‘Cat remains anxious and aggressive most of the time, but thanks to Prozac… it keeps my pet lively’, and after some months it turns out, ‘My cat won’t be normal without Prozac now… it seems that she has become an addict or something…’Well, you are right about it. Your feline friend has become an addict to Prozac and now you are worried that, ‘How to wean cat off Prozac?’ So, here is everything you can do about weaning your cat off Prozac.
Why it is Important to wean Cat off Prozac?
Antidepressants work by altering the levels of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that attach to receptors on neurons (nerve cells) throughout the body and influence their activity.
Neurons eventually adapt to the current level of neurotransmitters, and symptoms that range from mild to distressing may arise if the level changes too much too fast.
That affects mood and behavior by providing a greater available supply of the biochemical. With prolonged use, your cat’s brain will get accustomed to the effects of the drug, possibly causing withdrawal symptoms when the supply is cut off.
But what is Prozac and why are you medicating your cat with it in the first place?
What is Prozac?
Fluoxetine, sold under the brand name Prozac, is an antidepressant of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class. It is used for the treatment of major depressive disorder, OCD (obsessive–compulsive disorder), and bulimia nervosa (eating disorder).
Was it safe to give your cat Prozac?
Prozac (a.k.a. fluoxetine) is generally a safe drug at recommended doses. It is an SSRI antidepressant used to treat a variety of behavioral disorders in cats.
It is used in cats to treat certain behavioral conditions and is ‘off label(unprescribed)’ or ‘extra label(prescribed)’.
Potential Side Effects of using Prozac:
The most common side effects include sleepiness and decreased appetite.
In cats, behavior changes such as anxiety, irritability, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and changes in sleep and more bathroom use.
Other side effects include vomiting, shaking, restlessness, panting, whining/vocalization, incoordination, hypersalivation, and weight loss.
Serious/severe side effects include seizures, aggression, and excessive/persistent vomiting.
Time to Effect:
This medication can take up to a few weeks before full effects are noted, and at times improvement may not be visibly obvious. Laboratory tests may be needed to evaluate this medication’s effectiveness. If you are interested a detailed discussion is done for how long does Prozac take to work in cats. If you are giving it every other day result could be different and you can consult the vet for it.
This moderate-acting medication should stop working in a few days, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.
Worrying about long term use of Prozac is a must thing because although no drugs are 100% benign, but long-term medication do needs to be monitored and stopped at the point where it become an addiction.
Also, at once stopping the drug may cause adverse effects in its behavior, so one should go for a proper way of weaning cats off Prozac.
How to wean Cat off Prozac?
The goal of prescribing Prozac for cats or other animals is to help your cat achieve a mentally balanced state. Over time, the hope is that your pet will be able to learn new behavior.
With a little retraining, exercise, good nutrition, and patience, cats can overcome some of their biggest obstacles.
‘Slow and Steady’
It is always better to keep the process slow than go to fast. It takes several weeks for the medication to be fully effective and it takes several weeks (or more) to come off it.
Abrupt weaning cat off Prozac:
Abrupt weaning cat off Prozac or any other medication is not preferred at all.
Taking an antidepressant (as prescribed by a veterinarian) is not dangerous. But, suddenly stopping the medication, however, could cause serious withdrawal symptoms including:
- Shaking or trembling
- Muscle aches and pains
So, weaning must be ‘slow and steady’. Also, talk to the vet about this method of weaning beforehand to make sure it will be the safest option for your cat.
Steps to wean your cat off Prozac:
Following are some steps that can be helpful in weaning your cat off Prozac:
1. Consult your Veterinarian:
Make sure the Veterinarian is in the loop before weaning your cat off Prozac.
Prozac for cats takes time to metabolize completely. Serious interactions can occur when weaning too quickly.
If you have decided it is time for your cat to come off the medication, be sure to schedule a visit with the veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will be able to monitor your cat’s reaction and gauge the risk of withdrawal symptoms.
2. Calm Behavior:
You worry about your beloved cat because it is a part of the family. As your cat begins to come off the drug, you might begin holding onto a little anxiety of your own. Your cat can definitely sense that!
As you go through this process, it is important to let go of your own fears. Over-protecting your cat does not tell your cat that you love it, it tells your cat that there is something to be afraid of.
Reconditioning your own behavior is an important step on the path to your cat’s ultimate mental health. Look at ways you could be contributing to your cat’s anxiety and work to change that.
3. Decrease the Prozac Dosage:
You should remember that there is no hurry. Assuming you have got the go-ahead from your vet, here are the steps to decrease the dose:
- Decrease the original dose by 1/2 (one-half) for 4 weeks. Monitor your cat, and if it continues to do well, halve the dose again after 4 weeks.
- Wait and monitor for another 2 to 4 weeks.
- At the end of 8 weeks, it should be safe to totally discontinue the medication.
Just like humans, animal have different requirements. The size of your cat, the starting dose, and the cat’s health and behavior will all play into the weaning process.
That is why it is always good to get some professional advice.
4. Monitor your cat:
Continue to monitor your cat’s behavior and reactions for up to 4 more weeks after it has completely tapered(reduced). It is important for you to monitor your own behavior as well.
