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By Dr. Michael Fox, Published July 24 2009

Canine attached at hip

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a female Maltese, nearly 2 years old. My concern is that she seems overly attached to me.

She follows me from room to room and will not let me out of her sight. If I let her out, I must remain at the door where she can see me. If I leave the home, she will hide under a chair and then dash to the door when I leave. When left alone, she does no damage and shows no signs of separation anxiety, but I realized she wasn’t eating the treats or food I left and she didn’t touch any of her toys. I think this was an indication of panic. A companion might help her, but I live in a townhouse and am allowed only one pet.

If I take her with me and leave her in the car for a few moments, she cries and watches alertly for my return. I have mentioned this to my vet, but he seems to think she’ll grow out of it.

I went to your Web site and see that you occasionally recommend valerian or passionflower. But how much? I purchased one ounce of valerian, but hesitate to use it without further guidance. – J.L., New York, N.Y.

Dear J.L.: Your dog, indeed, suffers from separation anxiety and is not likely to grow out of it. Some dogs cope better with hidden treats and toys left out for them, but yours does not.

I would leave a radio or TV on and put a T-shirt or sweater on the sofa or floor that smells of you when you leave the home. The product DAP (Dog Appeasement Pheromone, that your vet can supply) might also help. A drop of essential oil of lavender or a bandana around your dog’s neck might have a calming effect, too.

Try the valerian (no more than a pinch, 25 milligrams to start), giving it in a cube of cheese, 20 to 30 minutes before you leave for seven to 10 days – then stop. Don’t fuss over the dog either when you leave or return. Making a big deal out of coming and going stimulates the dog, so ignore and be relatively cool when leaving and returning.

Dear Dr. Fox: We recently moved to a new home with a large yard and enjoy gardening and hanging out there with our usually well-behaved 11-year-old dog, Mandy. Our new neighborhood includes many rabbits, and we were delighted when Mandy and the rabbits quickly learned to ignore each other.

Unfortunately, Mandy also learned that rabbits leave tasty treats behind, and she was recently diagnosed with hookworm, presumably from eating rabbit pellets. We stop her whenever we catch her, but it’s impossible to keep her in sight every second, and the yard is so big that we can’t always reach her before she lunges for a “treat.”

I would hate to lock her in the house all summer while we enjoy the yard, but the only other options that come to mind (muzzling her or keeping her on a short leash that wouldn’t allow her to follow us around) don’t seem attractive, either. Needless to say, it would take forever to scan the entire lawn for rabbit pellets each time we go out, and I doubt we could find them all. Do you have any suggestions? – C.M., Ocean, N.J.

Dear C.M.: Your dog will not get hookworm from eating rabbit droppings. There’s more risk of picking up a parasite from eating earthworms than from rabbit or deer poop.

Mandy may simply be trying to clean up the yard, or she is supplementing her diet with what her digestive system may need – beneficial bacteria, plus certain enzymes, B vitamins and other nutrients. She may, therefore, benefit from probiotics and a good daily doggy supplement like Platinum Performance or The Missing Link (from Designing Health, Inc.). One tablespoon a day of plain, organic yogurt may also help reduce her rabbit-raisin addiction.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns