Department: Clinical Science and Services
Rowena is currently the Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science at RVC. Her main research interests are the impact of health on behaviour, cognition and welfare, with a focus on chronic inherited diseases in the dog, and the knowledge, beliefs and decision-making of companion animal owners, and how to improve them in line with animal welfare.
Rowena joined the Royal Veterinary College as a PhD student (2009-2013). She has since been a Postdoctoral Researcher (2013-2016), BBSRC Future Leader Fellow (2017-2021), and she is currently the Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science (2020-Present).
Rowena's background is in animal behaviour and welfare, having graduated from the University of Bristol in 2009 with a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare (1st Class; awarded the UFAW Dissertation Award for highest mark in final year project, and the University of Bristol Undergraduate Scholarship for highest aggregate exam marks).
In 2016, she was awarded the UFAW Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year award.
In 2021, she was awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Education (RVC) and became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Rowena's broad research interest is canine health and welfare, focusing on chronic diseases and diseases linked to conformation and how we can improve their diagnosis, treatment and ultimately, prevention. Rowena is interested in how human knowledge and perceptions influence companion animal health and welfare, and how we can help prospective and current owners make better decisions about companion animals, from acquisition through to end-of-life, to improve animal welfare.
Her research group explores a diversity of current and emerging issues in this area. She holds or has held funding from organisations including BBSRC, UFAW, Dogs Trust, AWF, Blue Cross, RSPCA, SCAS, Battersea, Research England, Kennel Club Charitable Trust and Animal Care Trust, and has received >£1.9 million of research funding to date, ~£750,000 of which has been held as Principal Investigator.
Research group members
- Dr Bree Merritt PhD 2023-2026: Pre-owned Pooches: Characterising commercial and private re-homing and re-selling systems for dogs aged >16 weeks in the UK and implications for canine welfare (Primary supervisor; co-supervised by Dr Dan O'Neill, Dr Zoe Belshaw and Dr Kirsten McMillan, funded by Dogs Trust)
- Dr Lizzie Youens Research Assistant/MRes 2023-2024: Exploring health implications and public demand for brachycephalic ‘designer’ outcrosses (Line manager/Primary supervisor; co-supervised by Dr Dan O'Neill, funded by AWF, Blue Cross and RSPCA)
- Mr Bill Carter MRes 2023-2024: The impacts of Progressive Retinal Atrophy-associated vision-loss on dog and owner Quality of Life (Secondary supervisor, co-supervised by Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe and Dr Charlotte Dawson)
- Dr Alison Skipper Postdoctoral Researcher 2022-2024: Canine Research Funding By Charitable Organisations In The UK: Current Status And Future Opportunities (Secondary supervisory, co-supervised by Dr Dan O'Neill, funded by Waltham, Battersea, Kennel Club Charitable Trust and Dogs Trust)
- Miss Sarah Hobbs PhD 2020-2024: Investigating behavioural interventions as management tools for canine epilepsy (Primary supervisor; co-supervised by Dr Emily Blackwell, funded by Animal Care Trust)
- Dr Claire Brand: Research Technician, 2020-2024: Pandemic Puppies (Line manager; funded by BVA AWF, Research England, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and SCAS)
- Miss Gina Bryson: MRes 2022-2023 (Passed with Distinction): Exploring the long-term welfare consequences of designer crossbreed dog acquisitions in the UK (co-supervised with Dr Dan O'Neill, funded by Kennel Club Charitable Trust)
- Miss Michelle Farrow: MRes 2021-2023 (Passed with Merit): Online health research by companion animal caregivers: threat or opportunity for animal welfare? (co-supervised with Dr Dan O'Neill)
- Miss Olivia Edgar-Price: MRes 2021-2022 (Passed with Distinction): Exploring risk factors for visually-mediated abnormal repetitive behaviours in the domestic dog (co-supervised with Dr Maria Diez-Leon)
- Dr Fiona Dale: Research Technician 2021: Big Brainy Border Collie Study technician (BBSRC funded). Now VetCompass Epidemiologist at RVC.
- Miss Erin Burnett: UFAW Animal Welfare Student Scholarship 2021. Now completing a veterinary degree at University of Nottingham.
- Dr Sarah Finnegan: PhD 2017-2021: Investigating the potential of non-invasive seizure forecasting in canine epilepsy (co-supervised by Prof Lucy Asher, Dr Monica Daley, Prof Holger Volk). Now working in general veterinary practice.