It is hard to establish a new routine, but important to maintain the expectations you have given your cat.
As you progress through the weaning stage, take note of any unusual behaviors or withdrawal symptoms (anxiety, confusion, nausea, dizziness).
Any new or unusual behaviors or physical problems could be a sign that you are weaning too quickly.
Always seek the advice of a licensed vet before attempting to wean your cat from any drug.
5. Behavioral Changes at your part:
The part you can play in weaning your cat off Prozac is by:
- Not engaging excitedly with your cat before leaving the house. Be calm, quiet, and confident. This may help it to adapt the normal behavior.
- Take some time out to walk and socialize with your cat.
- Refer to books that offer expert advice on why cats have anxiety and what you can do about it.
6. Exercise in Routine:
Walking your cat helps release nervous energy. It also exposes your cat to a variety of sights and smells that stimulate the brain.
Think of it like getting rid of nervous energy from the brain. How well do you learn new things if your mind is racing? Probably not many. It is the same with your cats.
Once it has a calm mind, your cat will be better able to behave well.
Common Side Effects of weaning Cat off Prozac:
When weaning your cat from the drug, it is important to remember that there could be withdrawal symptoms if done too quickly. Some withdrawal symptoms could increase the behavior you were trying to erase. Common Side effects of weaning cats off Prozac can include:
- stomach upset
- loss of appetite
- behavioral changes
In rare cases, more serious effects could include:
Behavioral Changes when weaning your cat off Prozac:
Cats generally do not suffer withdrawal symptoms when a Prozac regimen is stopped because the long-term, slow-acting nature of the drug gives the brain a chance to adjust. But some cats might struggle with acute withdrawal.
Your cat might display anxiety or aggression. Look for signs of nervousness, irritability, or hostility, especially if such behavior is out of character.
Interference with Sleep:
Cat Prozac withdrawal can interfere with the sleep patterns of some cats. This might be manifested as insomnia or exaggerated sleepiness. Neither is a cause for concern unless the symptoms persist for a long time or begin to cause health problems in the cat.
In all cases, your cat’s withdrawal from Prozac should be conducted under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Withdrawal Symptoms Relief for your Pet:
Even mild withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and may cause some pet owners to restart the previous antidepressant dosages over their pets. So, one must seek some guidance or ways to relief the symptoms.
1. Tapering the Dosage:
Reducing the dosage slowly is an important step in reducing the risk of withdrawal symptoms, but the symptoms can occur during weaning your cat off Prozac.
It is best to avoid making changes in dosage during a time of stress or difficulty.
Being aware of the possible symptoms can help someone to prepare for their occurrence. And this may help to fight them and seek relief for their cats.
3. Good Lifestyle:
Try to give a good and healthy lifestyle to your pet. Maintaining a good sleep schedule, a balanced diet, and exercise habits for your feline friend can also be beneficial.
4. Counter Medications:
Some symptoms are treatable with other medications. For example, if your cat is facing some pain or any other withdrawal symptom, you can talk to your consultant vet about giving your cat over-the-counter pain medications for the issues it is facing.
However, it is better to avoid giving additional medicines during this time of weaning your cat off Prozac when possible.
5. Seek Support by the Vet:
A veterinarian may sometimes prescribe a low dose of another antidepressant to support the weaning off. This is helpful when withdrawal symptoms are causing persistent difficulties.
It is must to show your cat to the vet if the withdrawal symptoms start to worsen or become severe. He may guide you in the best manner.
Factors resulting in Behavioral Changes:
Behavioral changes may be dependent upon a variety of factors i.e., presence of underlying medical conditions, underlying cause of the anxiety, the patient’s unique environment, the presence of other household pets, etc.
Assuming that fluoxetine was prescribed to treat some level of anxiety resulting in unwanted behavior (i.e., aggression, inappropriate urination or defecation, or fearfulness), behaviors resulting from generalized anxiety can vary from pet to pet.
Strategies to avoid Medicating Prozac to your cat:
Rather than ‘How to wean cat off Prozac’ or ‘weaning cat off fluoxetine’, it may be better if there is no Prozac (a.k.a. fluoxetine) given at all. So, to avoid that, one can opt many strategies to settle the problem by themselves at first.
1. Environmental Manipulation for your cat:
The most effective strategies are often multi-modal (several different activities) involving manipulation of the patient’s environment to eliminate/minimize stressors, behavior modification, and the last one is the use of medications.
2. Pet owner’s Commitment:
It is no doubt that true behavior issues in pets can be some of the most frustrating and difficult problems to manage. The level of success is often most dependent on the level of commitment, consistency, and patience the pet owner has to show in such situations.
And no doubt, with proper direction, monitoring, and perseverance, most behavior issues can be managed well, or at least improved upon. We also have separate articles for weaning cats off from Gabapentine and Amitriptyline which could help you.
At the end of the day, we all want happy, balanced, healthy cats.
Antidepressant medications like Prozac can cause withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms usually occur following a sudden reduction in the dose. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and last a few days.
Gradually reducing the medication dosage will reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms. Pet owners can speak to their licensed vets to determine the best way of how to wean cats off Prozac.
It can happen but it takes work and dedication. So, you need to stay calm yourself during this weaning off process and seek continuous support by your vet.