Publications

Publications

  • To read more about our canine and feline research, explore the articles and abstracts below:

Pain Management

Gruen, M. E., White, W., & Hare, B. (2020). Do dog breeds differ in pain sensitivity? Veterinarians and the public believe they do. PLoS ONE15(3), 1-14. [View Article]

Humans do not respond to the pain of all humans equally; physical appearance and associated group identity affect how people respond to the pain of others. Here we ask if a similar differential response occurs when humans evaluate different individuals of another species. Beliefs about pain in pet dogs (Canis familiaris) provide a powerful test, since dogs vary so much in size, shape, and color, and are often associated with behavioral stereotypes. Using an on-line survey, we asked both the general public and veterinarians to rate pain sensitivity in 28 different dog breeds, identified only by their pictures. We found that both the general public and veterinarians rated smaller dogs (i.e. based on height and weight) as being more sensitive to pain; the general public respondents rated breeds associated with breed specific legislation as having lower pain sensitivity. While there is currently no known physiological basis for such breed-level differences, over 90% of respondents from both groups indicated belief in differences in pain sensitivity among dog breeds. We discuss how these results inform theories of human social discrimination and suggest that the perception of breed-level differences in pain sensitivity may affect the recognition and management of painful conditions in dogs.

(Gruen et al., 2020)

Gruen, M. E., Samson, D. R., & Lascelles, B. D. X. (2019). Functional linear modeling of activity data shows analgesic-mediated improved sleep in dogs with spontaneous osteoarthritis pain. Scientific Reports, 9(14192), 1-6. [View Article]

In humans, pain due to osteoarthritis has been demonstrated to be associated with insomnia and sleep disturbances that affect perception of pain, productivity, and quality of life. Dogs, which develop spontaneous osteoarthritis and represent an increasingly used model for human osteoarthritis, would be expected to show similar sleep disturbances. Further, these sleep disturbances should be mitigated by analgesic therapy. Previous efforts to quantify sleep in osteoarthritic dogs using accelerometry have not demonstrated a beneficial effect of analgesic therapy; this is despite owner-reported improvements in dogs’ sleep quality. However, analytic techniques for time-series accelerometry data have advanced with the development of functional linear modeling. Our aim was to apply functional linear modeling to accelerometry data from osteoarthritic dogs participating in a cross-over non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (meloxicam) drug trial. Significant differences in activity patterns were seen dogs receiving drug (meloxicam) vs. placebo, suggestive of improved nighttime resting (sleep) and increased daytime activity. These results align with owner-reported outcome assessments of sleep quality and further support dogs as an important translational model with benefits for both veterinary and human health.

(Gruen et al., 2019)

Gruen, M. E., Roe, S. C., Griffith, E. H., & Sherman, B. L. (2017). The use of trazodone to facilitate calm behavior after elective orthopedic surgery in dogs: Results and lessons learned from a clinical trial. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 22, 41-45. [View Article]

Trazodone hydrochloride is an atypical antidepressant that has entered clinical use for dogs and cats for a variety of indications. These include management of anxiety disorders, facilitation of travel and veterinary examinations, and facilitation of calm behavior in hospitalized and postoperative patients. Despite the increasingly common use of trazodone in dogs, very little literature exists evaluating trazodone’s efficacy against a placebo control. The aim of the study reported here was to evaluate trazodone in a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial for use in facilitating calmness and ease of confinement in postoperative dogs. The study enrolled 29 dogs (14 in the trazodone group and 15 in the placebo group) and followed them during 4 postoperative weeks. Trazodone was well tolerated by dogs in the trazodone group. Although dogs in both groups were rated as improved on some behavioral measures, no difference was found between the trazodone and placebo groups in efficacy, with more than 70% of owners in both groups rating the test article (trazodone or placebo) as moderately or extremely helpful for facilitating both calming and crating of their dog. This observed lack of efficacy, over placebo, may be attributed to one or more of several factors that include features about the trial itself and the trial population, a caregiver or placebo-by-proxy effect, a lack of sensitive outcome measures for assessment, or a lack of true efficacy for the medication. It is concluded that future work will be needed to address these factors, and this report aims to provide not only results but lessons learned from the conduct of the described trial.

