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Evaluation of associations between owner presence and indicators of fear in dogs during routine veterinary examinations

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  • 1 1Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 2 2Department of Animal Biosciences, Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate the influence of owner presence on behavioral and physiologic indicators of fear in dogs during routine physical examinations.

ANIMALS

32 client-owned dogs.

PROCEDURES

Dogs underwent a standardized, video-recorded examination consisting of 6 phases (examination of the head, lymph node palpation, body palpation, axillary temperature measurement, heart rate assessment, and respiratory rate assessment) with or without their owner present in a randomized, controlled study. Behaviors reported to be indicative of fear, including reduced posture, avoidance, escape, lip licking, body shaking, yawning, and vocalizing, were assessed during each phase, and physiologic measurements were assessed during relevant phases by the investigator. Owner presence and sex and age of dogs were investigated for associations with behavioral signs of fear; behavioral and physiologic measurements were compared between groups (owner present vs owner absent).

RESULTS

Dogs in the owner-present group had a lower rate of vocalizations, lower mean axillary temperature, and higher rate of yawning than dogs in the owner-absent group. Female dogs in the owner-absent group had a higher heart rate than females and males in the owner-present group and males in the owner-absent group, and the rate of lip licking decreased as age increased in the owner-present group. The presence of reduced body posture and rates of lip licking, avoidance behavior, and escape behavior were associated with examination phase.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Results suggested that, when practical, owners should be encouraged to remain with their dog during routine veterinary examinations. However, effects of owner presence during procedures require further investigation. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2020;257:1031–1040)

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate the influence of owner presence on behavioral and physiologic indicators of fear in dogs during routine physical examinations.

ANIMALS

32 client-owned dogs.

PROCEDURES

Dogs underwent a standardized, video-recorded examination consisting of 6 phases (examination of the head, lymph node palpation, body palpation, axillary temperature measurement, heart rate assessment, and respiratory rate assessment) with or without their owner present in a randomized, controlled study. Behaviors reported to be indicative of fear, including reduced posture, avoidance, escape, lip licking, body shaking, yawning, and vocalizing, were assessed during each phase, and physiologic measurements were assessed during relevant phases by the investigator. Owner presence and sex and age of dogs were investigated for associations with behavioral signs of fear; behavioral and physiologic measurements were compared between groups (owner present vs owner absent).

RESULTS

Dogs in the owner-present group had a lower rate of vocalizations, lower mean axillary temperature, and higher rate of yawning than dogs in the owner-absent group. Female dogs in the owner-absent group had a higher heart rate than females and males in the owner-present group and males in the owner-absent group, and the rate of lip licking decreased as age increased in the owner-present group. The presence of reduced body posture and rates of lip licking, avoidance behavior, and escape behavior were associated with examination phase.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Results suggested that, when practical, owners should be encouraged to remain with their dog during routine veterinary examinations. However, effects of owner presence during procedures require further investigation. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2020;257:1031–1040)

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Niel (niell@uoguelph.ca).