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article imageLow serotonin levels may contribute to canine aggression

By Lynn Curwin     Jul 19, 2010 in Science
A recent study indicates that aggressive dogs often have low levels of serotonin. Low levels of this chemical are linked to depression and anxiety in humans.
The Telegraph reported that researchers at Zaragoza University, in Spain, took blood samples from 80 dogs which had been referred to veterinary teaching hospitals because of aggressive behaviour toward humans. They compared the blood samples to those taken from non-aggressive dogs. The aggressive dogs averaged 278 units of serotonin, while the others had 387.
The aggressive dogs also had high levels of cortisol, which the body secretes as a response to stress. They averaged 21 units compared to 10 in the non-aggressive dogs.
The researchers said they hope their findings will lead to new ways of treating canine aggression, which is one of the most common reasons dogs are euthanized. They said the results suggest that antidepressants, when used with other techniques, may be beneficial.
Their research was reported in the Applied Animal Behaviour Science journal.
Previous research has also indicated that aggressive dogs are low in serotonin. states that, “Research has also indicated that the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drugs improve the aggression problem in combination with behavior modification.”
The web site said that this may result in a reduction in anxiety or a dog which improves by taking a moment to evaluate a situation when it had not been doing this previously. The site stresses that a change in behaviour cannot occur without behaviour modification. Medication may stop the brain from interfering with learning appropriate behaviour.
Psychology Today reported that there has been enough demand for Prozac for dogs that Eli Lilly created a beef-flavoured version of the medication. Just as in humans, the drugs can sometimes result in negative side-effects, and should only be given on the advice of a veterinarian.
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