(Gruen et al., 2017)

Gruen, M. E., Roe, S. C., Griffist, E., Hamilton, A., & Sherman, B. L. (2014). Use of trazadone to facilitate postsurgical confinement in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 245(3), 296-301. [View Article

Objective – To investigate the safety and efficacy of oral administration of the serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor trazodone hydrochloride to facilitate confinement and calming after orthopedic surgery in dogs.

Design – Prospective open-label clinical trial.

Animals – 36 client-owned dogs that underwent orthopedic surgery.

Procedures – Starting the day after surgery, dogs were administered trazodone (approx 3.5 mg/kg [1.6 mg/lb], PO, q 12 h) with tramadol (4 to 6 mg/kg [1.8 to 2.7 mg/lb], PO, q 8 to 12 h) for pain management. After 3 days, administration of tramadol was discontinued, and the trazodone dosage was increased (approx 7 mg/kg [3.2 mg/lb], PO, q 12 h) and maintained for at least 4 weeks. If needed, trazodone dosage was increased (7 to 10 mg/kg [3.2 to 4.5 mg/lb], PO, q 8 h). Owners completed electronic surveys rating their dogs’ confinement tolerance, calmness or hyperactivity level, and responses to specific provocative situations prior to surgery and 1, 2, 3, and 4 weeks after surgery and at the postsurgery evaluation (at 8 to 12 weeks).

Results – Most (32/36 [89%]) of owners reported that their dogs, when given trazodone during the 8 to 12 weeks following orthopedic surgery, improved moderately or extremely with regard to confinement tolerance and calmness. Trazodone was well tolerated, even in combination with NSAIDs, antimicrobials, and other medications; no dogs were withdrawn from the study because of adverse reactions. Owner-reported median onset of action of trazodone was 31 to 45 minutes, and median duration of action was ≥ 4 hours.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance – Results suggested that oral administration of trazodone was safe and efficacious and may be used to facilitate confinement and enhance behavioral calmness of dogs during the critical recovery period following orthopedic surgery.

(Gruen et al., 2014)

 

Behavior

Park, R. M., Royal, K. D., & Gruen, M. E. (2021). A literature review: Pet bereavement and coping mechanisms. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 24(2), 1-16. [View Article]

The loss of a companion animal results in millions of pet owners grieving annually. To date, little information has been synthesized on the grief response and coping mechanisms of bereaved pet owners. The aim of this review was to examine the relationship between pet loss and owner grief response. Major themes included: factors that influence the grief response, the disenfranchised nature surrounding pet loss, ambiguous pet loss and coping mechanisms used. Across the 48 studies included in this review, bereaved pet owners frequently reported feelings of embarrassment and loneliness following the loss of their pet. Types of coping mechanisms used by bereaved pet owners were identified and included: isolation, social support, continuing bonds, memorialization, religion, and relationships with other animals. Overall, this review was able to identify a consensus among the literature that bereaved pet owners are likely to experience disenfranchisement surrounding their loss. Based on the present findings, suggestions for future research include a focus on the effectiveness of coping mechanisms used by bereaved pet owners.

(Park et al., 2021)

Perdew, I., Emke, C., Johnson, B., Dixit, V., Song, Y., Griffith, E. H., . . . Gruen, M. E. (2021). Evaluation of Pexion® (imepitoin) for treatment of storm anxiety in dogs: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The Veterinary Record, 188(9), e18. [View Article]

Background: While often grouped with other noise aversions, fearful behaviour during storms is considered more complex than noise aversion alone. The objective here was to assess the effect of imepitoin for the treatment of storm anxiety in dogs.

Methods: In this double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised study, eligible dogs completed a baseline then were randomised to receive either imepitoin (n = 30; 30 mg/kg BID) or placebo (n = 15) for 28 days. During storms, owners rated their dog’s intensity for 16 behaviours using a Likert scale. Weekly, owners rated intensity and frequency of these behaviours. Summary scores were compared to baseline and between groups.

