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Could Greater Time Spent Displaying Waking Inactivity in the Home Environment Be a Marker for a Depression-Like State in the Domestic Dog?

1
School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington LE12 5RD, UK
2
Royal Canin Research Center, 30470 Aimargues, France
3
School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Former address: WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Waltham-on-the-Wolds, Melton Mowbray LE14 4 RT, UK.
Animals 2019, 9(7), 420; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9070420
Received: 30 May 2019 / Revised: 25 June 2019 / Accepted: 2 July 2019 / Published: 5 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Welfare of Cats and Dogs)
Stressed pet dogs, such as when deprived of their owners or after the loss of a social companion, can become inactive and unresponsive. Dogs in this condition are commonly referred to as being “depressed”, but this remains an untested hypothesis. One hallmark of human clinical depression is anhedonia—a reduction in the experience of pleasure. Here we tested the hypothesis that shelter dogs that spend greater time inactive “awake but motionless” (ABM) in their home-pen would also show signs of anhedonia, as tested by reduced responses to a treat filled KongTM. We also explored whether dogs being rated by experts as disinterested in the KongTM would spend greater time ABM (experts did not know the dogs’ actual inactivity levels). Fifty-seven dogs from 7 shelters were tested in total. Dogs relinquished by their owners spent more time ABM than strays or legal cases, and one association was found between the ABM and the dogs’ response to the filled KongTM, which was in the opposite direction that expected, so does not support the hypothesis that waking inactivity indicates a depression-like state in dogs. Dogs rated by experts as “depressed” and “bored” when exposed to the KongTM, however, spent greater time ABM; we discuss whether ABM could tentatively indicate “boredom” in dogs.
Dogs exposed to aversive events can become inactive and unresponsive and are commonly referred to as being “depressed”, but this association remains to be tested. We investigated whether shelter dogs spending greater time inactive “awake but motionless” (ABM) in their home-pen show anhedonia (the core reduction of pleasure reported in depression), as tested by reduced interest in, and consumption of, palatable food (KongTM test). We also explored whether dogs being qualitatively perceived by experts as disinterested in the food would spend greater time ABM (experts blind to actual inactivity levels). Following sample size estimations and qualitative behaviour analysis (n = 14 pilot dogs), forty-three dogs (6 shelters, 22F:21M) were included in the main study. Dogs relinquished by their owners spent more time ABM than strays or legal cases (F = 8.09, p = 0.032). One significant positive association was found between the KongTM measure for average length of KongTM bout and ABM, when length of stay in the shelter was accounted for as a confounder (F = 3.66, p = 0.035). Time spent ABM also correlated with scores for “depressed” and “bored” in the qualitative results, indirectly suggesting that experts associate greater waking inactivity with negative emotional states. The hypothesis that ABM reflects a depression-like syndrome is not supported; we discuss how results might tentatively support a “boredom-like” state and further research directions. View Full-Text
Keywords: kennelled dog; depression-like state; waking inactivity; anhedonia; affective-state; qualitative behaviour assessment kennelled dog; depression-like state; waking inactivity; anhedonia; affective-state; qualitative behaviour assessment
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Harvey, N.D.; Moesta, A.; Kappel, S.; Wongsaengchan, C.; Harris, H.; Craigon, P.J.; Fureix, C. Could Greater Time Spent Displaying Waking Inactivity in the Home Environment Be a Marker for a Depression-Like State in the Domestic Dog? Animals 2019, 9, 420.

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