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Title: Exogenous corticosteroids and dog behaviour
Author: Notari, Lorella
ISNI:       0000 0004 5919 0857
Awarding Body: University of Lincoln
Current Institution: University of Lincoln
Date of Award: 2016
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Arousal and distress are considered important factors when dogs show problematic behaviours and the crucial role of hormones and neurotransmitters involved in stress responses is widely recognized. Corticosteroids are important players in stress responses and, along with other hormones and neurotransmitters, contribute to the onset of both physiological and behavioural changes that can be either normal and adaptive or excessive and maladaptive depending on several factors. A literature review revealed that exogenous corticosteroids have been reported to change behaviour in human beings and laboratory animals but no data were available as far as similar e�ffects in dogs. The aim of this research was to identify possible behavioural changes in dogs treated with corticosteroids. In the fi�rst study, the perception of behavioural changes in dogs during corticosteroid therapy was investigated through semi-structured open interviews of the owners of 31 dogs of di�fferent breeds, genders, and ages. All dogs had received corticosteroid therapies in the past six months. Owners were asked to describe their dog's behaviours both on and o� corticosteroid therapy. Eleven owners reported behavioural changes in their dogs; nine dogs were reported to show more than one behavioural change. Six dogs reportedly showed nervousness and/or restlessness, three showed an increase in startle responses, three showed food guarding, two showed a decrease in their activity level, three showed an increase in avoidance responses, four showed irritable aggression, and two dogs increased barking. Semi-structured interviews can be useful preliminary tools for the identifi�cation of areas of future investigation, and the outcomes of the interviews were then used to investigate more rigorously the possible relationship between these signs and corticosteroid use in dogs. In the second study 99 dog owners were asked to complete a 12 item questionnaire, developed following the results of the previous survey. Owners were asked to evaluate their dogs' behaviour on and off� therapy, using a seven point scale. A sample of owners whose dogs were receiving treatment for dermatological, orthopaedic or other conditions completed the survey. The survey was completed by 44 dog owners with animals receiving treatment with a range of corticosteroid preparations (mainly prednisolone and methylprednisolone) and 54 dog owners with dogs receiving treatment with other drugs, mainly antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-infl�ammatory drugs. Dogs under corticosteroid treatment were reported to be signifi�cantly less playful, more nervous/restless, more fearful/less confi�dent, more aggressive in the presence of food, more prone to barking, more prone to startle, more prone to reacting aggressively when disturbed, and more prone to avoiding people or unusual situations. The last part of this study involved behavioural tests of dogs. Eleven �treatment� dogs were then tested twice: before and during corticosteroid treatment with either methyl-prednisolone or prednisolone to assess their sensitivity to a potentially aversive stimulus. Eleven control dogs, not receiving corticosteroid therapy, were also tested at the same time intervals in the same environment. Dogs were exposed to a brief dog growl while they explored some bowls containing food and their behaviour was video recorded. Treatment dogs investigated the area for signi�ficantly less time and ate signi�cantly less food in the second test trial when on corticosteroid compared to control dogs. In �final study, exploring relationships between corticosteroid therapy and dogs with behaviour problems, a review of the caseload of the author of 345 dogs reported for behaviour and management problems was analyzed. It was found that 16 % of them had a history of previous treatments with corticosteroids. Previous treatment with corticosteroid was found to be signi�ficantly associated with negative aff�ective states. These results support earlier preliminary �findings concerning possible adverse behavioural side e�ffects following the use of corticosteroids in dogs, and the possible need for concomitant behavioural advice when these drugs are used in general veterinary practice.
Supervisor: Mills, Daniel ; Burman, Oliver Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: D300 Animal Science