Results and Conclusions: Imepitoin was significantly superior to placebo in storm logs and weekly surveys for weeks 2 and 4, and in the end-of-study survey. Mild/moderate adverse events were reported in 26 patients (24 active: two placebo); the most frequent adverse event was ataxia. Owners of dogs in the imepitoin group, compared to placebo, were significantly more likely to report that treatment reduced their dogs fear and anxiety during storms (p < 0.001) and other noise events (p < 0.001). Twice daily administration of imepitoin decreased anxiety scores in dogs with storm anxiety. Future work may evaluate optimal dosage regimens.

(Perdew et al., 2021)

Park, R. M., Gruen, M. E., & Royal, K. (2021). Association between dog owner demographics and decision to seek veterinary care. Veterinary Sciences, 8 (1), 1-19. [View Article]

Background: An important aspect of dog ownership is providing veterinary care. However, features of dog ownership differ across demographic groups and these may influence veterinary client decision making and behavior. The purpose of the present study was to elucidate relationships between American dog owner characteristics and willingness to seek veterinary care.

Methods: A total of 858 dog owners completed an online questionnaire asking participants to rate their level of likelihood to seek veterinary care for different medical conditions, answer supplemental questions about their previous veterinary barriers, and indicate barriers that prevent them from seeking veterinary care.

Results: Dog owners did not differ by demographics in their willingness to seek veterinary care. However, dog owner demographic groups varied in their relationship with their dog(s), previous behaviors accessing veterinary care, and barriers that make seeking veterinary care challenging.

Conclusions: Education, outreach and community-based veterinary medicine efforts should allocate resources to underserved communities identified within the context that they are affected by barriers to obtaining veterinary care for their dog(s).

(Park et al., 2021)

Woods, H. J., Li, M. F., Patel, U. A., Lascelles, B. D. X., Sampson, D. R., & Gruen, M. G. (2020). A functional linear modeling approach to sleep-wake cycles in dogs. Scientific Reports, 10, 1-8. [View Article]

The study of companion (pet) dogs is an area of great translational potential, as they share a risk for many conditions that afflict humans. Among these are conditions that affect sleep, including chronic pain and cognitive dysfunction. Significant advancements have occurred in the ability to study sleep in dogs, including development of non-invasive polysomnography; however, basic understanding of dog sleep patterns remains poorly characterized. The purpose of this study was to establish baseline sleep–wake cycle and activity patterns using actigraphy and functional linear modeling (FLM), for healthy, adult companion dogs. Forty-two dogs were enrolled and wore activity monitors for 14 days. FLM demonstrated a bimodal pattern of activity with significant effects of sex, body mass, and age; the effect of age was particularly evident during the times of peak activity. This study demonstrated that FLM can be used to describe normal sleep–wake cycles of healthy adult dogs and the effects of physiologic traits on these patterns of activity. This foundation makes it possible to characterize deviations from normal patterns, including those associated with chronic pain and cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This can improve detection of these conditions in dogs, benefitting them and their potential as models for human disease.

(Woods et al., 2020)

Fish, R. E., Foster, M. L., Gruen, M. E., Sherman, B. L., & Dorman, D. C. (2017). Effect of wearing a telemetry jacket on behavioral and physiologic parameters of dogs in the open-field test. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, 56(4), 382-389. [View Article]

Safety pharmacology studies in dogs often integrate behavioral assessments made using video recording with physiologic measurements collected by telemetry. However, whether merely wearing the telemetry vest affects canine behavior and other parameters has not been evaluated. This pilot study assessed the effect of a telemetry vest on behavioral and physiologic responses to an environmental stressor, the sounds of a thunderstorm, in Labrador retrievers. Dogs were assigned to one of 2 experimental groups (Vest and No-Vest, n = 8 dogs per group) by using a matched pairs design, with a previously determined, sound-associated anxiety score as the blocking variable. Dogs were individually retested with the same standardized sound stimulus (thunderstorm) in an open-field arena, and their behavioral responses were video recorded. Video analysis of loco‑motor activity and anxiety-related behavior and manual determination of heart rate and body temperature were performed; results were compared between groups. Vest wearing did not affect total locomotor activity or rectal body temperature but significantly decreased heart rate by 8% and overall mean anxiety score by 34% during open-field test sessions. Our results suggest that the use of telemetry vests in dogs influences the measurement of physiologic parameters and behaviors that are assessed in safety pharmacology studies.

