Self-directed behaviors in dogs and cats - Veterinary Medicine
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Self-directed behaviors in dogs and cats
These behaviors can be challenging to differentiate from responses to underlying medical conditions. Treatment involves behavior modification and environmental management as well as possible adjunctive pharmacologic therapy.


The specificity of action of SSRIs is associated with fewer side effects than that of TCAs. Adverse effects reported in veterinary patients with SSRIs include increased lethargy, inappetence, restlessness, insomnia, weight loss, gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety, and aggression. Concurrent administration of TCAs or other SSRIs is not advisable, and concurrent administration with monoamine oxidase inhibitors or L-tryptophan is contraindicated. A minimum washout period of two to three weeks is advisable before and after monoamine oxidase inhibitor administration.16,18


Melatonin is a naturally occurring indole amine hormone produced by the metabolism of serotonin and secreted by the pineal gland. In both nocturnal and diurnal animals, the relative concentrations of serotonin and melatonin in the pineal gland are inversely related within the daily photoperiod (i.e. during daylight hours, serotonin concentrations are high and melatonin concentrations are low; during nighttime hours, melatonin concentrations are high and serotonin concentrations are low). In addition to applications for some primary dermatologic conditions, melatonin may be effective as an anxiolytic. Melatonin has been reported to be serotonergic (possibly as a result of its derivative and inverse relationship with serotonin) and may also function as a GABAergic agonist. Potential adverse effects of melatonin in dogs and cats include somnolence (often transient) and diarrhea.

Vint Virga, DVM, DACVB
Behavioral Medicine for Animals
Veterinary Healing Arts, Inc.
P.O. Box 431
East Greenwich, RI 02818


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