Yes, doggie downers are a thing, and this German Shepherd named Rusty is one such candidate for them. Rusty's anxiety is getting in the way of bonding time between her owners, twin brothers Danny and Jason, according to this National Geographic video.
Since the twins bought Rusty eight years ago, she's suffered from anxiety. She's destroyed all seat belts and special harnesses for the car and barks and whines when the brothers try to enjoy themselves. "It causes stress between us," said Danny. "We put focus on that as opposed to things we like to do."
The twins bought Rusty eight years ago, when they were in their late twenties. They had lived together since birth and shared a room their entire lives until Jason got married a year and a half ago and moved out. Since then, it's been especially stressful for Danny.
"I lost my best friend and Rusty and I have been together since," he said. "We've created a loving bond. She'll cuddle with me on the couch, watch football with me on Sundays." But when Jason and Danny do hang out these days, they're focused on Rusty's anxiety, rather than having fun with each other and with Rusty.
Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly used drugs, including alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and diazepam (Valium) to treat anxiety, separation anxiety, panic attacks, and noise phobias in dogs. However, owners should use these drugs carefully with "fear-aggressive" dogs, reports dogaware.com, as they may lower their inhibition, making them less hesitant to bite or attack people.
Owners should also be careful of serotonin syndrome in dogs. As anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications are becoming more common among our four-legged family members, it's necessary to monitor a dog's symptoms if taking more than one medication that increases serotonin, a neurochemical that regulates behavior, pain awareness, appetite, movement, body temperature, and heart and lung function. If a medicated dog suffers from seizures, vomiting, rapid breathing, and other symptoms, it could be vulnerable to death from serotonin syndrome.
In addition to drugs, other options are also available to treat canine anxiety. The thundershirt anxiety solution, for instance, is a like a soft hardness worn a dog's torso to apply a "gentle, calming pressure, similar to swaddling an infant."
In Rusty's case it seems her lifelong anxiety may be without a cure. But hopefully the twins will help her, and themselves, find some peace so they can all enjoy their lives.