Vol. 3 No. 1 (2017)
Case Report

A case of Sensory Deprivation Syndrome in a mongrel dog

Giacomo Riggio
Veterinary behaviorist freelance

Published 2017-05-09


  • dog,
  • selegiline,
  • sensory deprivation syndrome,
  • phobia


A mongrel dog, 6-year-old, 17 kg neutered female, was evaluated for fearful behavior when exposed to unfamiliar people and dogs as well as novel environments. Vocalization and urination in owner absence were also reported. Throughout the physical examination, the patient appeared extremely frightened, with tail tucked between its hind legs and ears held back. No signs of aggression were shown. Freezing was its only response to fear. Many symptoms and signs observed in the patient can be included in the Sensory Deprivation Syndrome (SDS) diagnosis. Initially, the owner refused the proposed pharmacological treatment; therefore, a sole behavioral treatment, aimed to enhance the dog perception of her own domestic environment, was implemented. A nose-work based program was initiated, inside the house, in order to enhance the patient self-esteem and its perception of the home environment. Relaxation exercises were also performed to reinforce the dog’s calm behavior. In addition, Adaptil® diffuser was installed by the doghouse. Counter-conditioning towards people entering the house was also performed. A pharmacological therapy was also added. Selegiline hydrochloride was administered at the dosage of 0.58 mg/kg. Pharmacological administration was suspended after 2 months due to owner’s personal reasons (owner and dog moved to another country). After 11 weeks from the beginning of the behavioral therapy the dog appeared very calm, when inside the house, and able to manage stressful stimuli such as unfamiliar people. Starting from the third week after the first administration of Selegiline, weekly sessions with tutor dogs were added to the therapy. At the time of the second session the patient exploratory behavior was greatly improved and she would actively initiate social interactions with tutor dogs.