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Signalment factors, comorbidity, and trends in behavior diagnoses in dogs: 1,644 cases (1991–2001)

Michelle BambergerDepartment of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.

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Katherine A. HouptDepartment of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.

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 VMD, PhD, DACVB

Abstract

Objective—To determine trends in behavior diagnoses; assess the relationship between diagnoses and age, sex, reproductive status, and breed; and evaluate associations between diagnoses within the same dog (comorbidity).

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—1,644 dogs.

Procedures—Medical records of dogs evaluated for behavioral problems were reviewed for breed, sex, reproductive status, consultation year, birth date, and diagnoses.

Results—Numbers of dogs with aggression, anxiety, and unruly behavior increased over the course of the study, as did the total number of dogs evaluated for behavioral problems. In general and for aggression, Dalmatians, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherd Dogs, and mixed-breed dogs were evaluated more often than expected, whereas Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers were evaluated less often than expected. Labrador Retrievers were also underrepresented for anxiety, whereas mixed-breed dogs were overrepresented. Males were overrepresented except for interdog aggression, anxieties, and phobias, whereas females were overrepresented for phobias. Dogs with phobias were evaluated at a median age of 6.5 years, compared with dogs with other problems (median age, 2.5 years). A mean of 1.6 diagnoses/dog was observed, with certain diagnoses clustered.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that in dogs, behavioral problems changed over the course of the study; age, sex, and breed distributions varied among diagnoses; and certain diagnoses were likely to occur together.

Abstract

Objective—To determine trends in behavior diagnoses; assess the relationship between diagnoses and age, sex, reproductive status, and breed; and evaluate associations between diagnoses within the same dog (comorbidity).

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—1,644 dogs.

Procedures—Medical records of dogs evaluated for behavioral problems were reviewed for breed, sex, reproductive status, consultation year, birth date, and diagnoses.

Results—Numbers of dogs with aggression, anxiety, and unruly behavior increased over the course of the study, as did the total number of dogs evaluated for behavioral problems. In general and for aggression, Dalmatians, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherd Dogs, and mixed-breed dogs were evaluated more often than expected, whereas Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers were evaluated less often than expected. Labrador Retrievers were also underrepresented for anxiety, whereas mixed-breed dogs were overrepresented. Males were overrepresented except for interdog aggression, anxieties, and phobias, whereas females were overrepresented for phobias. Dogs with phobias were evaluated at a median age of 6.5 years, compared with dogs with other problems (median age, 2.5 years). A mean of 1.6 diagnoses/dog was observed, with certain diagnoses clustered.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that in dogs, behavioral problems changed over the course of the study; age, sex, and breed distributions varied among diagnoses; and certain diagnoses were likely to occur together.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Bamberger's present address is Vet Behavior Consults, 1225 Hinging Post Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850.

The authors thank Dr. Robert Strawderman for advice on statistical analysis, Dr. Robert Oswald for advice on data entry and analysis, and Emma Williford and Doreen Turk for technical assistance.

Address correspondence to Dr. Bamberger.