'Puppy Prozac' Promises to Ease Pet Separation Anxiety

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 21, 2007, 8:45 AM

— -- More than 10 million dogs across the country deal with pet separation anxiety -- barking, whining and showing signs of stress when their owners leave the house.

But a pill dubbed "puppy Prozac" promises to change that.

The latest hype in pet prescriptions is a new drug called Reconcile, a beef flavored pill that dogs can take to help alleviate its anxiety. According to veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, Reconcile could help ease a real pet problem.

"Pet separation anxiety is real. If you have an infection, you can't will it away. The separation anxiety is very risky for owners and dogs," he said. "If a pet had an infection, you wouldn't expect it to get better on its own -- same thing for separation anxiety."

Becker ran down the list of symptoms of pet separation anxiety:

While Reconcile can ease these symptoms, Becker said the drug isn't the only way to treat pets with separation anxiety.

"If you're working with your vet, there are other things that they might suggest. Give your dog a job, some food puzzles or exercise," he said. "Teach them to sit. Teach them to retrieve objects. Teach them to do things."

Dogs are descended from wolves, animals used to going on the hunt and working for their meal. Making dogs work for their food could help make them happier.

"You never see a corpulent coyote or a wandering wolf. All dogs come from wolves. They're used to detecting food, pursuing it, apprehending it, killing it, competing with the rest of the pack, and then consuming it," Becker said. "We've simplified this for them by just giving them food in a bowl."

Becker said that for people whose veterinarians believe medication might be the best course of action, Reconcile should be combined with other forms of treatment.

"You should combine this with more behavioral training. And give them jobs. With drugs like Reconcile and behavior training, 42 percent showed improvement in one week," he said.