previously. He was placed on a quick-acting anti-anxiety drug and also another longer acting drug that would take a few months to be fully effective. Environmental management strategies and behaviour modification exercises were implemented with the owner's cooperation. After this time it was apparent that although he was much better, there were still areas that he could improve on, so a different drug combination was trialled. This combination is working well for him and he is now able to focus for longer periods of time, is learning to deal with new situations and is able to rest calmly. He will never be a super relaxed dog, however, his quality of life has improved vastly!
Not all behaviourally-challenged dogs will need medications to achieve this, however, with behavioural complaints being the number one reason for animal euthanasia in Australia, it is an area which we need to be open about and willing to address properly.