Separation Anxiety
by Jay Bianco
1998-2K© All Rights Reserved


When left alone, most dogs find a familiar spot and go to sleep. However, a Maltese suffering from separation anxiety will become extremely anxious. Not understanding where you or your family has gone or if you will ever return, the dog exhibits behavior which may include chewing, barking, salivating, urinating, defecating, vomiting or escape behavior, such as chewing through walls, scratching through doors, busting out of cages or digging under fences if left outdoors. In some cases, the dog simply gets sick, perhaps due to some form of depression.

Probable Causes

Factors at the root of this disorder include species specific predispositions, genetics, early learning and owner behavior. Your Maltese is a social, pack animal who relies on the others for individual protection by safety in numbers. Dogs that lack confidence, due to under socialization, lack of understanding of what is expected (obedience training) or because of mistreatment in the past (abandonment, unusually long confinement and alike) are more likely to exhibit behaviors related to separation anxiety.


Treatment for separation anxiety varies from dog to dog. Extreme cases should be referred to a qualified animal behavior consultant or board certified veterinary behaviorist. However, there are things you can do to help your Maltese with separation anxiety and things you should avoid doing.

Once again, if the anxiety persists, consult a qualified animal behaviorist. Check his credentials and call some veterinary and customer references. Checking with your local Better Business Bureau is also a good idea. In some cases, a behaviorist will recommend a behavior modification program coupled with a pharmaceutical such as Prozac to help the therapy program along.

Clomicalm™ is a new product has been released by Novartis in order to help treat separation anxiety in dogs. Clomicalm is clomipramine hydrochloride, a tricyclic antidepressant which is commonly used in humans. It acts by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters within the brain. By increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters, dogs will have decreased levels of fear and anxiety and increased receptivity to behavioral modification techniques. The drug may cause some transient lethargy, but not sedation. Side effects of the drug may include vomiting, pupil dilatation, and lethargy, but it is generally well tolerated in dogs. The drug is combined with a specific behavioral modification plan prescribed for each individual situation, where the owner follows several simple steps before each departure from home. An appointment will be set up with your doctor in order to describe what will be involved. It is important to realize that the drug will not work alone, it MUST be combined with owner and dog training to be successful.

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