THE GENETIC BASIS OF SEPARATION-RELATED DISTRESS IN DOGS

To participate in the survey, please click the top link. For the information regarding participation in the study, please click on the lower link.

What is separation-related distress disorder?

Dogs affected by separation-related distress disorder show physical and behavioural signs of distress in the absence or virtual absence of their family member, with the most common signs being barking, howling, destruction, pacing, house soiling, escape attempts and self trauma. Anyone who has had a dog with separation-related distress knows how devastating it can be for both dog and owner.

What is this project?

I am researching the genetics of separation-related distress in dogs. Although separation-related distress can occur in dogs of any breed, we are initially looking at Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers that are at least 10 months of age. We will compare the DNA of dogs that show signs of separation related distress with dogs that do not.

About Us

My name is Diane van Rooy. I am a veterinarian with 16 years experience in small animal practice. I am also a veterinary behaviourist and PhD candidate. My supervisor, Professor Claire Wade, is Chair of Computational Biology and Animal Genetics at the Veterinary Science faculty, University of Sydney.

What is involved?

To assist our study I ask you to fill in a questionnaire on your dog's behaviour to determine if your dog will be helpful to this research. It should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. Questions are based on the recent behaviour of your dog, over the last six months or so. However if your dog used to show certain behaviours when younger and has responded to interventions put in place, please note this in the comments sections.

Depending upon your responses in the questionnaire, I may email you with a request for a DNA sample (saliva swab) from your dog. This procedure will cause minimal discomfort to your pet. If you live interstate, the swab kit and a return envelope can be posted to you.

Our aims:

If we can identify the genes involved, we can potentially help breeders select against the disorder. We could identify at-risk dogs before they show signs, possibly preventing the onset with early management. This project could even help develop more specific medications to improve the quality of life of affected dogs.

My dog Toby - my inspiration

If you do have a dog that suffers from separation-related distress disorder, help is available.
Start with a visit to your local vet who then may refer you to a veterinary behaviour specialist or a veterinary behaviourist.