Britons may soon be able to buy anti-depressants for their pets as a craze for giving drugs to 'problem' animals heads to the UK from America.
Sales of drugs that can alter the behaviour of dogs and cats are already booming across the Atlantic and have become an industry worth £33 billion a year.
US pet-owners can buy pills for canine obesity, amnesia, separation anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Now a British drug company Acura Pharma has bought the rights to two of the drugs involved.
They include a Prozac-style pill that helps dull aggression and another that addresses OCD which can spark excessive paw-licking, tail-chasing and barking.
Critics claim the drug manufacturers encourage the 'humanising' of animals but supporters say they avoid 'difficult' and distressed pets being put down because they improve behaviour.
The drugs are due to undergo tests in the coming months and would only be given out in the UK under a prescription.
Both have been developed by Dr Nicholas Dodman, a British-born vet and behavioural pharmacologist.
Dr Dodman, who has been a pioneer in pet drug development, said: 'People are bonkers about their pets, as I think they should be.
'Most pet owners understand that animals look up to them and are living, sentient creatures that have emotions that are similar to our own.
'Pets are facing more mental health problems for the same reasons we do as we live increasingly constrained, easy, pedestrian lifestyles.'
But another British vet Dr Ian Dunbar, who runs a dog training programme, believes drugs are unnecessary in most cases.
'Iíve never had to resort to drugs to deal with some quite serious mental problems. But the average pet owner is a very different kettle of fish. He wants a pill because he thinks itís a simple solution.'
He accused US drug manufacturers of behaving 'borderline unethically' by selling pills which consumers then 'badgered' vets to prescribe to their pets.
'There were more practical objections to psychoactive drugs for pets, he added.
'Separation anxiety may be a medical condition but I challenge you to diagnose it in a dog.'
David Lummis, a pet industry analyst for market research firm Packaged Facts, attributed the increasing trend for giving drugs to dogs to drug companies searching for new markets.
But he also pointed out that, after the September 11 terror attacks in the U.S., many Americans had invested in the security of large dogs and also became 'more home and family-oriented'.
'Marketeers figured out how potent a theme it is to portray your pets as members of the family,' he said. 'The more you feel that way, the more youíll spend on them.'
Another important factor was that animals were increasingly owned by people without children who had higher expectations of how pets should behave.
'Owners want their pets to be more like little well-behaved children,' he said.
What next lol!!!