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Separation anxiety.

Species: Dog
Breed: Mix Breed-Pit Bull/T
Age: 2-5 years
Dear Dr. Marie, My family and I adopted Champ, who is a 2 1/2 year old pit-bull/terrier mix four months ago in July. He was a stray on death row in a shelter who was founding roaming the streets alone dragging a chain around his neck. Someone from the shelter brought him to a local rescue group/foster home in which we adopted him. We don't know much about his background except when he was in his foster home he was great with other dogs, cats and children. (We also have another dog, Brownie, who is a ten year old beagle and four cats.)Champ is a great dog; he is smart, playful, gentle, and absolutely loves people and our other dog and cats.Champ is extremely attached to me and my children (two girls ages 13 and 9).I am a stay-at-home mom so I am home with him, take him for walks, etc. My children are huge animal lovers (like me) and love Champ. Champ follows me around constantly, if I sit down he sits right on top of me and often does the same to my husband and children. It is almost impossible to get out of the house because he goes crazy trying to get out to go with me or my family.I take him with me whenever possible but obviously he can't go everywhere. He is also very anxious. If my children and husband and I are even laughing loudly Champ will shake uncontrollably. Even if someone is even talking loudly Champ will sometimes sit and cower and shake horribly. I know Champ's life before we adopted him probably wasn't the best. I don't know if he was left outside, abused, etc and I am sure that is all playing a major role with his behavior. I also know that dogs are pack animals and don't understand why they can't be we us all the time. We always give Champ lots of love and attention and I take him for two walks a day. I have also tried to desensitize him (pick up my keys and not leave, put on my shoes and not leave, etc). But he is making very little progress. I don't know if I should pursue this further as far as him needing medication or what else I can do. I don't want to put him on medicine unless it is necessary. We love him very much and I want the rest of his life to be happy. I hate to see him upset or suffer especially when he shakes when nothing is even wrong or get so upset when we leave the house. I also have been leaving the house for a minute and coming back so he knows that I will be back! I was going to bring him to our vet but I wanted to start with you first and see what you suggest. What do you think and suggest? Thank you for your time and help. Have a good day. Sincerely, Lisa and Champ

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

It sounds like Champ has a few issues with his confidence and with dealing with separation from his family. These types of cases can be difficult, but I've seen a good number of dogs eventually do very well.

I would definitely recommend a consult with your vet if you can do it. The vet may even set up a behavioral consult with a veterinary behavior specialist if that's at all possible. These vets are excellent at setting up a training program to help you and Champ figure this out.

You're doing the right things when it comes to separation anxiety (like the desensitizing) but often having some professional help really makes a difference.

You may want to ask your vet about the training program that accompanies the new medication called Reconcile. I know you mentioned that you would rather not use medication. However, with Reconcile you can often do medication for a period of a few months, combined with training and then, once things are going well many dogs can be weaned off of the medicine and do just fine. Reconcile comes with a great training booklet to help with separation anxiety.

There are some other things that can possibly help. You may want to look into something called Dog Appeasing Pheromone. I've written an article about it here: DAP. This is a natural product that really helps to calm an anxious dog. Champ would likely benefit from wearing a DAP collar.

Another product that you can ask your vet about is a new food called Calm Diet. (I plan to write an article about this food soon.) It contains a number of different natural calming ingredients such as tryptophan (this is what is in turkey that makes you sleepy) and something that is in breastmilk that makes puppies and babies relax. When I first heard of this food I was skeptical, but every single animal that I have put on this food has shown some some improvement on it.

I hope this helps. I can't stress enough how helpful a consult with your vet would be!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.