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Last weekend I attended the Veterinary Behavior Symposium – the conference of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists – held in conjunction with the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual convention in Indianapolis, IN. CattleDog Publishing co-sponsored the symposium and our booth was well attended. It was great to see so many of my friends and people who supported Dr. Yin in her writing and publications at this meeting.

What I always like about this meeting is the variety of presentations focused on advancing the science of animal behavior. Residents in veterinary behavior, veterinary behavior specialty technicians, and research scientists from many areas of the veterinary industry present their studies in animal behavior. One of the best features of this meeting, in my opinion, is that the presentations are limited to 15 minutes. The information is presented in a concise way, with references for added detail, and is focused on the results and impact to behavior research and developments. In this format, one can hear a lot of presentations across many topics and keep up to date on advances in many different areas in animal behavior.

Highlights From the Meeting:

Behavior and Physiological Responses of Anxious Dogs to a Simple Behavior Modification Protocol While Waiting in a Veterinary Hospital

 Sherrie Yuschak, RVT, VTS-Behavior.

A study of anxious dogs waiting for veterinary exams were fitted with a vest measuring ECG and respiration data during a 21-minute period in a veterinary exam room. Three groups of dogs were utilized, with a placebo group and two behavior modification groups for anxiety reduction. Heart rate and respiration rates for each group were compared over three 7-minute intervals. Global anxiety scores were also recorded during the three 7-minute intervals. The findings revealed a reduction in heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature in the dogs whose anxiety scores decreased over the 21-minute period. This study suggested that physiologic data – temperature change with anxiety level changing, for example – can increase our understanding of the physical impact of anxiety.

Efficacy of Therapeutic Diet on Dogs with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

 Gary Landsburg, DVM, ACVB.

This study compared the results of improvement on the DISHAA scale for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) in 87 dogs. Three diets were compared: a control without Medium Chain Triglyceride supplementation (MCT); proprietary Brain Nutrient Blend (BPB) containing B vitamins, antioxidants, and arginine; and a high-quality dog food diet without the above supplementation. The study lasted 90 days, and the dogs who received the diet with both 6.5% MCT and BPB not only improved, but also scored the best on the CDS scale. It was interesting to note that dogs fed a diet consisting of more than 6.5% MCT would not eat the food well. The palatability was reduced and compliance in the trial was challenging, resulting in no difference in CDS scores than the 6.5% MCT diet. This study indicates the Purina Pro-Plan Veterinary NeuroCare diet will improve Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome symptoms in dogs.

Other Notables:

There were a number of studies measuring bio-markers for behavior problems. Blood measurement of oxytocin and vasopression in aggressive dogs, blood prolactin levels in stressed assistance dogs in training, and urine levels of various neurotransmitters in healthy dogs show promise for both detection of stress and monitoring of treatment progress. There was also a presentation about using infrared thermography to compare physiological and behavioral measurements in dogs. Physiological data helps to provide evidence for a scientific approach to behavior therapy. It can also provide trackable data that is not subjective, but rather objective, for progress and possible prognosis.

Katherine Pankratz, DVM, won the RK Anderson Resident award for her study using a single dose of Gabapentin in cage-trapped confined community cats. The study compared the body language of cats two hours post-dosing of 50 mg or 100 mg oral liquid Gabapentin via a Tomcat catheter. Anxiety scoring indicated reduction in fear response in the cats who were medicated. This study helps provide a safe and inexpensive pre-medication protocol to improve patient welfare and staff safety.

All of the presentations were informative, but it is difficult to review them all here in a single blog post. For more information, you may contact the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists to read the proceedings ( Watch for publications of these topics, and inform your colleagues about the advances in behavior medicine. Promoting the science of behavior is important for the welfare and health of the animals and public that veterinarians serve.

Further Reading:

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