In many communities, there are myths, stigma, and judgments surrounding the use of behavioral medications for humans and animals. The debate can become quite heated, especially given the highly personal and sensitive nature of mental health and therapeutic journeys.
At Synergy, we work every day to dispel myths, share and use accurate and up to date information, and shift paradigms regarding behavior, treatment, and animal training. The topic of medication comes up often, and we are excited to share some truths regarding behavioral medication for your pet.
MYTH #1: “Behavioral medication will turn my pet into a zombie.”
Working with a veterinary behaviorist or an experienced veterinarian means that your dog’s medication should not change their personality, nor should it cause your dog to appear or feel sedated or unresponsive. If this is happening with your pet, speak to your vet behavior professional so adjustments can be made, or a different medication can be trialed.
Appropriately prescribed behavioral medication should not alter your pet’s personality, and certainly should not turn them into a zombie. On the contrary, it should bring out the best in your pet!
MYTH #2: “Medication should only be considered as a last resort, and only after we have exhausted all other options.”
This pervasive myth is quite harmful, especially because it can sometimes lead pet guardians to using aversive and outdated methods of behavior modification with their pets (which can just make their pet’s behavior worse!). Medication can be a fantastic supplemental aid to a well-designed behavior modification plan, right from the start of your training journey. Shifting this perspective means more pets will get help sooner.
MYTH #3: “Medication means I have failed my pet.”
Medication can provide your pet with relief from sometimes overwhelming anxiety, distress, arousal, and fear. Giving your pet this kind of relief when it is needed means you are doing the best thing for them as their guardian and advocate. It also means that your behavior modification and training plan will likely have a greater impact and both of you will be on the road to a harmonious home that much sooner.
MYTH #4: “Medication is never necessary; all behavior problems can be fixed with the right kind of training.”
Just like humans, some animals need extra help for therapy to take effect in a transformative and impactful way. Medication should always be combined with a force-free training plan, and sufficient management; but that doesn’t mean the medication isn’t a necessary part of the animal’s treatment plan.
MYTH #5: “Behavioral medication means my pet will be on drugs for the rest of its life.”
Behavioral medication, and the way it is used, is a very individual process and is dependent on the animal and the situation. Working with a veterinary behavior professional can help you design the best possible plan for the best possible outcome. That does not necessarily mean medication will be required to maintain the positive changes you are achieving. The training and management is what truly changes your pet’s behavior long-term. Medication can be a fantastic support for that process, and you and your veterinary behavior professional will determine how long it is necessary.
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