Researchers in Lincoln and Milan have launched a new study into the behavioural side effects of drugs in dogs.
Many drugs have been adapted for safe use in animals in so much as they do not cause overt harm, but some are known to have psychological side effects, which until now have been largely unexplored.
Dr Lorella Notari, a veterinary surgeon in Milan, Italy, who is working towards a PhD at the University of Lincoln, is leading a new research project which will examine the behavioural changes in dogs being treated with certain medications.
The researchers are particularly interested in the side effects of a group of commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs known as corticosteroid or ‘steroids’. These are often used in conditions like chronic skin problems or arthritis.
The researchers have found initial evidence to suggest they may directly affect a number of behaviours related to dogs’ perception of others and their environment.
The team are therefore following up this initial research by launching an online questionnaire aimed at collating reports from owners of dogs with these medical conditions.
Professor Daniel Mills, from the University of Lincoln’s Department of Biological Sciences, said: “The aim of the survey is to recruit a large number of pet owners whose dog is currently receiving treatment for some form of arthritis or skin problem. We need information from owners of dogs using different treatments in order to examine if one drug is associated with specific changes. By asking owners to report on a range of indirect behavioural responses that they observe when their dog is on treatment, we can then calculate the chance that a certain drug is associated with a higher risk of certain changes in behaviour and whether this fits with our predictions and initial evidence. Later we will test this association with carefully designed behaviour tests in volunteered subjects.”
Dog owners who would like to be involved in the research can visit
http://www.dog-behaviour.org where the questionnaire is available in both English and Italian.
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