Cyclobenzaprine as a Potential Means of Pharmacologic Management of Stereotypic Behaviors in Bears
Stereotypic behaviors or repetitive, invariant behaviors with no obvious goal or function are a concern for the management of captive bears.1-5 Fluoxetine is the only drug with published data on treating bear stereotypies.6,9 Recent human studies suggest that cyclobenzaprine may prevent recurrent thinking, a common component of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).7 Stereotypic behavior in animals can be triggered by stimuli similar to PTSD in humans.7,8 It is thought that improved sleep allows natural coping mechanisms to decrease the repetitive thought processes associated with PTSD and stereotypic behaviors.7,8 The subject of this pilot study was a 19-year-old male intact American black bear (Ursus americanus) that showed extensive stereotypic behaviors including pacing, swaying, chomping, head bobbing, restlessness, decreased foraging, and atypical, limited sleep. Continuous video surveillance was utilized to evaluate the incidence of behaviors. Prior to therapy, the bear displayed stereotypic behaviors during 44% of daylight hours. Cyclobenzaprine was administered (0.12 mg/kg [30 mg]) orally once daily with food at 7:00 p.m. Stereotypic behaviors decreased by 70% with therapy. Foraging behaviors occurred only 2% during daylight hours prior to therapy but increased by 767% with therapy. The bear interacted with enrichment items, frequently slept 5–6 h without pacing at night, and was observed taking daytime naps with cyclobenzaprine therapy. These normal behaviors were not observed prior to therapy. Given recent evidence that cyclobenzaprine can alleviate signs of PTSD in humans, this study demonstrated that cyclobenzaprine reduced stereotypic behavior in a black bear and substantially increased natural behaviors, including sleep and foraging.
The authors would like to thank Noah’s Ark, Allison Hedgecoth, and Erin Nipper for their dedication to data collection for this study.
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