School of Veterinary Medicine
The School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1884, and has a long-standing tradition as a global leader in veterinary medicine education, research, and clinical care, with a tradition of compassionate clinical expertise, intellectual rigor and the pursuit of innovative thinking.
Our mission at Penn Vet is to train the next generation of veterinary leaders to advance healthcare outcomes and access, ensure global health, bolster sustainable agriculture, support interdisciplinary career paths, and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession.
PublicationClinical Care, Research, and Education During Crisis(2020-10-01) Adorno, Sacha PublicationUtilizing Cinematic Stories to Shift Fear Into Compassion Towards Pit Bull Type Breeds(2022-01-01) Wagner, NatalieCreating entertaining yet educational stories to cultivate curiosity in caring for animals can improve animal welfare as well as our own public health under a One Health initiative. More specifically, tailoring well-crafted cinematic stories utilizing thoughtful anthropomorphism about misunderstood dog breeds such as pit bulls can potentially debunk sensationalized media myths surrounding their reputation. Further research is worth pursuing on how an anthropomorphic film with an emotional arc utilizing a non-aggressive pit bull character can decrease a population's previous concerns of “scary” dog breeds discriminated against under breed specific legislation while also championing the use of particular films as moral educators. While the pilot data showed both positive and negative trends in subjects’ perceptions of pit bulls, “scary” dog breeds, and animal sentience after watching the film Kitbull, emotional cinematic stories and the content within those stories matter. We as animal welfare scientists and media professionals must work in collaboration to create truthful yet compelling stories utilizing anthropomorphism more thoughtfully so that we may nurture an audience’s empathy and compassion towards misunderstood animals in society. By increasing our efforts in improving domesticated dog welfare with a focus on debunking societal myths about mislabeled “dangerous” dog breeds such as the pit bull through motion picture stories, we not only better animal and human welfare within local communities, but world-wide. PublicationAre Humans Good for Goats? Assessing the Welfare of Goats Engaged in Human Interaction in a Care Farm Setting(2023-01-01) Butler, RebeccaDespite the lack of representation in the research, therapeutic care farming may provide an optimal approach to human animal interaction, endorsing positive animal welfare and, as Fine & Mackintosh (cited Fine et al., 2019) urge, promoting and protecting the welfare of animals at a comparable level to human outcomes. Unlike virtually all other modalities of human-animal interaction (HAI) or animalassisted intervention (AAI), care farming allows animals an element of control over their environment and the opportunity to express their preferences. The animals can initiate or terminate human interaction by choosing to approach or retreat, the animals choose when to take a breaks, and they are free to explore their environment. Autonomy and the ability to express preferences is a key indicator of positive animal welfare in general (Stilwell, 2016; Mattiello et al, 2019) but especially relevant for promoting animal welfare in human animal interactions. This randomized control trial investigated the longitudinal behavioral changes of goats residing in a therapeutic care farm setting who engage in human interactions. My hypothesis is goats engaged in reoccurring, semi-structured human interaction will display an increase in positive welfare over time. This would demonstrate that care farming can both be good for human health and improve animal welfare. PublicationToward a New Framework for Companion Animal Healthcare Services at the Community Level(2022-01-01) Deans-Schaub, KathrynAn estimated 2 million or more companion animals every year are surrendered to shelters in the United States by their “pet parents” for a variety of reasons. The literature on companion animal surrender indicates that such relinquishments occur for owner-related and/or animal-related reasons. Research suggests that human housing issues are closely related to pet relinquishment, that animal behavioral issues are a frequent reason for surrender, and that pet healthcare needs and expenses are often associated with animal surrender. Many of the reasons for surrendering a pet, and especially those related to human housing, animal behavior, and pet healthcare expenses, are potentially connected with financial constraints. If assistance and support were available to “pet parents”, through the public and/or the private sector, it is likely that the incidence of pet surrender could be reduced. Existing programs at both the animal shelter level and the broader community level do offer assistance and, especially with respect to pet healthcare needs, certain veterinary services are brought into some underserved communities. This paper explores barriers to receiving companion animal healthcare services and options to structuring in-community veterinary care services, proposing that animal health services be actually embedded within the community instead of brought into the community. The proposed community-embedded animal health model is based upon a “pyramid” structure for animal health services, moving upward from neighborhood pet healthcare “hubs” through local clinics and community hospitals. Similarly, a “pyramid” structure for staffing, designed to address care accessibility barriers