Dealing With Dog Anxiety

New Medication Treats Canine Separation Anxiety

Like many working women, environmental activist Nancy Bryant, who lives outside Boston, drives her 7-year-old to daycare every day: Tobey, her beloved dog.

As 48 Hours Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports, doggy daycare is not only costing animal lovers a great deal of time and money, but bringing animal psychology into focus.

The daycare is located miles out of her way, but Bryant is resolute. "He's sort of like a child to me," she says. "He's nervous. He's anxious. He's afraid to be alone."

When left by himself, Tobey causes a lot of damage, trying to bite his way to freedom. And most of his aggression is taken out on Bryant's furniture.

Tobey is so scared to be left alone that he once broke out of the house.

"He was missing for three days," Bryant recalls. "He's my buddy. And I came home and he was gone."

But it doesn't end at daycare. If Nancy has something to do at night, she has to hire a baby sitter. So she and Tobey are doing what so many families do when they have problems: They go to see a psychologist - Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a pet psychologist.

Dr. Dodman is a respected researcher who believes animals can be every bit as fragile emotionally as people are. Separation anxiety is a common problem in dogs that are overly attached to their owners, he says, adding that Tobey exhibits many of the symptoms.

"He does not eat while you're away. He is depressed, follows you when you're preparing to leave," he says.

Millions of dogs a year lose their lives because of behavioral problems every year, Dr. Dodman says. There are Food and Drug Adminstration-approved anxiety drug just for dogs.

Pam and Jay Sottolano of Hartford, Conn., were willing to try anything to save their dog, Dusty. He is not destructive, but he is disturbed. So they brought Dusty to see Dr. Dodman.

"This was a dog that we brought into our house," says Jay Sottolano. "He developed something that we had to live with, try to correct, or find an answer to.He's our responsibility."

For example, Dusty paces for reasons only he knows, says Jay Sottolano: "He's pacing around the table. There are times when he'll do it 15 minutes at a time."

Dr. Dodman told the Sottolanos to monitor Dusty's behavior by triggering it with a flashlight. "[He] is obsessed with this light, biting at it, and if Pam tries to call him, he's still looking for the light. 'I've gotta find the light; I've gotta find the light,'" observes Jay Sottolano.

This is a compulsive behavior, stemming from anxiety, Dr. Dodman says: "That sounds like, in humans, obsessive compulsive disorder. It's the same thing."

"He's basically in a crisis of not having enough to do. You see a lot of it in zoos," says Dr. Dodman.

For a time, Dusty and Tobey took medication.

"He's given so much love. He's given so much to me," says Bryant. "The least I can dis to now, in his time of need, give back to him and take care of him."

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