Completed research in Clinical Animal Behavior
Sheila A. Segurson, DVM, James A. Serpell, PhD, Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1755–1761
Objective—To evaluate a behavioral intake questionnaire in animal shelters for the presence of biased results and assess its use in the characterization of behavioral problems of dogs relinquished to shelters.
Animals—54 dogs being relinquished to a shelter and 784 dogs belonging to veterinary clients.
Procedure—Owners who were relinquishing their dogs and agreed to complete the behavioral questionnaire were alternately assigned to 1 of 2 groups; participants were aware that information provided would be confidential or nonconfidential (ie, likely used for adoption purposes). Data from confidential and nonconfidential information groups were compared, and the former were compared with data (collected via the questionnaire) regarding a population of client-owned dogs.
Results—Analyses revealed significant differences in 2 areas of reported problem behavior between the confidential and nonconfidential information groups: owner-directed aggression and stranger-directed fear. Compared with client-owned–group data, significantly more relinquished shelter dogs in the confidential information group were reported to have ownerdirected aggression, stranger-directed aggression, dog-directed aggression or fear, stranger-directed fear, nonsocial fear, and separation-related behaviors.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Among persons relinquishing dogs to a shelter, those who believed questionnaire responses were confidential reported owner-directed aggression and fear of strangers in their pets more frequently than relinquishers who believed responses were nonconfidential. Confidentiality had no apparent effect on the reporting of other assessed behavioral problems. Results suggest that behavioral questionnaires may sometimes provide inaccurate information in a shelter setting, but the information may still be useful when evaluating behavior of relinquished dogs.
Benjamin L. Hart Animal Behaviour Volume 70, Issue 5 , November 2005, Pages 975-989
The current popularity of trditional herbal supplements, coupled with recent findings that add scientific legitimacy to the use of some medicinal herbs, prompts a question about the origins of herbal medicine in animals and ancestral humans. Medicinal herbs are used by animals and humans with the apparent prophylactic effects of reducing the likelihood or severity of illness from pathogens or parasites in the future. Medicinal herbs with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory and/or analgesic properties are used in a therapeutic way to treat acute infections and inflammatory conditions, particularly in humans, and could have proven lifesaving to individuals living in nature. Was the origin of such types of herbal medicine the result of animals and humans learning that specific plant parts are effective for preventing or treating certain maladies, or was the origin a result of natural selection for a behavioural predisposition to seek out and use plant parts with particular physical or chemosensory markers of efficacy? Examining the predictions and requirements of both the learned and evolutionary explanations points primarily to an evolutionary model for the origin of herbal medicine that was expanded and enhanced by learning and social transmission. The evolutionary explanation accounts for the continued use of ineffective, as well as effective, medicinal herbs and the use of medicinal herbs with toxic effects. In animals one can point to origins of the practice of herbal medicine, as well as other behavioural defences against pathogens and parasites, as analogues of many aspects of modern human medicine and health care.
Valarie V. Tynes, DVM; Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB; Patricia A. Pryor, DVM, DACVB; Melissa J. Bain, DVM, DACVB; and Locksley L. McV. Messam, DVM J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:457–461
Objective—To determine whether findings of urinalyses could be used to reliably distinguish gonadectomized cats with urine-marking behavior from those with no problem urination.
Design—Case control study.
Animals—58 gonadectomized cats (47 males and 11 females) with urine-marking behavior (ie, marking of vertical surfaces) and 39 (26 males and 13 females) without problem urination or urinary tract-associated conditions.
Procedure—Urine was collected by cystocentesis from all cats. Findings of urinalyses of cats with urine-marking behavior were analyzed statistically for sex-related differences and differences between cats that marked vertical surfaces only and those that marked both vertical and horizontal surfaces; findings of urinalyses of control cats were compared between sexes. Subsequently, results of urinalyses of cats with urine-marking behavior were compared with those of control cats.
Results—With regard to variables measured via urinalysis, there were no differences between male and female cats within either group. Among cats with urine-marking behavior, there were no differences between those that only marked vertically and those that marked vertically and horizontally. Analyses of data from all cats with urine-marking behavior and control cats revealed no differences that could be associated with urine marking.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—These data suggest that urine-marking behavior by gonadectomized cats is an aspect of normal behavior. Clinicians are advised to focus on behavioral history of house-soiling cats to differentiate between urine-marking behavior and inappropriate urination; for the latter, urinalysis is appropriate to rule out lower urinary tract disorders.
