Assessment of Separation Anxiety in Dogs: The Search for a Diagnostic Method

Gahee Kim, Purdue University


The aims of this study were: (1) to explore the environmental factors and behaviors associated with the owners’ perception of separation anxiety based on the questionnaires completed by the owners along with video recordings of their dogs during the owners’ absence, and (2) to determine whether clotting conditions and hemolysis status affect canine serum BDNF levels. This study has two parts based on the two aims. In the first part of study, the dogs were divided into a presumed separation anxiety group (P-SA group) and a presumed no-separation anxiety group (P-C group) based on owner’s report via a questionnaire. Multiple logistic regressions analysis on the variables collected from questionnaire showed that the dogs without other dogs in the same household were 8.5 times more likely to be in the P-SA group (95% CI: 1.1–62.5). While in the video analysis, the duration of the behavior, called passive behavior, was significantly longer in the P-C group than in the P-SA group (p = 0.008 and, 0.004). When it comes to a behavior pattern, if the dog exhibited passive behavior only partially in the analyzed video of two sessions (T1 and T2), then these dogs were 15.2 times more likely to be in the P-SA group compared to the one that exhibited passive behavior in both T1 and T2 sessions (95% CI:0.9–252.4). If the dog did not exhibit passive behavior in neither T1 nor T2, the dog was 25.2 times more likely to be in the P-SA group compared to the dog exhibit passive behavior in both of T1 and T2 (95% CI: 1.6–404.0). In the second part of this study, various pre-analytical factors including clotting conditions and hemolysis conditions were compared to validate peripheral brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as a possible biomarker. For clotting condition experiment, the clotting times ranged from 30 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature and from 30 minutes to 24 hours at 4 °C. For the hemolysis study, three hemolysis concentrations, non-hemolysis, moderate hemolysis, and marked hemolysis were evaluated while adhering to the BDNF ELISA kit criteria. The clotting time, clotting temperature and sample hemolysis that are of concern in a clinical setting did not affect canine serum BDNF concentration. Overall, this study found that the differences of owners’ perception and the dogs’ environment as well as dogs’ behaviors between the P-SA group and the P-C group. However, more important thing is validity of patterns and duration of dog’s behavior (i.e. passive behavior) during the owner’s absence and it still needs careful interpretations. Considering the result from the second part of this study, a further investigation about canine peripheral BDNF as a potential biomarker, will supplement current diagnostic methods for separation anxiety.




Ogata, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Veterinary services

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