A new medication designed to calm dogs who go nuts when left for even a few minutes by their owners has been approved for sale in Europe, pharmaceutical giant Novartis said Wednesday.

The company, which has won approval to market Clomicalm in the 15-nation European Union, is also seeking permission in the United States and other countries."This innovative medication offers veterinarians a fast-acting, effective way of easing the symptoms of separation anxiety," including excessive barking, destructive behavior and dirtying the home, a Novartis statement said.

The condition afflicts 15 percent of dogs and can arise even when an owner makes a simple shopping trip. Punishment or isolation only makes the behavior worse.

While pets have long been given sedatives to calm them when they are shipped long distances, Novartis said the new product is the first designed specifically to calm pets suffering from separation anxiety.

"Clomicalm relieves anxiety and thus makes the dog more receptive to learning new positive behavior," the statement said.

In addition to administering the pill, owners are instructed to ignore the pet for a half hour before leaving. The dog also is to be ignored on the owner's return until it calms down.

So far the pills are sold only in Switzerland, where it has been on the market since December.