Laurie Bergman, VMD; Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB; Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB; Kelly Cliff, DVM, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;221:1282–1286.
Objective—To obtain information regarding diagnostic and treatment approaches of veterinarians and attitudes and beliefs of clients about a common clinical problem, urine marking in cats.
Study Population—70 veterinarians providing care for urine-marking cats and 500 owners of urine-marking cats.
Procedure—Veterinarians were interviewed via telephone regarding criteria for diagnosis of urine marking and recommended treatments. Cat owners who responded to recruitment efforts for a clinical trial for urine-marking cats were interviewed via telephone regarding whether and from what sources they sought help to resolve the marking problem.
Results—Almost a third of veterinarians did not seem to correctly distinguish between urine marking (spraying) and inappropriate urination. Those that did make this diagnostic distinction reported recommending environmental management and prescribing medication significantly more often that those that did not make this distinction. Seventy-four percent of cat owners sought help from their veterinarians for urine marking; other common sources of information were the Internet and friends. Among those who did not consult a veterinarian, the most frequently cited reason was that they did not think their veterinarian could help. Among cat owners who consulted their veterinarians, 8% reported receiving advice on environmental hygiene and 4% on environmental management (limiting intercat interactions), although veterinarians who correctly diagnosed urine marking reported giving such advice 100 and 83% of the time, respectively.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results may serve as a model for obtaining information critical to developing veterinary continuing education and public outreach programs for animal owners for various diseases.
Patricia A. Pryor, DVM; Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB; Kelly D. Cliff, DVM; Melissa J. Bain, DVM, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:1557–1561
Objective—To determine the effectiveness of a readily available selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), fluoxetine hydrochloride, on reducing problem urine spraying in cats.
Design—Randomized placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial.
Animals—17 neutered cats > 1 year old with objectionable urine spraying behavior.
Procedure—Owners recorded urine-spraying events for 2 weeks (baseline). Cats that vertically marked a mean of ? 3 times per week were treated for 8 weeks with fluoxetine or fish-flavored liquid placebo. If urine spraying was not reduced by 70% by weeks 4 through 5, the dosage was increased by 50% for weeks 7 and 8. After discontinuation of treatment at the end of 8 weeks, owners recorded daily urine marks for another 4 weeks.
Results—The mean (± SE) weekly rate of spraying episodes in treated cats was 8.6 (± 2.0) at baseline, decreased significantly by week 2 (1.7 ± 0.6), and continued to decrease by weeks 7 and 8 (0.4 ± 0.2). The mean weekly spraying rate of cats receiving placebo was 7.8 (± 1.5) at baseline, decreased only slightly during week 1 (5.5 ± 1.8), and did not decline further. When treatment was discontinued after 8 weeks, the spraying rate of cats that had received treatment varied. The main adverse reaction to the drug was a reduction in food intake, which was observed in 4 of 9 treated cats.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Administration of fluoxetine hydrochloride for treatment of urine spraying in cats can be expected to considerably reduce the rate of urine marking. The frequency of spraying before treatment is predictive of the spraying rate when the drug is discontinued.
Patricia A. Pryor, DVM, DACVB; Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB; Melissa J. Bain, DVM, DACVB; Kelly D. Cliff, DVM, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:1709–1713
Objective—To evaluate effects of environmental management alone on marking frequency in cats with urine marking and to obtain demographic data on cats with urine marking and data on owner-perceived factors that contributed to urine marking behavior.
Animals—40 neutered male and 7 spayed female cats.
Procedure—During a 2-week baseline phase, owners maintained a daily record of the number of urine marks. This phase was followed by a 2-week environmental management phase during which owners cleaned recently deposited urine marks daily, scooped waste from the litter box daily, and changed the litter and cleaned the litter box weekly while continuing to record urine marks.
Results—Male cats and cats from multicat households were significantly overrepresented, compared with the general pet cat population in California. The most commonly mentioned causative factors for urine marking were agonistic interactions with other cats outside or inside the home. Environmental management procedures resulted in an overall reduction in urine marking frequency. Among cats that marked ? 6 times during the baseline phase, females were significantly more likely to respond to treatment (? 50% reduction in marking frequency) than were males.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that male cats and cats from multicat households are more likely to exhibit urine marking behavior than females and cats from single-cat households. Results also suggest that attention to environmental and litter box hygiene can reduce marking frequency in cats, regardless of sex or household status of the cats, and may come close to resolving the marking problem in some cats.
Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:51–56
Objective—To determine whether gonadectomy predisposes dogs to development of age-related behavioral changes linked to cognitive impairment.