including communication challenges and diversity within the allied veterinary professions, would be built upon a foundational level of a cadre of local community animal health workers. Also contemplated is enhanced utilization of veterinary technicians/nurses, as well as creation of a new midlevel veterinary professional role, under the direction and supervision of a licensed veterinarian. I predict that the incidence of pet surrender due to financial-related challenges would decrease as a result of community-embedded multi-level support for pet healthcare. PublicationAn Opportunity to Decrease Data Variability and to Improve Study Reproducibility: Animal Welfare and Allostatic State in Biomedical Research(2022-01-01) Dybdal, NoëlConcern over reliability of experimental study results is growing. Quality of data from animal model studies investigating mechanisms of diseases and response to disease intervention are of particular concern. Poor quality of published animal data has been cited as a significant contributor to clinical trial failure. Given that animal studies are foundational in guiding understanding of basic biological systems and informing investment decisions in development of new medicines, the societal costs of setting a low bar for reproducibility in animal studies is high. Current discussions on ways to improve research reproducibility focus principally on physical study design parameters, including power calculations in determination of appropriate group size, randomization procedures, and reporting bias. While attention to these elements is clearly important, a holistic approach which includes enhanced attention to animal welfare offers the greatest opportunity for improvement. The cumulative effects of stressful conditions experienced by animals throughout their entire lifecycle (rearing, transport, experimental conditions) on their physiological and psychological resilience are underappreciated study variables. The impact of chronic stress on resilience is referred to specifically as the allostatic state while the cost of adaptation to chronic stress is referred to as allostatic load. Animal welfare science provides the foundation for understanding how to reduce allostatic load and enhance positive welfare. In this presentation, I will advance a proposal that investment in conditions that reduce the allostatic load and support a positive welfare state of laboratory animals will result in more robust study outcomes. PublicationEfficacy of Lidocaine Topical Solution in Reducing Discomfort Reaction to Intramuscular Vaccination of Horses(2022-01-01) Torcivia, CadeAdministration of vaccinations via intramuscular injection is a key component of preventative medical care in horses, but development of problematic behavioral aversion to injections is quite common. It has been our clinical impression that the application of a topical anesthetic prior to vaccination may provide a simple means to reduce discomfort associated with the procedure and the resulting behavioral reactions. However, this had not been critically tested. To blindly evaluate efficacy, 78 ponies were divided into three treatment groups, each treated with either 0% control, 5%, or 10% topical lidocaine solution applied two minutes before intramuscular vaccination. Reaction scores for both the 5% and 10% lidocaine-treated groups were significantly lower than the control group. Additionally, the proportion of subjects with a reaction score greater than 1 was 2 of 25 for the 5% lidocaine solution, 5 of 26 for the 10% lidocaine solution and 15 of 27 for 0% lidocaine control. For both the 5% and 10% lidocaine solutions, the proportion differed significantly from control. The difference between the 5% and 10% lidocaine groups was not statistically significant. These findings confirm our clinical impression that application of topical anesthetic just two minutes in advance of injection can effectively reduce discomfort behavior reaction of horses. PublicationThe Effect of Jungle Light Spectrum on the Fearfulness of Commercial Broiler Chickens(2022-01-01) Christensen, KarenThere is more interest in how food animals are raised. One of the topics of most interest is how commercial broiler houses are lit. There is discussion about high intensity light (50 lux), natural light from windows compared to conventional dim lighting programs (2 – 5 lux) using “white” LED light. Chickens are prey animals that depend on their vision safety. Chickens “see” the word differently than humans and other animals in several significant ways. They have four cones for color vision compared to three for humans. This results in a broader light spectrum range especially in the lower wavelengths. They have very large eyes that when weighted together, weigh more than their brain. They have both binocular and monocular vision and can process two distinct images at the same time. This allows them to see what they are eating and watch for prey at the same time. When designing a lighting program for chickens, these factors must be kept in perspective, so a light environment provides a feeling of safety and provides a spectrum that utilizes their full range. Recreating the lighting that chickens would experience in the wild may provide an environment where they are less fearful. The purpose of this trial was to compare production parameters and determine fearfulness of commercial broilers raised under white LED light of ~3500K and a light spectrum that simulates light in the jungle canopy. Four commercial broiler houses were utilized for the trial each with 19,200 birds. The source flocks were equally distributed within and between the houses. Birds were tested for fearfulness