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  • Author or Editor: Katherine A. Houpt x
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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Summary

The value of behavioral techniques in assessing animal welfare, and in particular assessing the psychological well being of animals, is reviewed. Using cats and horses as examples, 3 behavioral methods are presented: (1) comparison of behavior patterns and time budgets; (2) choice tests; and (3) operant conditioning. The behaviors of intact and declawed cats were compared in order to determine if declawing led to behavioral problems or to a change in personality. Apparently it did not. The behavior of free ranging horses was compared with that of stabled horses. Using two-choice preference tests, the preference of horses for visual contact with other horses and the preference for bedding were determined. Horses show no significant preference for locations from which they can make visual contact with other horses, but they do prefer bedding, especially when lying down. Horses will perform an operant response in order to obtain light in a darkened barn or heat in an outside shed. These same techniques can be used to answer a variety of questions about an animal's motivation for a particular attribute of its environment.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

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.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To describe trends in behavior diagnoses from 1991 to 2001; assess the relationship between diagnoses and age, sex, reproductive status, and breed; and evaluate associations between diagnoses within the same cat (comorbidity).

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—736 cats.

Procedures—Medical records were reviewed for species, breed, sex, reproductive status, consultation year, birth date, and diagnoses.

Results—The caseload decreased over the course of the study. Aggression toward people increased, and spraying decreased. Cases involving Siamese cats decreased over time. Siamese cats were evaluated more often than expected in general and specifically for aggression and ingestive behavior problems, whereas Persian cats were evaluated more often than expected for elimination outside of the litter box. Domestic shorthair cats were evaluated less often than expected in general and specifically for aggression, ingestive behavior problems, and house soiling. Male cats were overrepresented. Cats with ingestive behavior problems were evaluated at a median age of 1.5 years, compared with cats with other problems (median age, 5.5 years). Certain diagnoses were clustered, with a mean of 1.2 diagnoses/cat.

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

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To determine prevalence of ownerdirected aggression and identify associated environmental and genetic factors in English Springer Spaniels.

Design—Prevalence survey.

Animals—1,053 adult English Springer Spaniels.

Procedure—A mail survey was sent to 2,400 randomly selected owners of adult American Kennel Club-registered English Springer Spaniels. Dogs with a history of aggression to family members and familiar humans were compared with dogs without such a history.

Results—1,053 questionnaires (56.1% of the 1,877 delivered) were completed. A history of owner-directed growling or more intense aggression was reported in 510 (48.4%) dogs. Two hundred seventy-seven (26.3%) dogs had bitten a human in the past; 65.2% of bites were directed at familiar (owner or nonowner) adults and children. Variables associated with owner-directed aggression included sex of dog (male), neuter status (neutered, regardless of sex), show or bench lines, age > 4 years, aggression to unfamiliar adults and children, acquisition from a hobby breeder, less responsiveness to obedience cues, and a specific kennel and 1 popular sire from that kennel in a 4- generation pedigree.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Owner-directed aggression in adult English Springer Spaniels was associated with a number of environmental, sex-related, and inherited factors. To reduce the risk of aggression, prospective owners might seek a female, hunting-type English Springer Spaniel from an experienced breeder. However, because risk factors are broad and varied, there are limitations to the extent to which behavior can be predicted and further study is needed of the inheritance of aggression in this breed. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1594–1603)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate treatment outcome in dogs with separation anxiety and owner compliance with and perception of effectiveness of discharge instructions.

Design—Cohort study.

Animals—52 dogs with separation anxiety.

Procedure—Sex, age at which the owner obtained the dog, age at which separation anxiety was first noticed, age at behavioral examination, and discharge instructions were obtained from medical records of each dog. Between 6 and 64 months after the behavioral examination, owners were contacted by telephone and questioned about the outcome of treatment, their compliance with discharge instructions, and their perception of the effectiveness of each instruction.

Results—Thirty-two (62%) dogs had improved, whereas 20 were the same, were worse, or had been euthanatized or given away. Mixed-breed dogs were significantly less likely to improve than purebred dogs. Compliance varied according to discharge instruction. Significantly fewer dogs with owners that were given > 5 instructions improved or were cured, compared with those with owners given fewer instructions. Twenty-seven dogs were also treated with amitriptyline or other medication; 15 (56%) improved.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Owners complied with instructions that involved little time such as omitting punishment and providing a chew toy at the time of departure. Owners were also willing to increase the dog's exercise but were not willing to uncouple the cues of departure from real departures or desensitize the dog to impending departure. Administration of psychoactive medication may be necessary to augment behavior modification techniques designed to reduce separation anxiety in dogs. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:342–345)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association