Animals—29 sexually intact male dogs, 63 spayed female dogs, and 47 castrated male dogs 11 to 14 years old.
Procedure—Information on possible impairments in 4 behavioral categories linked to cognitive impairment (orientation in the home and yard, social interactions, house training, and sleep-wake cycle) was obtained from owners of the dogs by use of a structured telephone interview format. A second interview was performed 12 to 18 months after the initial interview, and differences in responses were evaluated.
Results—Sexually intact male dogs were significantly less likely than neutered dogs to progress from mild impairment (ie, impairment in 1 category) to severe impairment (ie, impairment in ? 2 categories) during the time between the first and second interviews. This difference was not attributable to differences in ages of the dogs, duration of follow-up, or the owners' perceptions of the dogs' overall health.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that the presence of circulating testosterone in aging sexually intact male dogs may slow the progression of cognitive impairment, at least among dogs that already have signs of mild impairment. Estrogens would be expected to have a similar protective role in sexually intact female dogs; unfortunately, too few sexually intact female dogs were available for inclusion in the study to test this hypothesis. There may be a need to evaluate possible methods for counteracting the effects of loss of sex hormones in gonadectomized dogs.
Jacqueline C. Neilson, DVM, DACVB; Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB; Kelly D. Cliff, DVM; William W. Ruehl, DVM, PhD, DACVP, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:1787–1791
Objective—To determine the prevalence of age-related behavioral changes, namely impairment, in a randomly chosen population of dogs.
Design—Age-stratified cohort study.
Animals—97 spayed female and 83 castrated male dogs that were 11 to 16 years old.
Procedure—Data on possible impairment in 4 behavioral categories (ie, orientation in the home and yard, social interaction, house training, and sleep-wake cycle) linked to cognitive dysfunction were obtained from dog owners, using a structured telephone interview. Hospital records of dogs had been screened to exclude dogs with dysfunction in organ systems that may cause behavioral changes. Dogs with behavioral impairment were those with 2 or more signs of dysfunction within a category. Dogs with impairment in 1 category were considered mildly impaired and those with impairment in ? 2 categories were considered severely impaired.
Results—Age by sex interactions for dogs with impairment in any category were not significant, and, therefore, data on castrated males and spayed females were pooled for analyses across ages. The prevalence of age-related progressive impairment was significant in all categories. The percentage of 11- to 12-year-old dogs with impairment in ? 1 category was 28% (22/80), of which 10% (8/80) had impairment in 2 or more behavioral categories. Of 15- to 16-year-old dogs, 68% (23/34) had impairment in ? 1 category, of which 35% (12/34) had impairments in 2 or more categories. There were no significant effects of body weight on the prevalence of signs of dysfunction in the behavioral categories.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Data collected provide estimates of the prevalence of various degrees of age-related behavioral changes associated with cognitive dysfunction in dogs. Age-related behavioral changes may be useful indicators for medical intervention for dogs with signs of cognitive impairment.
Melissa J. Bain, DVM; Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB; Kelly D. Cliff, DVM; William W. Ruehl, DVM, PhD, DACVP, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:1792–1795
Objective—To monitor the progression of age-related behavioral changes in dogs during a period of 6 to 18 months and to determine whether signs of dysfunction in any of 4 behavioral categories can be used to predict further impairment.
Design—Age-stratified cohort study.
Animals—63 spayed female and 47 castrated male dogs 11 to 14 years of age.
Procedure—Data were collected from randomly selected dog owners who were interviewed by telephone twice at a 12- to 18-month interval; data were included if the dog had lived ? 6 months between interviews. The interview focused on signs of impairment in the following behavioral categories: orientation in the home and yard, social interactions with human family members, house training, and the sleep-wake cycle. Dogs were determined to have impairment in 0 behavioral categories (on the basis of 1 or more signs for each category), impairment in 1 category (2 or more signs of dysfunction in that category), or impairment in 2 or more categories.
Results—Between interviews, 22% (16/73) of dogs that did not have impairment in a category at the time of the first interview developed impairment in that category by the time of the second interview. Forty-eight percent (13/27) of dogs that had impairment in 1 category at the time of the first interview developed impairment in 2 or more categories by the time of the second interview and were significantly more likely to develop impairment in 2 or more categories, compared with dogs that initially had impairment in 0 categories. Dogs with 1 sign of dysfunction in orientation were significantly more likely to develop impairment in that category, compared with dogs that had 0 signs of dysfunction in orientation.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Age-related behavioral changes in dogs are progressive. Clinicians should consider trying to predict which dogs are most likely to become progressively impaired during the subsequent 6 to 18 months.