using several behavioral tests at 34 to 36 days of age. Birds were marketed at 54 days of age where performance and Key Welfare Indicators were assessed. Live production parameters nor H:L ratio were influenced by the light spectrum but the results of the inversion test, isolation test and tonic immobility indicated birds raised under a jungle light spectrum were less fearful than birds raised under LED light. PublicationInfluence of Enrichment on the Behavior of New Zealand White Rabbits and Cynomolgus Macaques in a Research Setting During Their Quarantine Period(2022-01-01) Sheehy, JamesEnrichment is an excellent tool used to refine animal husbandry practices in laboratory animal medicine. When animals first arrive at a facility, the animals are given a quarantine period to ensure they are healthy, and to allow the animals to acclimate to the facility. By offering environmental enrichment and food enrichment at different frequencies, we can observe how different levels of enrichment influences the behavior of the animals. In this experiment, New Zealand white rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis) were observed to see how various types of enrichment promote animal welfare and behavior and this is illustrated by the presence of positive behaviors being observed and the absence of negative behaviors. For each species, an ethogram was created to measure the behaviors of the animals, and noninvasive observations were taken daily while the animals were undergoing their quarantine period. We also monitored fecal output to observe the animals’ physiological health. Enrichment was given to the animals in three different treatment groups. Group 1 received the base enrichment, one form of environmental enrichment, changed weekly, and received food enrichment once weekly. Group 2 received two forms of environmental enrichment, the same device as Group 1, in addition to another device. Group 3 received both types as enrichment as Group 2, as well as a daily food enrichment. For each species, we predicted that Group 3 animals, will show more positive, friendly behaviors and less negative, stereotypic behaviors. The data suggests that there was statistical significance between the different variables for the rabbits. The data suggests that there was statistical significance between most of the variables for the macaques, with the exception of fecal output and displaying stereotypic behaviors, which were not significant. We concluded that both environmental and food enrichment had a positive influence on the behavior of the animals during their quarantine period, as seen by the observations of their behavior. PublicationOwner Reported Outcomes on Two Psychometric Tests Do Not Predict Behavior on a Spatial Discounting Test.(2022-01-01) Sellers-Sasher, Tracey E.Impulsivity is an inability to control inappropriate responses to stimuli in the environment. It refers to an inability to inhibit an action or to delay gratification for an immediate small reward versus a deferred large reward. Poor impulse control in dogs is a leading cause of owner relinquishment, rejection from assistance- and working-dog programs, and returns to shelter and foster care. The ability to reliably identify dogs who engage in impulsive behavior would improve these dogs’ welfare by facilitating appropriate interventions in a timely manner. To investigate if the tendency of impulsive choice could be predicted by available psychometric tests, twenty-four dog/handler teams were recruited to participate in this study. All teams were composed of veterinary professionals employed at a single community animal hospital and their dogs. Handlers completed both the Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) and the Dog Impulsivity Assessment Scale (DIAS) psychometric tests. All dog/handler teams then completed a spatial discounting test, assessing their dog’s ability to inhibit the choice of a close small food reward versus a more distant larger food reward. Twenty-one C-BARQ and DIAS sub-scales were found to have a statistically significant association. After performing a Bonferroni error correction calculation, two sets of pairwise associations related to arousability emerged as highly correlated and significant. However, we did not see a statistically significant association between C-BARQ, or DIAS sub-scales and maximum distance traveled in the spatial discounting test. This outcome raises the question of whether the attribution of impulsivity based on an owner reported questionnaire is subject to bias. Additionally, the spatial discounting test may not be an appropriate measure of impulsivity as a single test. The conclusion of this study suggests that veterinarians must carefully consider the limitations of behavioral diagnostic tests and be aware that erroneous results can influence welfare outcomes for companion dogs. PublicationImplicit Bias and Pit Bull Welfare(2022-01-01) Garrison, MSL, LSW, MBA, SandraBreed Specific Legislation exists in 719 localities across the United States, the majority of places target Pit Bulls, either in conjunction with other breeds or solely. The negative view of Pit Bulls is based on a multitude of factors, one of which could be the perception of the likely owner of this breed. Pit Bulls are frequently associated with inner-city persons of color, although this has not always been the case. Other breeds have been identified in the past as being the most dangerous breed; however, Breed Specific Legislation started with the change in perception of the Pit Bull. This paper examines the correlation between areas which implemented Breed Specific Legislation and the racial demographics of the community.