(Fish et al., 2017)

Sherman, B. L., Gruen, M. E., Case, B. C., Foster, M. L., Fish, R. E., Lazarowski, L., . . . Dorman, D. C. (2015). A test for the evaluation of emotional reactivity in Labrador retrievers used for explosives detection. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 10(2), 94-102. [View Article]

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) uses Labrador retrievers as improvised explosive device detection dogs (IDDs). Of critical importance is the selection of dogs that are emotionally suited for this highly specialized application. The goal of our study was to develop an emotional reactivity test (ERT) as a screening tool for the selection of IDDs. The ERT included a series of subtasks that expose each dog sequentially to visual, auditory, and experiential stimuli with an associated grading scale used by trained observers to rate individual dog responses. In this study, 16 Labrador retrievers that met initial selection criteria as candidate IDDs were assessed using the ERT, measurement of plasma and salivary cortisol concentrations (pre- and post-ERT), and an independent open-field test of anxiety in response to sound stimuli. Based on the sum of its responses, each dog was assigned an aggregate ERT score. Aggregate ERT scores from independent trained observers were highly concordant [Shrout-Fleiss’s intraclass correlation (2,1) = 0.96] suggesting excellent inter-rater reliability. The aggregate ERT scores were also negatively correlated with the dogs’ scores on the open-field anxiety test (Spearman rank correlation, n = 16, r = 0.57, P = 0.0214). In addition, there were significant increases in salivary (Wilcoxon signed rank, n = 16, S = 38.5, P = 0.0458) and plasma (Wilcoxon signed rank, n = 16, S = 68, P < 0.0001) cortisol levels after the ERT, compared with baseline, suggesting that exposure to the ERT test elements produced a physiological stress response. We conclude that the ERT is a useful pre-training screening test that can be used to identify dogs with a low threshold of emotional reactivity for rejection, and dogs with a high threshold of emotional reactivity for entry into the IDD training program.

(Sherman et al., 2015)

Gruen, M. E., Case, B. C., Foster, M. L., Lazarowski, L., Fish, R. E., Landsberg, G., . . . Sherman, B. L. (2015). The use of an open-field model to assess sound-induced fear and anxiety-associated behaviors in Labrador retrievers. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 10(4), 338-345. [View Article]

Previous studies have shown that the playing of thunderstorm recordings during an open-field task elicits fearful or anxious responses in adult beagles. The goal of our study was to apply this open-field test to assess sound-induced behaviors in Labrador retrievers drawn from a pool of candidate-improvised explosive devices (IEDs)-detection dogs. Being robust to fear-inducing sounds and recovering quickly is a critical requirement of these military working dogs. This study presented male and female dogs, with 3 minutes of either ambient noise (days 1, 3, and 5), recorded thunderstorm (day 2), or gunfire (Day 4) sounds in an open-field arena. Behavioral and physiological responses were assessed and compared with control (ambient noise) periods. An observer blinded to sound treatment analyzed video records of the 9-minute daily test sessions. Additional assessments included measurement of distance traveled (activity), heart rate, body temperature, and salivary cortisol concentrations. Overall, there was a decline in distance traveled and heart rate within each day and over the 5-day test period, suggesting that dogs habituated to the open-field arena. Behavioral postures and expressions were assessed using a standardized rubric to score behaviors linked to canine fear and anxiety. These fear/anxiety scores were used to evaluate changes in behaviors after exposure to a sound stressor. Compared with control periods, there was an overall increase in fear/anxiety scores during thunderstorm and gunfire sound stimuli treatment periods. Fear/anxiety scores were correlated with distance traveled and heart rate. Fear/anxiety scores in response to thunderstorm and gunfire were correlated. Dogs showed higher fear/anxiety scores during periods after the sound stimuli compared with control periods. In general, candidate IED-detection Labrador retrievers responded to sound stimuli and recovered quickly, although dogs stratified in their response to sound stimuli. Some dogs were robust to fear/anxiety responses. The results suggest that the open-field sound test may be a useful method to evaluate the suitability of dogs for IED-detection training.

