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    Student research aims to discover if owner's presence reduces stress in dogs at the vet

    Posted 8 January

    Charlotte Newberry and her daschund

    The impact of dog owners accompanying their pets to the vet will be examined by a student research project aiming to discover if their presence helps reduce stress.

    The study will be carried out at Harper Adams University by final year BSc (Hons) Veterinary Physiotherapy student Charlotte Newberry.

    Her study will examine how a dog’s heart rate and behaviour changes when their owner is both present and absent.

     It will require dogs to undergo four simple treatments.

    Two of these treatments will involve an effleurage massage. Effleurage is a massage where gentle rhythmic pressure is applied to the skin, while moving the hands. This massage technique can be used to increase blood circulation, reduce oedema and pain, while in Charlotte’s study it is being used for its relaxing effect.

    During one treatment of effleurage massage the dog’s owner will be present and the other they will be absent.

    The additional two treatments will involve the dog’s interacting normally with Charlotte with and without their owner present, to act as a control for the study.

    Charlotte said: “During each session the dog’s heart rate will be monitored using the femoral pulse and the sessions will be recorded, so that behavioural indicators can analysed. Heart rate and behavioural indicators can be used to measure stress levels in dogs. So this will help to determine the best treatment scenario to minimise stress in dogs during physiotherapy.

    “The research will increase knowledge into whether it is better or not to have owners in session during physiotherapy, which could impact the way sessions are run. If it is found out one scenario creates less stress indicators in dogs, this setting can be used more when possible, increasing canine welfare during physiotherapy sessions.”

    Charlotte, 21, from Leicestershire, was inspired to choose her degree after her own dog needed treatment.

    She explained: “I chose to go into Veterinary Physiotherapy after an experience I had with one of my own pets having physiotherapy.

    “My dachshund suddenly became unable to walk and was dragging his back legs - he was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease. Following surgery, he was referred for physiotherapy as his function in his back legs was still limited.

    “The impact physiotherapy had on him made me realise I wanted to become a Veterinary Physiotherapist as it massively improved his quality of life, comfort and meant he made a full recovery.

    “Being able to improve an animal’s quality of life whether this is as rehabilitation following an injury, to keep them comfortable managing conditions such as osteoarthritis, or improve their overall strength and fitness will be a fulfilling career - that I am excited to start once I graduate.”

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