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Fluoxetine -- more commonly referred to by its brand name Prozac -- has revolutionized the way doctors treat anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. The drug also is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for cats that, like their human counterparts, sometimes suffer from anxiety problems. However, pet owners should understand the risks, including potential withdrawal symptoms.
Cause of Withdrawal
Prozac interferes with the brain's natural reabsorption of the neurotransmitter serotonin. 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.
Cats generally don't 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
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 pet's withdrawal from Prozac should be conducted under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the animal is given a dose of Prozac its body can't handle. Such an occurrence is rare but can happen when Prozac is combined with other anti-anxiety drugs, like Zoloft. Extreme hyperactivity is one sign of this condition.
Anorexia is the most common side effect in cats on Prozac. Therefore, pay attention to the animal's weight and diet.
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