(Gruen et al., 2015)

 

Cognition

Bray, E. E., Gruen, M. E., Gnanadesikan, G. E., Horschler, D. J., Levy, K. M., Kennedy, B. S., . . . MacLean, E. L. (2020). Cognitive characteristics of 8- to 10-week-old assistance dog puppies. Animal Behaviour, 166, 193-206. [View Article]

To characterize the early ontogeny of dog cognition, we tested 168 domestic dog, Canis familiaris, puppies (97 females, 71 males; mean age = 9.2 weeks) in a novel test battery based on previous tasks developed and employed with adolescent and adult dogs. Our sample consisted of Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and Labrador x golden retriever crosses from 65 different litters at Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that breeds, trains and places assistance dogs for people with disabilities. Puppies participated in a 3-day cognitive battery that consisted of 14 tasks measuring different cognitive abilities and temperament traits such as executive function (e.g. inhibitory control, reversal learning, working memory), use of social cues, sensory discriminations and reactivity to and recovery from novel situations. At 8-10 weeks of age, and despite minimal experience with humans, puppies reliably used a variety of cooperative-communicative gestures from humans. Puppies accurately remembered the location of hidden food for delays of up to 20 s, and succeeded in a variety of visual, olfactory and auditory discrimination problems. They also showed some skill at executive function tasks requiring inhibitory control and reversal learning, although they scored lower on these tasks than is typical in adulthood. Taken together, our results confirm the early emergence of sensitivity to human communication in dogs and contextualize these skills within a broad array of other cognitive abilities measured at the same stage of ontogeny.

(Bray et al., 2020)

Gruen, M. E., Foster, M. L., Lazarowski, L., Jeffries, A., Sherman, B. L., & Dorman, D. C. (2019). Does the cognitive bias test in dogs depend on spatial learning? Journal of Veterinary Behavior33, 1-6[View Article]

Cognitive bias tests have been used to measure affective states in dogs. The results may also involve spatial learning and memory when location is used as the cue. In this study, we evaluated the performance of 16 Labrador retriever dogs with a cognitive bias test that used spatial location as the cue and compared the results to the dogs’ performance on a delayed nonmatching to position (DNMP) operant procedure. All dogs completed the cognitive bias test, whereas only 9 of 16 completed DNMP acquisition criteria within a maximum of 300 trials (mean ± SEM for successful dogs = 187.8 ± 19.2 trials). A negative correlation was observed between the number of trials required for DNMP acquisition and the mean latencies to the near positive (P = 0.001, r2 = 0.56, n = 16) and near negative (P = 0.013, r2 = 0.39, n = 16) ambiguous locations on the cognitive bias test. For the 9 dogs who met DNMP acquisition criteria within 300 trials, this correlation remained, with a significant negative correlation observed for the near positive (P = 0.01, r2 = 0.64) and near negative (P = 0.055, r2 = 0.43) ambiguous positions and the number of DNMP trials. The observed association between a classic test of spatial working memory (DNMP) and the cognitive bias test suggest that the cognitive bias test may also rely on spatial learning in some dogs. This finding suggests that the effect of spatial learning ability may need to be acknowledged in tests that use location as the discriminatory cue.

(Gruen et al., 2019)

Lazarowski, L., Foster, M. L., Gruen, M. E., Sherman, B. L., Case, B. C., Fish, R. E., . . . Dorman, D. C. (2014). Acquisition of a visual discrimination and reversal learning task by Labrador retrievers. Animal Cognition, 17(3), 787-792. [View Article]

Optimal cognitive ability is likely important for military working dogs (MWD) trained to detect explosives. An assessment of a dog’s ability to rapidly learn discriminations might be useful in the MWD selection process. In this study, visual discrimination and reversal tasks were used to assess cognitive performance in Labrador retrievers selected for an explosives detection program using a modified version of the Toronto General Testing Apparatus (TGTA), a system developed for assessing performance in a battery of neuropsychological tests in canines. The results of the current study revealed that, as previously found with beagles tested using the TGTA, Labrador retrievers (N = 16) readily acquired both tasks and learned the discrimination task significantly faster than the reversal task. The present study confirmed that the modified TGTA system is suitable for cognitive evaluations in Labrador retriever MWDs and can be used to further explore effects of sex, phenotype, age, and other factors in relation to canine cognition and learning, and may provide an additional screening tool for MWD selection.

