If your dog is afraid of his own shadow and has no problems showing his pearly whites when feeling threatened, you may be seeking a solution. Clomipramine is used for behavioral problems and may prevent your canine from resembling a character that just stepped out from a Stephen King's novel.
Clomipramine, commonly known as "Clomicalm," is one of the few medications in veterinary pharmacology specifically approved for dogs. This medication belongs to a class of drugs known as tricyclic antidepressants, which slow down the re-absorption rate of serotonin, a "feel-good" type of neurotransmitter.
Basically, a nerve cell in the brain releases serotonin so it can spread, but then recycles it for later use by sucking it up, just like the best "Hoover" vacuum cleaners on the market. Tricyclic antidepressants such as clomipramine help keep the serotonin around longer so it can be effectively spread, explains veterinarian Cori Gross.
Anxiety and stress are at the base of many behavioral problems in dogs. When a dog is fearful aggressive, the levels of anxiety may be so high that the dog is unable to learn. The same goes on with humans; if you suffer from arachnophobia, try to solve a math problem when you are in a fight or flight situation in a container full of tarantulas. With a medication such as clomipramine, the level of anxiety in Scruffy will decrease so he is capable of learning new, more desirable behaviors that can replace the old, undesirable ones.
Clomipramine is approved for use in dogs suffering from separation anxiety. If your dog is fearful aggressive and your vet prescribes this drug, it is being used in an extra-label fashion. What this means is that an approved drug is used in a manner that is not in accordance with the approved label directions. As much as this sounds worrisome, take a deep breath -- the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act allows extra-label drug use as long as it is an approved drug provided under the supervision of a veterinarian and in accordance with FDA regulations.
Don't assume that simply by ingesting a pill, Cujo will magically transform into Good Dog Carl. Treating fear aggression with medication alone will not work. Once your dog is in a calmer, less fearful state of mind, he is ready to learn acceptable, alternate behaviors. Your veterinarian should, therefore, suggest an accompanying behavior modification protocol so your dog can learn a proper response to a situation. For instance, if your dog is reactive towards other dogs at the dog park and used to bark and lunge at them, medication along with behavior modification should allow him to be less on edge and capable of learning to make eye contact with the owner or sit upon spotting a dog.
So does clomipramine work on fear aggressive dogs? Veterinarians seem to think so since it is often prescribed extra-label for dog and cat problematic behaviors including fear and aggression. Clomicalm has been used for years under its human trade name, anafranil, for dog behaviors such as anxiety, which can be a precursor to some aggressive behaviors, explains veterinarian Jeff Nichol. Veterinarian Lorie Huston seems to concur; indeed, she claims that Clomicalm can be effective when used in the training of an anxious or fearful dog prone to becoming reactive or aggressive.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.