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Thursday, March 11, 1999 Published at 14:38 GMT

World: Americas

Pooches pop Prozac

Dogs these days need more than a stick to keep them happy

By Malcolm Brabant in Miami

"Beware of the Dog" signs could become a thing of the past following the introduction of a kind of Prozac to calm stressed-out pooches.

[ image: It's a stressful world]
It's a stressful world
Neurotic home-alone canines in American are being put on Clomicalm their own version of the human drug Prozac which alleviates stress.

Unlike other medication, Clomicalm, from the pharmeceutical company Novartis, is supposed to prevent animals from becoming addicted and can, with training, help improve bad behaviour.

Vets say the increasingly stressful human world is causing more and more dogs to develop psychological problems.

Malcom Brabant meets stressed out dogs and their owners on Miami Beach
Take Sparky - a violent, insanely jealous mongrel whose speciality is savaging strangers ankles.

For the past 10 years her owners, Alex and Inez Doti-Pels have been prisoners of her Jekyll and Hyde mood swings. Scared that she will take to guests, they've stopped inviting friends to their Bayside home on Miami Beach.

In short they're on the way to becoming social outcasts and they're desperate for a pill for their pooch.

"It's like she's running the house she's the boss. She tells us when and how we have to do things," Inez Doti-Pels said.

Legal assistant Debra Frankel is also tired of returning to her house in Hollywood to find that her shiatsu, Misha, has had another panic attack caused by being left home alone.

"He'll scratch the door frame and the door to the point to where his paws will bleed. I'll come home and find blood on the floor," Debra Frankel said.

Ms Frankel is one of the first pet owners in Miami to try out the new doggy Prozac which seems to ward off the temper tantrums.

"The dog is not controlling my life ... I love my animals they're like my children I want to everything I can to help the dog to have a very happy effective little life," she said.

But not everyone in the front line of pet-crazed America approves of putting uppers and downers in the dogbowl.

[ image: Being trained the tender way]
Being trained the tender way
Dog trainer Lana Kaufmann, who is currently treating a young Dalmatian for Post Traumatic Stress syndrome, believes the tender approach is best for dogs with psychological problems.

"I feel the best solution is behaviour modification and training as opposed to putting them on drugs. I feel it's a more natural method. I feel it's working with the dogs personality and the problems at hand as opposed to just masking it with drugs," Lana Kaufmann said.

Ms Kaufmann said neurotic dogs are innocent victims of a changing world.

"Dogs are more neurotic today than ever because they're more man's companion today. We live in a world with fences lots of traffic and lots of stress. Our dogs are just a barometer of our emotions," she said.

But although traditionalists may disapprove of the use of psychological drugs, they are an effective weapon in the armoury of Jon Rappaport a Miami Beach vet.

"Well I think we have come a long way, in actually curing a lot of these dogs with the human drugs - the doggy Prozac if you will. They have allowed us to help change their behaviour patterns and have actually saved a lot of dogs from having to be put to sleep," he said.

All sides of this debate agree that the problem of neurotic pets is going to get worse and if owners seriously want to improve their dogs bad behaviour, then they could start by improving their own first.

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