There is now a large body of research in veterinary behavioral medicine that is clinically relevant and could enrich patients’ and practitioners’ lives. Too often, however, this research is published in journals that may not be readily available to veterinarians in private practice. Four important topics in the area of veterinary behavioral medicine for which belief has not kept pace with the published data are the unmet need for behavioral medicine in veterinary practice, the veterinary experience as a contributor to fear and distress in dogs and cats, social signaling in dogs and the ongoing “dominance” debate, and punishment as an intervention to change behavior. The present article seeks to provide a critical overview of recent research that is shifting existing paradigms on these topics and should alter the way veterinarians observe and care for patients.
Objective—To determine clinical features and outcome
in dogs and cats with obsessive-compulsive
Animals—103 dogs and 23 cats.
Procedures—Records of patients with OCD were
analyzed for clinical features, medication used, extent
of behavior modification, and outcome.
Results—Most dogs affected with OCD had been
obtained from breeders. Male dogs significantly outnumbered
females (2:1). Female cats outnumbered
male cats by 2:1 in a small sample. Most affected
dogs lived in households with 2 or more humans
and other dogs or cats, and had some formal training.
Client compliance with behavior modification
was high. A combination of behavior modification
and medication resulted in a large decrease in intensity
and frequency of OCD in most animals.
Clomipramine was significantly more efficacious for
treatment in dogs than was amitriptyline. Only 1 dog
and 1 cat were euthanatized because of OCD during
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—OCD in dogs
does not appear to be associated with lack of training,
lack of household stimulation, or social confinement.
In cats, OCD may be associated with environmental
and social stress. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
appears at the time of social maturity and may have
sporadic and heritable forms. With appropriate treatment
(consistent behavior modification and treatment
with clomipramine), frequency and intensity of clinical
signs in most dogs and cats may decrease by > 50%.
Success appears to depend on client understanding
and compliance and the reasonable expectation that
OCD cannot be cured, but can be well controlled.
(J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;221:1445–1452)
Objective—To determine the frequency of nonspecific
clinical signs in dogs with separation anxiety,
thunderstorm phobia, noise phobia, or any combination
of these conditions and determine whether these
conditions are associated in dogs.
Procedure—Diagnoses were established using specific
criteria. Owners of dogs completed a questionnaire
on how frequently their dogs exhibited destructive
behavior, urination, defecation, vocalization, and
salivation when the owners were absent and the
types and frequency of reactions to thunderstorms,
fireworks, and other noises.
Results—Associations of the 3 conditions and of various
nonspecific clinical signs within and between
diagnoses were nonrandom. The probability that a
dog would have separation anxiety given that it had
noise phobia was high (0.88) and approximately the
same as the probability it would have separation anxiety
given that it had thunderstorm phobia (0.86).
However, the probability that a dog would have noise
phobia given that it had separation anxiety (0.63) was
higher than the probability that it would have thunderstorm
phobia given that it had separation anxiety
(0.52). The probability that a dog would have noise
phobia given that it had thunderstorm phobia (0.90)
was not equivalent to the converse (0.76).
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested
that dogs with any of these conditions should
be screened for the others. Interactions among these
conditions are important in the assessment and treatment
of dogs with > 1 of these conditions.
Responses to noise were different from those to
thunderstorms, possibly because of the unpredictability
and uncertainty of thunderstorms. (J Am
Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:467–473)
Objective—To determine effects of tricyclic antidepressants
(TCA) on the ECG of dogs treated for
behavioral conditions and to examine correlations
between ECG findings and serum concentrations of
Animals—39 client-owned dogs with behavioral
Procedure—Two groups of dogs with behavioral
problems were evaluated. In group 1 (n = 20), ECG
tracings were recorded before starting treatment
with TCA and again after treatment for ≥ 1 month.
Dogs in group 2 were already on long-term maintenance
amounts of antianxiety medication when ECG
tracings were recorded and serum concentrations of
medications were obtained.
Results—Significant differences were not detected
for dogs in group 1 between ECG values measured
before and after TCA administration. The ECG values
for dogs in group 2 did not differ significantly from the
mean of group-1 dogs before receiving medication or
from the reference range used at our facility. Duration
of the P wave had a significant positive correlation
with serum concentrations of clomipramine but significant
negative correlation with serum concentrations
of amitriptyline. The QT interval corrected for
heart rate had a significant negative correlation with
serum concentrations of amitriptyline.
Conclusion and Clinical Relevance—Amitriptyline
and clomipramine administered at standard dosages
apparently do not cause ECG abnormalities in
healthy dogs with behavioral problems. These medications
should be used cautiously in dogs with conduction
abnormalities, and clinicians should periodically
monitor ECG and use good clinical judgment to
weigh risks and benefits of medications for the safety
of each dog. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216:
The first part of this 2-part series focused on the epidemiological, pathological, genetic, and epi-genetic factors that may contribute to the development of separation anxiety (SA), the most common stand-alone behavioral diagnosis in pet dogs and the second most common behavioral problem after all aggressions reported in behavior clinics.1,2,3,4,5 The second part in this series focuses on pathological changes associated with anxiety, effects of anxiety on behavioral patterns, pharmacological treatment options and their mechanisms of action, and existing efficacy data, and on introduction of a multifactorial model for assessing
Separation anxiety (SA) is the most common stand-alone behavioral diagnosis and the second most common behavioral problem for dogs, behind only all diagnoses that involved aggression.1 Separation anxiety may disrupt the human animal bond1 and affect the welfare and lifespan of dogs,2,3,4,5 with SA a common reason that dogs are presented to veterinarians for euthanasia or are relinquished to shelters where affected dogs may be euthanized because they are not considered suitable candidates for adoption.1,3,4,5