- Dr Amy Pergande: MRes 2018-2020 (Passed with Distinction): Owner decision-making in the treatment and management of dogs with idiopathic epilepsy (co-supervised with Dr Zoe Belshaw and Prof Holger Volk). Now a Neurology Resident at Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists.
- Dr Nicole Regan: UFAW Animal Welfare Student Scholarship 2018. Now working in general veterinary practice.
- Dr Alexander Davies: UFAW Animal Welfare Student Scholarship 2017. Now working in general veterinary practice, and 2021 winner of BVA Young Vet of the Year.
Breed health and conformation related disease
Rowena is interested in the impact of breeding on the welfare of dogs, with a strong focus on conformation-related diseases. She is co-leader of RVC's Brachycephalic Research Team, and collaborates with a number of clinical colleagues on topics including Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, spinal disease and ophthalmological disorders. Her PhD in this area focused on defining safe conformational limits for dogs, and has gone on to influence international legislation in this area.
She collaborates with the VetCompass team on breed and brachycephaly-related disorders and with VetCompass colleague Dr Dan O'Neill recently co-edited the first text book on this topic (Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic (Flat-faced) Companion Animals: A Complete Guide for Veterinary and Animal Professionals). She is a founding member of the UK Brachycephalic Working group and involved in a range of impact, policy and campaigning activities in this area, including giving international talks in countries including Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia.
Dog acquisition: motivations, behaviours and welfare implications
Rowena is interested in how and why people acquire dogs, and what factors influence breed and breeder choice, and both pre-purchase and purchase behaviours.
This research theme has focused on recent phenomena including 'Pandemic Puppies' and 'Designer Crossbreeds':
- 'Pandemic Puppies', characterising how, why and by whom puppies were purchased in the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, with Research Technician Dr Claire Brand. Her research in this area has received funding from BVA Animal Welfare Foundation, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Research England Strategic Priorities Funding and the Society for Companion Animal Studies.
- 'The brachy boom': exploring drivers of the huge surge in acquisition of brachycephalic dogs over the past decade
- 'Designer dogs': exploring the recent rise in intentional crossbreeds in the UK, and its welfare consequences (funded by UFAW and Kennel Club Charitable Trust)
Canine brain health and behaviour
Rowena is interested in how the canine brain expresses pathology and is particularly interested in the interplay between neurological disorders and behaviour/cognition. Rowena leads RVC's canine epilepsy research team and supervises a number of undergraduate and postgraduate students in this area. In her role as a BBSRC Future Leader Research Fellow (2017-2021) Rowena explored differences in the behaviour, cognition, neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of dogs with epilepsy compared to healthy controls. Her work in this area uses a combination of behavioural and cognitive assays, quantitative EEG and MRI techniques. Her collaborators for this work include Dr Fiona James, University of Guelph, Prof Lucy Asher, Newcastle University, Dr Emily Blackwell, University of Bristol and Prof Holger Volk, Hannover. She is interested in using technology to better diagnose and manage canine epilepsy. To this end she co-developed RVC's Pet Epilepsy Tracker, and is working with Prof Lucy Asher to develop IMU technology to predict and detect seizures. She is also interested in developing novel therapies for canine epilepsy patients, and is working with PhD student Sarah Hobbs and Dr Emily Blackwell to investigate the effect of behavioural therapies upon seizure frequency, behavioural comorbidities and general quality of life in canine epilepsy patients.
Ownership of chronically ill companion animals
Rowena is interested in the ownership of animals with chronic health disorders. Her work in this area has used a mixed methods approach to explore topics including owner decision-making in managing a dog with chronic disease and the impact of owning a chronically ill animal on owner wellbeing and lifestyle, in collaboration with Dr Zoe Belshaw.
PACKER RMA and O’NEILL DG (Editors, 2021) Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic Breeds: A Guide for Veterinary Professionals. CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group) Available here.
PACKER RMA (2022) Quality of Life in Canine Epilepsy. In: A practical guide to seizure disorders in dogs and cats (Eds: Karen Munana and Luisa De Risio). Edra, Spain.
