Q: Our 6-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel goes to the back door and scratches there and drools whenever we leave the house. This behavior began right after our cat died. We’ve hired a teenager to walk Abby during the day, but that hasn’t helped. Our veterinarian mentioned drug therapy, but is there another strategy? – M.L., Cyberspace

A: Your dog’s behavior “is an unusual manifestation of separation anxiety,” says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Gary Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ont.

Typically, pets become anxious when separated from their human companions. But this instance might be over the loss of the cat. Certainly, videotaping the dog’s behavior in your absence would help your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.

Landsberg suggests you consider a Royal Canin prescription diet called Calm (using diet to help dogs feel less anxious, including tryptophan and other ingredients to help calm pets); an Adaptil dog collar (infused with a replica of a calming/appeasing pheromone); and/or Anxitane (L-Theanine, a nutritional supplement that can help dogs become more relaxed).

By the way, used correctly, Clomicalm or Reconcile (drugs your veterinarian may have had in mind) may be very helpful, though Landsberg understands your general apprehension.

The truth might be that your best prescription for Abby is to get another cat. Preferably, add a kitten or an adult cat that has lived with dogs before.


Q: Our grandpuppy is the cutest dog in Chicago. Once a week, we get Matilda for the day. She loves to run in our spacious yard, but she picks up sticks, twigs, even leaves, and may eat them. She ate some hostas this past summer and got really sick. I hate to keep her on a leash all the time, though. She gets plenty of food. Any advice? – A.K., Chicago

A: Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall suggests several possibilities. One is that your grandpuppy could be picking up some of these items, thinking it’s a game. You may be able to alleviate some of this by playing another game with a favorite toy. If Matilda is chasing a toy, she may not think about picking up sticks. Overall says one toy might actually be a stick. After all, you know Matilda likes sticks. Just offer a large one, and don’t give her time to chew on it; instead, play fetch (if she’ll cooperate).

“I am concerned if the dog is actually eating the twigs and sticks because that can cause an obstruction, and the hostas already made her sick,” says Overall, of Philadelphia. Overall says that while she likes the idea of your dog being off-leash, you ultimately may need to opt for on-leash walks to better control Matilda’s behavior.


Q: My 18-month-old Maltese does the most curious thing. Every night when I undress, she grabs my panties and chews on them. She clearly is excited. Does this remind her of puppyhood?Have you ever heard of this behavior? – J.D., Las Vegas, Nev.

A: “I suppose if you’re around long enough you’ve heard it all, and I have heard of this,” says Dr. Michael Cavanaugh, American Animal Hospital Association CEO. “This [behavior] has nothing to do with sexual excitement, but solely about the concentration of your smell – a compliment to you.”

I doubt the behavior has anything to do with reminding your dog of his mother, as mother dogs don’t smell like that. If the behavior concerns you, or if your dog is actually chewing on and ingesting your panties (which could be dangerous for your pet and expensive for you), immediately toss them in the laundry basket.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Send email to Include your name, city and state.