Saturday, September 10, 2016

Nicholas Dodman's "Pets on the Couch"

Nicholas Dodman is one of the world’s most noted and celebrated veterinary behaviorists. He founded the Animal Behavior Clinic—one of the first of its kind—at Tufts in 1986. A leader in his field, Dodman is has published four bestselling books, two textbooks and more than 100 scientific articles and contributions to scientific books and journals, and holds patents for inventions related to the control of animal behavior.

Dodman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Pets on the Couch: Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry, and reported the following:
As I flip to page 99 of Pets on the Couch, I find myself looking at the beginning of chapter 7 entitled The Horse Who Went “Harumph.” The chapter introduces the reader to the story of Tourette’s syndrome … in horses! It begins with my first contact with this strange condition in an Arabian stallion called Migdol. At first, the chapter continues, we did not know what we were looking at – a horse who whooped and twirled, sometimes biting himself or striking out with his hind limbs as if agitated about some unseen person or other horse standing behind him. It took a series of some 50 horses before we were able to see the syndrome for what it was. It occurs primarily in male animals, begins at an average age of 18 months, is sometimes associated with bizarre vocalizations (hence the harrumph), and is associated with a lot of sniffing, preoccupation with the periphery of the stall and baulking at thresholds. All these symptoms are suggestive of an equine version of Tourette’s syndrome, including the motor tics (head, neck movements) and hemiballismus (striking out with a limb). In fact, the first English dictionary writer, Samuel Johnson, behaved similarly when not engaged in his absorbing work.

In my book, I discuss numerous other psychiatric conditions that affect animals as well as humans, including obsessive compulsive behavior, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The underlying message behind the book is that animals are more like us than most people would dare to believe. There is but one medicine – not one for humans and another for other animals. The strong implication behind my 35 years of behavioral medicine is that animals (especially mammals and birds) almost certainly are capable of thoughts and emotions and may sometimes have psychological or psychiatric disorders which similar to own. That should come as no surprise to people who live closely with pets, but it is certainly an eye opener for scientists who have, almost by professional edict, denied the cognitive skills and ills of the animals they study.
Learn more about Pets on the Couch at the publisher's website.

Coffee with a canine: Nicholas Dodman & Rusty.

--Marshal Zeringue