PACKER RMA (2021) Flat-Faced Fandom: Why Do People Love Brachycephalic Dogs and Keep Coming Back for More? In: Health and Welfare of Brachycephalic Breeds: A Guide for Veterinary Professionals (Eds: Packer RMA and O'Neill DG). CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group)
PACKER RMA (2018) Selective Breeding, Cloning and Gene Editing of Dogs and Cats for Appearance and Performance Traits. In: Are We Pushing Animals to Their Biological Limits?: Welfare and Ethical Implications (Eds: Grandin, T and Whiting, M) Wallingford: CABI Publishing.
Peer-Reviewed Publications (Google Scholar)
 O'NEILL DG; ENGDAHL KS; LEACH A; PACKER RMA; CHURCH DB; BRODBELT DC (In Press) Is it now time to iron out the wrinkles? Health of Shar Pei dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK. Canine Medicine and Genetics.
 PACKER RMA; BRAND CL; BELSHAW Z; PEGRAM CL; DALE F; STEVENS KB; O'NEILL DG (2023) Is UK puppy purchasing suffering a Long COVID effect? Ongoing negative impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic upon puppy purchase motivations and behaviours in 2021. Animals. 13 (13), 2186
 ANDREWS ALMM, YOUNGMAN KL, PACKER RMA, O'NEILL DG, KAFARNIK C (2023) A Review of Clinical Outcomes, Owner Understanding and Satisfaction following Medial Canthoplasty in Brachycephalic Dogs in a UK Referral Setting (2016–2021). Animals. 13(12):2032.
 O’NEILL DG; SKIPPER AM; BARRETT K; CHURCH DB; PACKER RMA; BRODBELT DC (2023) Demography, common disorders and mortality of Boxer dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK. Canine Medicine and Genetics 10 (6).
 SCHMIDT T; MELLER; TALBOT SR; PACKER RMA; VOLK HA (2023) Urinary neurotransmitter analysis and canine behaviour assessment. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 10: 1124231.
 PAUL ES; COOMBE E; MCGREEVY PD; PACKER RMA; NEVILLE V (2023) Are brachycephalic dogs really cute? Evidence from online descriptions. Anthrozoos 36:4, 533-553, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2023.2176590
 PAUL ES; PACKER RMA, MGREEVY PD; COOMBE E; MENDL E; NEVILLE V (2023) That brachycephalic look: Infant-like facial appearance in short-muzzled dog breeds. Animal Welfare 32, E5. doi:10.1017/awf.2022.6
 PERGANDE AE; BELSHAW Z; VOLK HA; PACKER RMA (2022) Owner perspectives on the impact of veterinary surgeons upon their decision-making in the management of dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Veterinary Record e2482. https://doi.org/10.1002/vetr.2482
75] BERK BA; OTTKA C; LAW TH; PACKER RMA; WESSMANN A; BATHEN-NOTHEN A; JOKINEN TS; KNEBEL A; TIPOLD A; LOHI H; VOLK HA (2022) Metabolic fingerprinting of dogs with idiopathic epilepsy receiving a ketogenic medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
 BERK BA; LAW TH; PACKER RMA; FRITZ J; VOLK HA (2022) Oral palatability testing of a medium-chain triglyceride oil supplement in a cohort of healthy dogs in a non-clinical setting. Animals. 12 (13), 1639;
 BURNETT E; BRAND CL; O'NEILL DG; PEGRAM CL; BELSHAW Z; STEVENS KB; PACKER RMA (2022) How much is that doodle in the window? Exploring motivations and behaviours of UK owners acquiring designer crossbreed dogs (2019-2020). Canine Medicine and Genetics 9, 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-022-00120-x
 SCHMIDT T; MELLER S; TALBOT SR; BERK BA; LAW TH; HOBBS SL; MEYERHOFF N; PACKER RMA; VOLK HA (2022) Urinary neurotransmitter patterns are altered in canine epilepsy. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 9: 893013. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2022.893013
 O'NEILL DG; SKIPPER A; PACKER RMA; LACEY C; BRODBELT DC; CHURCH DB; PEGRAM C (2022) English Bulldogs in the UK: a VetCompass study of their disorder predispositions and protections. Canine Medicine and Genetics 9, 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-022-00118-5
 O'NEILL DG; SAHOTA J; BRODBELT DC; CHURCH DB; PACKER RMA; PEGRAM C (2022) Health of Pug Dogs in the UK: disorder predispositions and protections. Canine Medicine and Genetics 9, 4. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-022-00117-6
 BRAND CL; O'NEILL DG; BELSHAW Z; PEGRAM CL; STEVENS KB; PACKER RMA (2022) Pandemic Puppies: Demographic characteristics, health and early life experiences of puppies acquired during the 2020 phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Animals 12 (5), 629
 HOBBS SL; BLACKWELL EJ; WETZ K; PACKER RMA (2022) Owner reported management of inter-ictal anxiety behaviours in canine epilepsy. Veterinary Record. https://doi.org/10.1002/vetr.1321
 CRAVEN AJ; PEGRAM C; PACKER RMA; JARVIS S; MCGREEVY PD; WARNES C; CHURCH DB; BRODBELT DC; O'NEILL DG (2022). Veterinary drug therapies used for undesirable behaviours in UK dogs under primary veterinary care. PLOS ONE. 17(1): e0261139.