(Lazarowski et al., 2014)

 

Olfaction

Lazarowski, L., Foster, M. L., Gruen, M. E., Sherman, B. L., Fish, R. E, Milgram, N. W., & Dorman, D. C. (2015). Olfactory discrimination and generalization of ammonium nitrate and structurally related odorants in Labrador retrievers. Animal Cognition, 18(6), 1255-1265. [View Article]

A critical aspect of canine explosive detection involves the animal’s ability respond to novel, untrained odors based on prior experience with training odors. In the current study, adult Labrador retrievers (N = 15) were initially trained to discriminate between a rewarded odor (vanillin) and an unrewarded odor (ethanol) by manipulating scented objects with their nose in order to receive a food reward using a canine-adapted discrimination training apparatus. All dogs successfully learned this olfactory discrimination task (≥80 % correct in a mean of 296 trials). Next, dogs were trained on an ammonium nitrate (AN, NH4NO3) olfactory discrimination task [acquired in 60–240 trials, with a mean (±SEM) number of trials to criterion of 120.0 ± 15.6] and then tested for their ability to respond to untrained ammonium- and/or nitrate-containing chemicals as well as variants of AN compounds. Dogs did not respond to sodium nitrate or ammonium sulfate compounds at rates significantly higher than chance (58.8 ± 4.5 and 57.7 ± 3.3 % correct, respectively). Transfer performance to fertilizer-grade AN, AN mixed in Iraqi soil, and AN and flaked aluminum was significantly higher than chance (66.7 ± 3.2, 73.3 ± 4.0, 68.9 ± 4.0 % correct, respectively); however, substantial individual differences were observed. Only 53, 60, and 64 % of dogs had a correct response rate with fertilizer-grade AN, AN and Iraqi soil, and AN and flaked aluminum, respectively, that were greater than chance. Our results suggest that dogs do not readily generalize from AN to similar AN-based odorants at reliable levels desired for explosive detection dogs and that performance varies significantly within Labrador retrievers selected for an explosive detection program.

(Lazarowski et al., 2015)

 


 

Behavior

Kennedy, C. J., Thomson, A. E., Griffith, E. H., Fogle, J., Lascelles, B. D. X., Meeker, R. B., . . . Gruen, M. E. (2018). Enrichment preferences of FIV-infected and uninfected laboratory-housed cats. Viruses, 10(7), 1-10. [View Article]

Environmental enrichment is critical for alleviating stress in laboratory felines. However, there is a paucity of information about suitable enrichment for cats. This study aimed to determine preferred enrichment options of individually-housed, castrated male domestic short hair cats (Felis catus) used in a longitudinal study of the effects of chronic feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection, and to determine if the FIV status of the cats affected enrichment preferences. Preference testing was performed with two types of grooming brushes, three different interactive play options, including a laser, ball, and petting interaction with a familiar investigator, and two types of toenail conditioning objects. We found that cats elected to be brushed, preferred social interaction and play with the laser to the ball, and preferred to scratch on an inclined-box toenail conditioning object compared to a horizontal, circular toenail conditioning object. There were individual preferences for enrichment opportunities. There were no differences in preferences between FIV-infected and sham-infected cats. These enrichment preferences may be used to advise laboratory animal facilities and researchers about how to best accommodate the behavioral needs of laboratory cats.

(Kennedy et al., 2018)

Stevens, B. J., Frantz, E. M., Orlando, J. M., Griffith, E., Harden, L. B., Gruen, M. E., & Sherman, B. L. (2016). Efficacy of a single dose of trazodone hydrochloride given to cats prior to veterinary visits to reduce signs of transport- and examination-related anxiety. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 249(2), 202-207. [View Article]

OBJECTIVE – To evaluate the efficacy of a single dose of trazodone for reducing anxiety in cats during transport to a veterinary hospital and facilitating handling during veterinary examination.

