Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The "Ritalin" generation of dogs...

You are probably aware of the controversy around the use of the drug Ritalin in children who are deemed to have attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Many believe that thousands of children are incorrectly diagnosed with this disorder when in fact they are just very active. Figures published in 1996 in Forbes magazine showed a fourfold increase in the rate of methylphenidate (Ritalin) consumption between 1989 and 1994, a rise so dramatic that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency asked the United Nations' International Narcotics Control Board to look into the situation. The United Nations released a report in February of 1996 expressing concern over the discovery that 10 percent to 12 percent of all male school children in the United States were taking the drug. I wonder what the figure is world wide today?

Those in favour of Ritalin vigorously support its use, whilst others say that it has become too easy to blame a child's misbehaviour on these illnesses and resort to drugs. In fact there are so many children on this drug, there must be a positive epidemic of inattentive and hyperactive children today.

I believe the same mistake is being made with dogs where the term hyperactive is loosely used without a proper and careful diagnosis by a veterinarian and misapplied to a dog that is simply very active.

I have talked before about the "culture clash" between 21st century city people and dogs bred to be working, active dogs. If dogs are not given appropriate outlets for their energies, just like children, their behaviour is labelled "obnoxious misbehaviour" in the eyes their owners.

There was a time when one only put dogs on a tranquilliser or sedative if they were going to travel. Now it seems that these type of drugs (whether homeopathic or chemical) are becoming the norm. People drop into their vets to collect something to keep their dogs "calm". It is often one of the first options offered to owners who describes their dog as "over the top" and whose behaviour is "impossible". Not that I don't identify with these feelings, believe me I do! I battle daily to cope with two very active beagle puppies and often I do not cope very well at all.

Now, I have just put my dog on a tranquilliser to help him cope with travelling in a car. But it has made me think about how easy it is to go the drug route to solve all our problems. I wonder if the number of "calming drugs" given to dogs is yet another symptom of the way our society deals with stress and anxiety.
Drug the hell out of ourselves, our children and our pets in order to cope!


  1. Yup. You nailed it.

    It is unnatural for a dog to be cooped up in a house or kennel all day. It is also unnatural for a dog to be alone in a large yard all day. Many people think that if the dog has the run of the yard, it gets its exercise. While it does move its body, the mental activity is BORING, and that will cause a dog to be a barking terror to passers by. Dogs need active mental stimulus as well as active physical stimulus. They are curious, active beings, and will go nuts without it.

    Any dog owner who's not spending at least 1hr/day with their dog on disciplined walks and other mental/physical training is abusing their dog. If they then try to deal with the animal's bad behavior with drugs instead of this time, well, then, I don't know what to say, other than I hope they don't treat their human children that poorly.

    Thanks for the thoughtful insights on your blog.

  2. Thanks for your thoughful feedback Alan!
    More comments from you would be most welcome.