 BRINCAT BL; MCGREEVY PD; BOWELL V; PACKER RMA (2021) Who’s getting a head start? Mesocephalic dogs in still images are attributed more positively valenced emotions than dogs of other cephalic index groups. Animals. 12 (1), 49
 O'NEILL DG; PACKER RMA; FRANCIS P; CHURCH DB; BRODBELT DC; PEGRAM C (2021) French Bulldogs differ to other dogs in the UK in propensity for many common disorders: a VetCompass study. Canine Genetics and Medicine. 8, 13.
 PACKER RMA; BRAND CL; BELSHAW Z; PEGRAM CL; STEVENS KB; O'NEILL DG (2021) Characterising motivations and behaviours of UK owners who purchased puppies during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. Animals.11(9), 2500.
 PEGRAM C; GRAY C; PACKER RMA; RICHARDS Y; CHURCH DB; BRODBELT DC; ONEILL DG (2021) Euthanasia in dogs under primary veterinary care in the UK: frequency and risk factors. Scientific Reports 11, 9145. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88342-0
 JONES GMC; VOLK HA; PACKER RMA (2021) Future research priorities for canine idiopathic epilepsy: viewpoints of owners, general practice veterinarians and neurology specialists. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.16144
 WATSON F; COPPI AA; VOLK HA; PACKER RMA; TAURO A; RUSBRIDGE (2021) Comparison of volume of the forebrain, subarachnoid space and lateral ventricles between dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy and Controls using a stereological approach: Cavalieri’s principle. Canine Medicine and Genetics, 8: 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-021-00101-6
 BERK BK; PACKER RMA; LAW TH; WESSMANN A; BATHEN-NOTHEN A; JOKINEN TS; KNEBEL A; TIPOLD A; PELLIDAND L; VOLK HA (2021) Medium-chain triglycerides dietary supplement improves cognitive abilities in canine epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior. 114, 107608. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.107608
 BOOTH S; MELLER S; PACKER RMA; FARQUAR R; MADDISON K; VOLK HA (2021) Owner Compliance in Canine Epilepsy. Veterinary Record. 118, 4. 262-269. https://doi.org/10.1002/vetr.16
 PERGANDE A; BELSHAW Z; VOLK HA; PACKER RMA (2020) “We have a ticking time bomb”: A qualitative exploration of the impact of canine epilepsy on dog owners living in England. 16, 443. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-020-02669-w
 HOBBS SL; LAW TH; VOLK HA; YOUNIS C; CASEY RA; PACKER RMA (2020) Impact of canine epilepsy on judgement and attention biases. Scientific Reports. 10, 17719. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-74777-4
 O'NEILL D; PEGRAM C; CROCKER P; BRODBELT D; CHURCH D; PACKER RMA (2020) Unravelling the health status of brachycephalic dogs in the UK using multivariable analysis. Scientific Reports 10, 17251. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73088-y
 PACKER RMA; O'NEILL DG; FLETCHER F; FARNWORTH M (2020) Come for the looks, stay for the personality? A mixed methods investigation of reacquisition and owner recommendation of Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs. PLOS ONE 15(8): e0237276. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0237276
 GRAPES N; PACKER RMA; DE DECKER S (2020) Clinical reasoning in canine cervical hyperaesthesia: which presenting features are important?. Veterinary Record. doi: 10.1136/vr.105818
 FINNEGAN SL; VOLK HA; ASHER L; DALEY M; PACKER RMA (2020) Investigating the potential for seizure prediction in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy: owner-reported prodromal changes and seizure triggers. Veterinary Record. doi: 10.1136/vr.105307
 BERK BA; LAW TH; PACKER RMA; WESSMANN A; JOKINEN T; KNEBEL A; TIPOLD A; PELLIGAND L; MEADS Z; VOLK HA (2020) A multicenter randomised controlled trial of a medium-chain triglycerides dietary supplement to improve management of canine epilepsy. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 34 (3) 1248-1259 doi.org/10.1111/jvim.15756
 O'NEILL DG; PACKER RMA, LOBB M; CHURCH DB; BRODBELT DC; PEGRAM C (2020) Demography and commonly recorded clinical conditions of Chihuahuas under primary veterinary care in the UK in 2016. BMC Veterinary Research 16 (1), 42
 WATSON F; PACKER RMA; RUSBRIDGE C; VOLK HA (2019) Behavioural changes in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Veterinary Record 186, 93.
