Prozac is becoming increasingly popular among pet owners and veterinarians as a way to treat depressed pets, a British veterinarian expert has told the BBC.
Romain Pizzi is a zoo and wildlife medicine specialist for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the director of a consultancy firm called Zoological Medicine, and host of the television show Creature Clinic. He told the BBC that pet depression is a serious problem, and many owners respond by turning to drugs.
“Contrary to some people’s expectations, parrots are very intelligent and sensitive animals,” Pizzi said. “Typically if people go out to work all day, their parrot will get very bored and frustrated and eventually develop depression. Symptoms often include plucking out their feathers or self-harming, which is obviously very dangerous. When cockatoos in particular are depressed, they can start to self-mutilate and peck their own legs to the bone.”
An estimated 632,000 cats and dogs in the United Kingdom are also believed to suffer from depression, demonstrating symptoms including aggression, incessant scratching, loss of appetite and attacking furniture.
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“A dog can’t sit on the couch and discuss his worries, but he can howl the house down, chase his tail or chew everything to pieces,” veterinarian Mark Johnston said.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly markets Prozac for dogs as young as six months old, in the form of a beef-flavored chewable tablet. Parrots are given the drug in a liquid form.
But Pizzi warned that drugs should be a last resort. It would be better, he said, for people not to get parrots at all if they cannot provide them with the stimulating environment that the birds need to be healthy.
“Unfortunately there is a big proportion of people who buy these birds because they are pretty and they talk,” he said. “They are not thinking it through in terms of their lifestyle. Parrots require a lot of care and stimulation.”