With the launch of breakthrough™ earlier in 2016, we have carried out a number of studies with rescue centres and COAPE trained behaviourists to demonstrate the results that breakthrough™ can produce. One such study was with the Wood Green Rescue Centre in Godmanchester. This blog post outlines the results from this study and was first published as an academic poster at the Companion Animal Nutrition Conference – June 2016. We’re grateful to Val Strong Msc for collating these results.
IntroductionOf the 9.3 million dogs spread across 26% of households in the UK a significant number are either euthanased or relinquished to animal charities every year because of behaviour problems. Rescue kennels are stressful environments for most dogs and that stress can have a major impact on their welfare and management, and ultimately their chances of being adopted.
Most studies of dogs in kennels have focused on environmental enrichment, social contact, kennel design etc., but the impact of nutrition on canine behaviour has been largely neglected.
All animals learn from positive and negative experiences in social and environmental contexts and this shapes their behaviour as a suite of adaptive appetitive or aversive responses to better negotiate their environment.
Current theories suggest that emotional states are elicited by such experiences and that all learning is intrinsically tied to changes in emotional state in at least seven common mammalian emotional systems in the brain, each with its own attendant neurochemistry.
If the neurophysiological basis of learning processes is impaired, for example, by a lack of availability of either dietary precursors to key neurotransmitters or their availability and function in those emotional systems, then the ability and capacity for learning adaptive behaviour by dogs housed in rescue kennels would be compromised.
Following on from the research carried out by Val Strong MSc and the development of her serotonin enhancing diet, a dietary formulation that may help stabilise mood and emotional responses in dogs has been developed.
This could have profound effects on the welfare and management of dogs in rescue shelters and their successful rehoming.
Wood Green, The Animals Charity, King’s Bush Farm, Godmanchester.
17 dogs of various breeds/type were included in the study. Average time in kennels was 58 days.
Inclusion into the study required the dogs to be in good health, no history of dietary intolerance, not receiving any veterinary treatment or medication, or any remedial behaviour therapy.
Two aspects of common problem behaviour within a kennel environment were studied:
Group1: anxiety / agitation / inability to settle
Group 2: reactivity / lack of attention / focus
Inability to express or engage in innate motor patterns may result in a lowered mood state, provoking intense emotional responses to various stimuli.
Assessment of emotional state/response provided an accurate measure of behavioural response.
Scores were given to all relevant emotional states to provide a validated scale of assessment.
Scores of 1 to 5 indicated the observer’s objective evaluation of the intensity of the dog’s emotional state.
Results17 dogs in total were included in the study. Whilst this is a small number of subjects the trial is ongoing and it is expected to have more substantial data in the coming months. The dogs were resident in the assessment kennels and not considered suitable for re-homing at the start of the trial. The average time in kennels was 58 days. Although not one of our outcome measures, several dogs were able to be moved into the rehoming kennels part way through the trial.
ConclusionsRescue kennels are stressful environments for most dogs and that stress can have a major impact on their welfare and management, and ultimately their chances of being adopted. These preliminary results clearly suggest that the diet had a significant positive effect on the dogs’ mood state and emotional responses and their ability to respond to training. Our results indicate that this diet formulation will have a profound effect on the welfare and management of dogs in rescue shelters and their successful rehoming. The diet could improve the efficiency of behavioural therapy and potentially prevent some dogs being relinquished to rescue centres or euthanized.
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between emotion and mood. Cognition & Emotion, 119(6),
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Ekman, P. (1994). Moods, emotions, and traits. In P. Ekman
& R.J. Davidson (Eds.), The nature of emotion, fundamental
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Panksepp, J. (2005) Affective consciousness: Core
emotional feelings in animals and humans. Consciousness
and Cognition, 14, 30-80.
Strong, V.F. (1998). The Effect of Dietary Amino Acid
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(MSc) University of Southampton
Watson, D., Clark, L.A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development
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Affect: The PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 54(6), 1063-1070.
Val strong Msc
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