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Puppy Prozac for pampered Western pooches

April 26th, 2007

Dr Petra

Recently the British Medical Journal published an opinion piece from Dr Raymond Towey arguing pets in the West are given better healthcare than Africans.

His argument was controversial, but it seems he was on to something since today drug company Lily Icos have announced a new drug regime for dogs with separation anxiety. The drug Prozac is to be manufactured as a beef flavoured tablet with the brand name Reconcile™. It will run in conjunction with a drug company approved dog-training programme called Bond™.

Obviously Lily Icos have done their homework with a spokesman telling the press “Lilly research shows that 10.7 million, or up to 17 percent of U.S. dogs suffer from separation anxiety”. Clearly this is the 17% of dogs whose owners are happy or able to pay for their vet bills – and also a money-spinner for alert professionals who can persuade a wealthy hound’s owner the dog’s depressed and needs to be medicated.

Animal welfare organisations have already expressed concerns that such drugs could be used instead of training of dogs – or giving them the attention they need. Many are also worried medication will be used to mask the distress of dogs that are neglected by owners who just want a dog as a status symbol or accessory. Whilst some dogs may be so traumatised by abuse they may need medication, puppy Prozac should not be a first port of call for a dog you couldn’t be bothered to train.

There is an excellent range of professional and caring dog trainers and resources for potential pet owners that should be used rather than reaching for those oh-so-tempting-beef-flavoured-dog-dopers. My favourite is Cesar Millan who has plenty of advice about training and dog care. You can also get useful information from Battersea Dogs Home and the Dogs Trust (you may even want to sponsor or adopt a dog from them). The BBC has also run a recent series showing how neglected dogs can be retrained and rehomed (without puppy Prozac) in The Underdog Show.

As with other forms of medicalising behaviour, this is another example of drug companies spotting a market and aiming a product to a problem that may well have a more suitable treatment. In this case, simply taking the time to train your dog.

All the while these approaches are taken the gulf between the haves and have-nots widen. In the developing world people are desperate for new medications to treat TB, access to affordable drugs, or safe and effective surgical procedures. In countries where private health care exists, those on welfare or low incomes also are denied treatments they desperately need.

But a select group of dogs are going to be okay from here on in. You’ll probably be able to pick up the beef flavoured doggy drugs when you call in to get that diamond dog collar or designer dog carrier.

Dr Raymond Towey was right – Africans are treated worse than dogs.

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