clomipramine for dogs

Cora and the Thundershirt

A couple of months ago, somewhat frustrated by Cora’s backsliding over the fall and early winter, we put Cora on anti-anxiety medication (Clomipramine). Several friends were subtly and kindly critical, mostly offering other suggestions: “Did you try this?” “How about that?”

However, we’ve tried many things to ease Cora’s fears:

  • Rescue Remedy
  • Larch
  • Obedience training (to boost her confidence)
  • Asking guests to ignore her (retraining, as explained in Debbie Jacobs’s Guide to Living with & Training a Fearful Dog)
  • Giving her a place of refuge
  • D.A.P. diffuser
  • D.A.P. collar

Cora in her safe spot

And for weeks before making the call to put Cora on Clomipramine, I searched the Internet for reviews of the Thundershirt, which I had thought might be our next step. People with dogs who are afraid of noises, have travel anxiety, or suffer from separation anxiety offered great feedback on it. Some people with fearful dogs saw sporadic results, but nothing that I read convinced me it was the way to go—not with Cora’s level of anxiety (and the fact that it’s more of a generalized anxiety).

After Cora’s first two weeks on Clomipramine, I wasn’t thrilled with her progress. Yes, we’d noticed some improvement, but it was minimal—and there was no improvement in her fear of strangers. I talked to the vet, who had also noticed her backslide over the previous months, and he agreed a larger dosage might help. He had begun Cora on 10 mg twice per day and increased that to 20 mg twice per day. She’s now been at that dose for five weeks.

Three weeks ago, still not thrilled with Cora’s progress, I decided to invest in the Thundershirt after all. I figured it couldn’t hurt and it might just help.

Doesn't Cora look sleek and sexy in her Thundershirt?

I picked up the Thundershirt on the Saturday of the Family Day long weekend. My aunt and uncle came to visit for the day and evening. Dusty and Hogan, of course, welcomed Uncle Paul and Aunt Carole enthusiastically. Cora hid. For five hours. But then she did come out, and she stayed out. On the Sunday, we had our card-playing friends over. Cora has seen them almost every week for nearly a year, and still she’s nervous about making an appearance. In her Thundershirt, it took her just over an hour to leave her safe spot, sooner than usual. On the Monday, we had our niece and her boyfriend over. Cora’s progress continued: She came out of hiding in less than an hour.

So, I give the Thundershirt some credit. Of course, we’re using it in conjunction with the Clomipramine, so it’s impossible to say how much of its seeming effectiveness has to do with the medication finally kicking in. But we’re continuing to put it on her before potentially stressful situations, and she’s continuing to make appearances when we have guests. It can’t hurt! And every little thing that helps ease her anxiety is a step in the right direction.


A New Treatment for Cora

A few months ago, I read Debbie Jacobs’s book A Guide to Living with and Training a Fearful Dog. I also started following Roxanne Hawn’s blog Champion of My Heart, about her fearful dog, Lilly. I’ve been reading their blogs as well as others about the various ways to help dogs who suffer from anxiety.

A friend and her puppy, Junebug, came for a visit in December (must blog about that soon!), and although Cora's not nervous with dogs, here you can see how nervous she was because of there being an unfamiliar person nearby. This is how she looks to almost everyone who's met her.

Shortly after adopting Cora and Dusty, I started giving Cora Rescue Remedy to try to calm her fears. It seemed to help her relax into her new situation a bit. I later tried Larch, as well, which is supposed to help improve confidence.  Then, we brought Cora to obedience training, and I think this did give her some confidence, although there were setbacks along the way. We continually try working with her to teach her new things so as to encourage confidence building, but she’s not an easy one to train. She doesn’t catch on very easily, and if we physically try to help her do something, such as roll over on her side (play dead), her tail finds its way between her legs. We tried retraining her, including asking our guests to ignore her, as recommended in Debbie’s book. We’ve had occasional success with this. Some days, she’ll venture out to see us while guests are in the room; other days she’ll hole up in the office (her “safe spot”) for their entire visit. (Over the Christmas holidays, she spent 29 consecutive hours in the office, mostly “on guard,” rather than sleeping, except for when I carried her out for a walk or up to bed.) We eventually tried a D.A.P. diffuser, which did nothing, and then a D.A.P. collar, which initially seemed to work but then didn’t. I read about the Thundershirt, which apparently helps dogs with many kinds of fears, but fear of people isn’t one that it’s had much success with, according to the reviews I read.

When the submissive peeing in the house began a few months ago, I began to consider other measures—measures recommended by both Debbie and Roxanne that have worked for their dogs. I had talked to our vet about putting Cora on anti-anxiety drugs, but he warned that although dogs do better while on the meds, once off them, they revert to their anxious selves. In other words, the drugs aren’t a cure; Cora, once on them, would likely be on them for life. And our vet, whom I trust and who knows we’re choosing holistic routes whenever possible, seemed hesitant to put her on them. So I sidelined the idea for a while. Recently, I read about L-Theanine, a natural supplement that calms anxiety. When I talked to the vet about this option, we got into more discussion about how Cora’s anxieties manifest. He then did a full blood work-up, looking for general health issues but mostly concerned about hypothyroidism.

Perfect Cora!

We got great news from Cora’s bloodwork. It was, in Dr. Steele’s words, “perfect.” He was shocked. Cora has had several blood tests since we got her, and none, before this one, has been perfect. Her thyroid is now well within normal levels (she was borderline before); her WBC count is normal; the traces of ehrlichiosis that showed up before didn’t show up this time (that might have been a different kind of test); her kidneys and liver function—ideal. She was perfect! (I attribute this to her diet and exercise regime.) With this knowledge in hand, Dr. Steele had no bones about putting Cora on this medication. Of course, we’ll continue to watch her and do regular blood tests to ensure her organs remain just as healthy.

I gave Cora her first dose of clomapramine yesterday. This morning, she was her usual nutty morning self. We had a long, fantastic, snowy walk that she didn’t want to see end. And now she’s resting peacefully in a beam of sunlight. All is well…and only sure to get better.