Skin Sensitivities
and Behavior

The sensitivity of an animal’s skin changes in response to internal factors such as, hormonal status, emotional state, level of stress and arousal. But there can also be acute and chronic changes in skin sensitivity and pruritus (itchiness) in response to injury or disease.

Join us to look at the biology of the skin and how this relates to the brain and behavior.
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The webinar is recorded and is suitable for pet owners, veterinary professionals, animal trainers, animal behaviorists, pet guardians, and anyone with an interest in the neuroscience of training and behavior. 

1.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) Available:

In this Webinar: 

Not only can changes in skin sensitivity lead to changes in behaviors directly related to touch but they can also lead to changes in mood and emotional processing. This means that as well as the obvious behaviors we might associate with skin sensitivities, such as the avoidance of touch, an increase in grooming or scratching, there can be more subtle signs which are more difficult to identify. Changes to social interactions, increased activity when collars, harness’, saddles or bridles are put on, increased anxiety, low mood, irritability and increased excitability can all be associated with changes to skin sensitivity.

We will look at the causes of different types of skin sensitivities, how they can lead to behavioral change, and how we can use this knowledge to better identify skin sensitivity as a factor in behavior cases. We will go on to look at what can be done to support animals who are dealing with this and what treatment options are available.

We will look at the biology of the skin and how this relates to the brain and behavior. The medical, surgical and physiological causes of changes to skin sensitivity will be examined, before we go on to look at the direct and indirect impacts these can have on behavior. We will take a closer look at why changes to skin sensitivity can be difficult to identify, and how cognitive and emotional processing can be impacted even by relatively mild changes. Finally we will go through treatment options and interventions to support animals with changes to skin sensitivity.

Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will gain knowledge and understanding about the biology of skin sensitivity, including anatomy, physiology and both it’s modulation by, and of, brain function.
  • Attendees will be able to apply this knowledge in order to better assess animals for skin sensitivities as a factor for behavior problems.
  • Attendees will be able to develop approaches to treatment and support of animals with changes to skin sensitivities which impact their behavior.

Meet the instructor

Kathy Murphy BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS

Dr Kathy Murphy (BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS) is a veterinary surgeon and neuroscientist. She graduated from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons UK in 1999, initially working in mixed clinical practice before studying for two post graduate clinical qualifications with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, and Laboratory Animal Science.

In 2009 she was awarded a highly prestigious Welcome Trust Research Training Fellowship to study for her PhD, in Behavioral Neuroscience, at The Queens College, University of Oxford, UK. She subsequently worked in the USA as Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Anesthesiology at the Icahn School of Medicine NYC, where her research into the long term effects of anesthesia on learning and memory contributed to a change to the safety advice for the use of general anesthesia in children.

She moved back to the UK in 2013, to take up clinical-academic positions at the University of Oxford and subsequently Newcastle University, and concurrently completed a Residency in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia with the European College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, during which she became increasingly interested in how pain re-models the nervous system and this can manifest as behavioral problems in pets.

Alongside these positions Dr Murphy founded, and is now Director of, Barking Brains Ltd (a neuroscience outreach platform for the animal behavior and training community), which focuses on translating neuroscientific information into practical and useful information for people interested in animal behavior. In order to maximize the impact of her diverse interests and skill set, Dr Murphy teamed up with Behavior Vets in 2022 when she took up the position of Chief Scientific Officer.

She is now able to focus on her new found passion for science communication and providing evidence based, up to date, accessible, scientific information to clinicians, animal professionals and their clients, about subjects related to pain, behavior, neurobiology and the many interrelated factors.

In addition to Dr Murphy's primary career roles she was Trustee and Veterinary Advisor to the Rottweiler Welfare Association for 14 years; is co-founder of Ethics First (a collective which lobbies for ethical decision making in clinical practice); is an Oversight Committee Member for the UK Dog Behavior and Training Charter; a guest lecturer in Clinical Animal Behavior at the University of Edinburgh, UK; lectures internationally; sits on numerous National and International boards, working groups and ethical review panels; is an ad-hoc reviewer for neuroscience, veterinary medicine and anesthesia and pain journals; and continues to collaborate on research projects.

Dr Murphy lives in the UK with her husband Elliot (ret. Search and Rescue handler and now scentwork and mantrailing trainer) and their 4 dogs: Nancy a Rottweiler mix, Zebedee and Nela the German Shorthaired Pointers and Albi a Weimaraner.
Patrick Jones - Course author