New Papers from Pet Behavior Experts


Pet behavior experts gathered Aug. 3 in San Diego, CA, for the annual American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior meeting. Research and studies were presented just prior to the Annual Convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Here are some highlights:


The first presentation was by Dr. Claude Beata, of Toulon, France. Beata discussed new a product now in use in Europe called Procalm, which is hydrolized protein from whitefish. According to his studies, the protein powder can have a calming effect on anxious dogs.

Beata said pet owners like the idea of something natural from the sea. “Psychotropic (or psychopharmacologic) drugs often have negative connotations; people may fear potential side effects and worry that it changes the personality of the dog,” he commented. “We have observed a dramatic increase in natural solutions, such as pheromones or nutraceuticals. We have no doubt on the fact that the product induces positive changes given the fact that many owners report spontaneous and striking testimonies, such as, “I never saw my dog as happy as he is now.”

Trials are expected to begin soon in the U.S.


According to Dr. Ben Hart, of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis, about 16 percent of dogs may regularly snack on their own stool. Hart said he counted at least 12 commercial products which are supposed to be sprinkled on the dog’s food to curb the pet’s appetite for poo. But do these products work? According to Hart’s Internet survey, fewer than two percent of owners with poo-eating dogs suggest that such products work. Behavioral modification offers similarly dismal results.

Hart says there are at least two hypotheses to explain why dogs to eat their own waste. Some suggest these are sloppy dogs who are also hard to housetrain. However, it seems more likely, says Hart, that these pets are actually being neat, cleaning up the best way they know how.

Hart’s data demonstrates that dogs who eat their own droppings likely want to scarf them down while fresh. His theory is that wolves may also eat their own feces promptly when accidents occur in dens. By eliminating the waste quickly, parasites have no time to hatch.

Here’s some more interesting data from Hart’s research:

  • Stool-eating dogs are most common in homes with more than one dogs.
  • Over half of all survey respondents identified their poo-loving dogs as “greedy eaters.”
  • If you want to guarantee that your dog won’t indulge in this habit, get a poodle. Not a single poodle was identified as a stool eater on Hart’s Internet survey. Border Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs seemed to relish feces the most.

Hart’s solution for dealing this behavior: Pick up after your dog.


Older dogs and cats can develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome (much like Alzheimer’s disease in people). Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Gary Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, pointed out that previous studies demonstrated aged dogs could improve with Novifit supplementation, which contains S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Landsberg reported on a new study which sought to determine if older and confused cats could also be helped by Novifit. Not all cats benefitted from the supplement.

“Improvement was evident only in top performing cats, suggesting that SAMe (Novifit) is most effective when used early in disease progression.”

Of course, the challenge is that most owners assume “my cat is just getting old” and don’t realize something can be done about their pets’ cognitive decline. The same is true in dogs – when there are various means to potentially help pets with early intervention.


Dr. Theresa DePorter, of Bloomfield Hills, MI, described a double blind placebo-controlled study conducted at Leader Dogs for the Blind, Rochester Hills, MI, to ascertain how Dog Appeasing Pheromone or D.A.P. (now called Adaptil) would enhance training and graduation success of professionally trained guide dogs. The dogs are raised in private homes by volunteer puppy raisers until approximately one year of age, then returned to the Leader Dog training campus.

Adaptil is a copy of a pheromone found in lactating mother dogs, which helps ease anxiety. It’s available as a collar, so the calming affect goes where the dog goes.

Leader dogs assigned to students at the Michigan facility are selected by trainers for their exceptional abilities and high likelihood of success. Despite all the preparation and professional training, the transition from living in a kennel for four months to living with a visually impaired caretaker is stressful.

The D.A.P. group had a 19.1 percent higher graduation rate, suggesting D.A.P. improved these highly trained dogs’ chances of success during the final stage of training to become working guide dogs.

DePorter added that D.A.P. is known to be beneficial for dogs who suffer from anxiety or fear, but the results of this study suggest it may also be beneficial for helping well-trained and emotionally stable dogs cope with training stress and lifestyle challenges.