Pill-popping pets: Prescription drugs can help with anxiety, behavioral issues; are they a good idea?

Any pet owner will tell you it's difficult to deal with an aggressive animal who can't tell you what's wrong. Some pet owners are turning to medications to alleviate the stress -- but is that a good idea?

Dogs are man's best friend -- but they can be man's worst nightmare when they're acting out. Some pet owners deal with bad behavior on a daily basis.

"Behavior was really one of the leading causes of euthanasia or release of an animal -- giving it to another family because they just didn`t fit with the lifestyle," Dr. Andrew Linklater with Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists said.

Dr. Linklater says there are other options.

"With new therapies that we have available, there is a lot more that we can do now," Dr. Linklater said.

That includes prescription medication.

Dr. Andrew Linklater

"Benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, Diazepam," Dr. Linklater said.

"There`s no magic pill. I think in our society we want a quick fix and a pill to fix things -- but that isn`t the case for behavioral issues," Carrie Stefaniak, medical director at Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists said.

Dr. Stefaniak's one-year-old bulldog named Comet has fear-based anxiety issues.

"Anything new, anything that was a new experience for her tended to make her very anxious and fearful," Dr. Stefaniak said.

Prescription medications for dogs

Comet began taking Prozac when she was just four months old.

Pet medications are big business. Sales are expected to exceed $10 billion this year and a survey by the American Pet Products Association found 77% of dog owners say they used medication for their pets in 2014. Four percent used one to treat an anxiety disorder.

Prescription medications for dogs

Prescription medications for dogs

But Dr. Linklater says there are other ways to address these issues.

"We like to use medications in combination with behavioral modifications," Dr. Linklater said.

Dr. Carrie Stefaniak

That's what Dr. Stefaniak did with Comet.

Thanks to her medication and training classes, where she worked with a behavioral specialist, Comet is now able to come to work with Stefaniak.

"She`s really had an amazing response to everything. She`s a little anxious right now looking at the other dogs in here, but the day I brought her home, she would have been barking hysterically constantly, so this is a huge step for her," Stefaniak said.

"Our goal is to always have happy healthy pets that are home with their owners and being able to enjoy a comfortable quality of life," Linklater said.

No two dogs are the same, and there's no treatment plan that will work for every animal. Because pets cannot speak up for themselves, it's up to pet owners to do their research and take the necessary steps to ensure years of the kind of unconditional love that can only come from a pet.

An important note: Veterinarians warn that while many anxiety medications have been approved for use by animals, it's not wise to share your medications with your pet. These types of medications should only be used when prescribed by a vet.