ISSN 2398-2969      

Aggression: maternal

icanis
Contributor(s):

Karen Overall

Synonym(s): Maternal aggression


Introduction

  • Difficult to define but includes: growling, snarling or biting in an attempt to 'see off' intruder.
  • Seen in post-parturient bitch or pseudopregnancy stimulated by real or perceived threat to her litter.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Neurophysiological influences: instinctive protective behavior of mother towards her young.
  • The level of stimulus (of perceived threat).
  • Bitch's experience/learned effects of consequences of behavior.
  • Bitch's hormonal status.
  • Bitch's phenotype.

Pathophysiology

  • The probability that threat and attack will be generated under defined circumstances is determined by:
Normal factors
  • Natural protective maternal behavior real or adopted items.
  • Aggression directed against a perceived threat to her puppies.
Abnormal factors
  • Probably subtle interaction between bitch's genotype and environment.
  • Disposition to aggression.
Aggravating factors
  • Previous experience.
  • Actual situation in which bitch finds herself.
  • Hormonal status: sex steroids may have direct effect on brain.
  • Metabolic disturbances.
  • Irritability due to maternal disease, eg mastitis.
  • Hunger.
  • Aggression is difficult to define and relate to physiological mechanisms but it is likely that this behavior is under the influence of groups of neural units rather than a specific aggression center of the brain.
  • Hormonal status modifies intensity of response.

Timecourse

  • In acute episodes the behavior may only last as long as threat is perceived.
  • As the litter gets older and is weaned, the intensity of maternal aggression will often reduce.
  • Intensity of aggression may increase if final response is perceived to be effective by aggressor and threats ineffective.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Overall K L (1997)Clinical behavioral medicine for small animals.Mosby. pp103-106.
  • Landsberg G, Hunthausen W & Ackerman L (1997)Handbook of behavior problems of the dog and cat.pp 164.
  • Askew H (1996)Treatment of behavior problems in dogs and cats.pp 147.

Organisation(s)

  • Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, PO Box 46, Worcester WR8 9YS, UK. Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1386 751151; Email: apbc@petbcent.demon.co.uk; Website: http://www.apbc.co.uk.

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