Lori Ann Gaskins, J. Gregory Massey, Michael H. Ziccardi, Appl An Beh Sci, 2008
Abstract: Feeding behavior and activity during captivity were studied in wild-caught Hawai'i 'amakihi, Hemignathus virens, to evaluate diazepam's hyperphagic and anxiolytic effects. Birds were captured in mist nets, given either oral diazepam (1 mg/kg) or an equivalent volume per weight of lactated Ringer's solution orally, and held in captivity for 6 h. Thirteen-minute focal animal samples were videotaped at the beginning of each hour. Feeding behaviors, grooming and picking events, changes in position, and body weights were recorded. Mean duration of feeding, percentage of time spent feeding, and number of feeding events were significantly higher for treatment birds than for controls, and significantly increased over time. Feeding duration was significantly correlated to weight change. Weight change was not significantly different between groups, but on average treatment birds lost less weight than control birds. No significant differences in grooming behaviors were found between the groups, but there was a session effect of increased grooming over time in both groups. Also, a significant session effect in movement events was apparent, with control birds becoming less active and treatment birds becoming more active over time. Results indicate diazepam increased feeding behaviors and movement in this passerine species during a short period of captivity.
Valarie V. Tynes, DVM, DACVB; Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB; Melissa J. Bain, DVM, DACVB, JAVMA, February 1, 2007, Vol. 230, No. 3, Pages 385-389
Objectives—To determine whether associations exist between human-directed aggression and sex, neutering status, age of weaning, the presence of other pet pigs, or the presence of environmental enrichment objects in miniature pet pigs.
Study Population—Responses from 222 owners of miniature pet pigs.
Procedures—Pet pig owners were requested to complete a 48-item multiple-choice and short-answer Internet survey for each pig that they presently owned.
Results—Among 222 surveys that met enrollment criteria, human-directed aggression that occurred on at least 1 occasion was reported in 64% (n = 142) and aggression that occurred once or more per month was reported in 31% (69). No significant differences were found in the prevalence of human-directed aggression among castrated males, sexually intact females, and spayed females. Ages of weaning and neutering and the presence of objects intended to serve as environmental enrichment were not associated with frequency of aggression. A significant inverse association was detected between presence of other pigs in the same household and human-directed aggression, such that 21% (20/95) of pigs that lived with at least 1 conspecific were aggressive on a frequent basis, compared with 39% (49/126) of pigs that lived with no conspecific. A similar inverse association was evident regarding aggression that occurred on at least 1 occasion.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that human-directed aggression is a common problem in miniature pet pigs. The presence of a conspecific can be expected to reduce the likelihood of human-directed aggression.
Benjamin L. Hart , DVM, PhD, DACVB Kelly D. Cliff , DVM Valarie V. Tynes , DVM Laurie Bergman , VMD, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;226: 378â€“382
Objective—To determine whether clomipramine differs from fluoxetine in reducing feline urine marking; whether reduction of marking continues in cats treated > 8 weeks; whether recurrence of marking, after abrupt drug withdrawal, is less in cats treated > 8 weeks; and whether cats that are successfully treated but resume marking after drug withdrawal can be successfully treated again with the same drug regimen.
Design—Positive-controlled, double-masked clinical trial.
Animals—22 neutered cats (2 females, 20 males) >= 1 year old with objectionable urine marking.
Procedure—Cats that marked vertically >= 3 times/wk were treated with fluoxetine (1 mg/kg [0.45 mg/lb], q 24 h, PO) or clomipramine (0.5 mg/kg [0.23 mg/lb], q 24 h, PO) for 16 weeks, and efficacy was compared. Recurrence of marking was determined after abrupt withdrawal of fluoxetine at 16 or 32 weeks. Reduction in marking in cats treated with fluoxetine for 8 weeks after returning to marking following drug withdrawal was compared with the initial 8 weeks of successful treatment.
Results—Efficacy of fluoxetine and clomipramine was similar. Treatment > 8 weeks revealed increasing efficacy in reduction of marking. Return of marking after termination of fluoxetine administration occurred in most cats. Cats successfully treated initially with fluoxetine responded similarly to repeated treatment.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevanceâ€”Clomipramine and fluoxetine were equivalent in treating urine marking. Longer treatment increased efficacy. Most cats return to marking after abrupt drug withdrawal. A second course of treatment can be expected to be as effective as the first.