DESIGN – Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover study.

ANIMALS – 10 healthy client-owned cats (2 to 12 years of age) with a history of anxiety during transport or veterinary examination.

PROCEDURES – Each cat was randomly assigned to first receive trazodone hydrochloride (50 mg) or a placebo PO. The assigned treatment was administered, and each cat was placed in a carrier and transported by car to a veterinary clinic, where it received a structured veterinary examination. Owners scored their cat’s signs of anxiety before, during, and after transport and examination. The veterinarian also assessed signs of anxiety during examination. After a 1- to 3-week washout period, each cat received the opposite treatment and the protocol was repeated.

RESULTS – Compared with placebo, trazodone resulted in a significant improvement in the cats’ signs of anxiety during transport. Veterinarian and owner scores for ease of handling during veterinary examination also improved with trazodone versus the placebo. No significant differences were identified between treatments in heart rate or other physiologic variables. The most common adverse event related to trazodone administration was signs of sleepiness.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE – Oral administration of a single dose of trazodone to cats prior to a veterinary visit resulted in fewer signs of transport- and examination-related anxiety than did a placebo and was generally well tolerated by most cats. Use of trazodone in this manner may promote veterinary visits and, consequently, enhance cat welfare.

(Stevens et al., 2016)

Gruen, M. E., Thomson, A. E., Clary, G. P., Hamilton, A. K., Hudson, L. C., Meeker, R. B., & Sherman, B. L. (2013). Conditioning laboratory cats to handling and transport. Lab Animal, 42, 385-389. [View Article

As research subjects, cats have contributed substantially to our understanding of biological systems, from the development of mammalian visual pathways to the pathophysiology of feline immunodeficiency virus as a model for human immunodeficiency virus. Few studies have evaluated humane methods for managing cats in laboratory animal facilities, however, in order to reduce fear responses and improve their welfare. The authors describe a behavioral protocol used in their laboratory to condition cats to handling and transport. Such behavioral conditioning benefits the welfare of the cats, the safety of animal technicians and the quality of feline research data.

(Gruen et al., 2013)

 

Cognition

Sherman, B. L., Gruen, M. E., Meeker, R. B., Milgram, B., DiRivera, C., Thomson, A., . . . Hudson, L. (2013). The use of a T-maze to measure cognitive-motor function in cats (Felis catus). Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 8(1), 32-39. [View Article

Few tests have been developed to evaluate the cognitive and motor capabilities of domestic cats, despite the suitability of cats for specific studies of neuroanatomy, infectious diseases, development, aging, and behavior. The present study evaluated a T-maze apparatus as a sensitive and reliable measure of cognition and motor function in cats. Eighteen purpose-bred, specific pathogen-free, male, neutered domestic short-haired cats (Felis catus), 1-2 years of age, were trained and tested to a T-maze protocol using food rewards. The test protocol consisted of positional discrimination training (left arm or right arm) to reach a predetermined criterion, followed by 2 discrimination reversal tests. The 2 reversal tests documented the ability of the subjects to respond to a new reward location by switching arms of the T-maze. Data were collected on side preference, number of correct responses, and latency of the responses by the subjects. Aided by a customized computer program (CanCog Technologies), data were recorded electronically as each cat progressed from the start box to the reward arm. The protocol facilitated rapid training to a high and consistent level of performance during the discrimination training. This learning was associated with a decrease in the latency to traverse the maze to a mean of 4.80 ± 0.87 seconds, indicating strong motivation and consistent performance. When the rewarded side was reversed in the test phase, the cats required more trials to reach the criterion, as expected, but again showed reliable learning. The latency to the reward in the first session of reversal increased 86% from the first to the last trial, indicating that it may provide a useful index of cognitive processing. Latencies subsequently decreased as the new reversal paradigm was learned. This paradigm provides a relatively rapid and reliable test of cognitive–motor performance that can be used in various settings for the evaluation of feline cognitive and motor function.

(Sherman et al., 2013)