Malamute May Miss Her Friend


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Q: “We had two dogs one 13 and the other 11 years. They never played together. Their only interaction was aggressive. Due to illness, needed to euthanize the 13-year-old dog. Since that day, our other dog, Nadzia, a Malamute, has developed separation anxiety. Whenever we leave, Nadzia howls. It occurred to us that this is the first time in her life she’s truly been alone. Is this something Nadzia and us will have to accept for the remainder of her life?” R. P. Buffalo, NY

A: I am sorry for the loss of your other dog, and so apparently is Nadzia. Maybe the two dogs didn’t dislike one another quite as much as you describe. Is it possible they played periodically, or slept besides one another? Sometimes just a change can impact a dog’s behavior. Even if she didn’t appreciate your other dog, as you imply she misses the company. No matter – the question is “now what?”

The good news is that separation distress is not something that Nadiza will need to endure for the remainder of her life.

Let’s determine how bad this distress truly is. Try this 4-part plan:

  • Be sure to exercise Nadzia. At 11 years old, I am not talking about hitching her to a sled to for the Ididarod sled dog race, just a long walk or interacting with her in your yard.
  • Plug in an Adaptil diffuser in the rooms she is mostly likely to be in when you’re not at home. Adaptil is a copy of a natural occurring pheromone which eases low level anxiety.
  • Offer a very favorite treat in toys as you depart. Five minutes or so before you leave take these treats, like low fat peanut butter stuffed into a Kong toy, out of the fridge or freezer and place them just out of reach. For example, on a high counter. Then offer the toys – even dispersing them in different places around the house – as you leave.
  • Find relaxing dog music (available via several websites) or merely turn on classical tunes.

If the pheromones and relaxing sounds combined with occupational therapy and exercise formula works, her distress is minimal. And by keeping up this protocol, she’ll be fine. If she doesn’t work at getting her favorite treats in the world when you leave, that tells me her distress is more significant.

Video record your dog with a camera system – such as the Blink Home Security Camera system – or whatever you prefer as there many choices available. Two good reasons for this. Your veterinarian can watch the video and tell just how distressed your dog is. Also, once treatment starts, you can watching your dog via a phone app from wherever you happen to be.

So, ask your veterinarian about any or all of three choices below:

  1. A nutritional supplement called Zentrol. This is a chewable blend of plant extracts which may can lower fear, anxiety and stress.
  2. Calming Care is a Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets probiotic which can ease anxiety.
  3. Any number of anti-anxiety psycho pharmaceuticals (like Prozac) really do work to ease anxiety. The choice is up to your veterinarian, of course. People don’t like to use drugs, but it’s a far better choice than to allow your dog to suffer whenever family members depart. And dogs with separation anxiety are indeed suffering.

If indeed Nadzia likes other dogs, the solution may be to find her a new canine buddy – it might be that simple.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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