Dogs with separation-related problems show a “less pessimistic” cognitive bias during treatment with fluoxetine (Reconcile™) and a behaviour modification plan

Karagiannis, Christos I., Burman, Oliver H. P. and Mills, Daniel S. (2015) Dogs with separation-related problems show a “less pessimistic” cognitive bias during treatment with fluoxetine (Reconcile™) and a behaviour modification plan. BMC Veterinary Research . ISSN 1746-6148

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Background Canine separation-related problems (SRP) (also described as “separation anxiety” or “separation distress”) are among the most common behavioural complaints of dog owners. Treatment with psychoactive medication in parallel with a behaviour modification plan is well documented in the literature, but it is unknown if this is associated with an improvement in underlying affective state (emotion and mood) or simply an inhibition of the behaviour. Cognitive judgement bias tasks have been proposed as a method for assessing underlying affective state and so we used this approach to identify if any change in clinical signs during treatment was associated with a consistent change in cognitive bias (affective state). Five dogs showing signs of SRP (vocalising – e.g. barking, howling-, destruction of property, and toileting – urination or defecation- when alone) were treated with fluoxetine chewable tablets (Reconcile™) and set on a standard behaviour modification plan for two months. Questionnaires and interviews of the owners were used to monitor the clinical progress of the dogs. Subjects were also evaluated using a spatial cognitive bias test to infer changes in underlying affect prior to, and during, treatment. Concurrently, seven other dogs without signs of SRP were tested in the same way to act as controls. Furthermore, possible correlations between cognitive bias and clinical measures were also assessed for dogs with SRP. Results Prior to treatment, the dogs with SRP responded to ambiguous positions in the cognitive bias test negatively (i.e. with slower running speeds) compared to control dogs (p < 0.05). On weeks 2 and 6 of treatment, SRP dogs displayed similar responses in the cognitive bias test to control dogs, consistent with the possible normalization of affect during treatment, with this effect more pronounced at week 6 (p > 0.05). Questionnaire based clinical measures were significantly correlated among themselves and with performance in the cognitive bias test. Conclusion These results demonstrate for the first time that the clinical treatment of a negative affective state and associated behaviours in a non-human species can produce a shift in cognitive bias. These findings demonstrate how the outcome of an intervention on a clinical problem can be evaluated to determine not only that the subject’s behaviour has improved, but also its psychological state (welfare)

Keywords:fluoxetine, JCOpen
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:16984
Deposited On:27 Mar 2015 09:24

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