 PACKER RMA; O’NEILL DG; FLETCHER F; FARNWORTH MJ (2019) Great expectations, inconvenient truths, and the paradoxes of the dog-owner relationship for owners of brachycephalic dogs. PLoS ONE. 14 (7) : e0219918
 PLITMAN L; CERNÁ P; FARNWORTH MJ; PACKER RMA; GUNN-MOORE DA (2019) Motivation of owners to purchase pedigree cats, with specific focus on the acquisition of brachycephalic cats. Animals 9 (7), 394
 DE DECKER, S; PACKER, RMA; CAPELLO, R; HARCOURT-BROWN, T; ROHDIN, C; GOMES, SA; BERGKNUT, N; SHAW, T; LOWRIE, M; GUTIERREZ-QUINTANA, R (2019) Comparison of signalment and computed tomography in French bulldogs, pugs and English bulldogs with and without clinical signs associated with thoracic hemivertebrae. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 33 (5), 2151-2159
 O’NEILL DG; SKIPPER AM; KADHIM J; CHURCH DB; BRODBELT DC; PACKER RMA (2019) Demography and disorders of Bulldogs under primary veterinary care in the UK in 2013. PLoS ONE 14 (6) e0217928
 BERK BA; PACKER RMA; LAW TL; WESSMANN A; BATHEN-NOTHEN A; JOKINEN TS; KNEBEL A; TIPOLD A; PELLIGAND L; VOLK HA (2019) A double-blinded randomised dietary supplement crossover trial design to investigate the short-term influence of medium chain fatty acid (MCT) supplement on canine idiopathic epilepsy. BMC Veterinary Research 15 (1). DOI: 10.1186/s12917-019-1915-8
 PACKER RMA; DAVIES AM; VOLK HA; PUCKETT HL; HOBBS SL; FOWKES RC (2019) What can we learn from the hair of the dog? Complex effects of endogenous and exogenous stressors on canine hair cortisol. PLoS ONE 14 (5): e0216000. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216000
 PACKER RMA; HOBBS SL; BLACKWELL EJ (2019) Behavioural interventions as an adjunctive treatment for canine epilepsy: a missing part of the epilepsy management toolkit? Frontiers in Veterinary Science. DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00003
 WYATT S; LAFUENTE P; TER HAAR G; PACKER RMA; SMITH H; DE DECKER S (2018) Gait analysis in French bulldogs with and without vertebral kyphosis. The Veterinary Journal. DOI: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2018.12.008
 BRISTOW P; TIVERS MS; A KUMMELING; PACKER RMA; GERRITS H; HOMAN K; ORTIZ V; NEWSON K; LIPSCOMB V (2018) Health Related Quality of Life following Surgical Attenuation of Congenital Portosystemic Shunts versus Healthy Controls. Journal of Small Animal Practice.DOI: 10.1111/jsap.12927
 BERK BA; PACKER RMA; LAW TH; VOLK HA (2018) Investigating owner use of dietary supplements in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Research in Veterinary Science 119; 276-284
 WATSON F; RUSBRIDGE C; PACKER RMA; CASEY RA; HEATH S; VOLK HA (2018) A Review of Treatment Options for Behavioural Manifestations of Clinical Anxiety as a Comorbidity in Dogs with Idiopathic Epilepsy. The Veterinary Journal 238, 1-9
 WINTER J; PACKER RMA; VOLK HA (2018) A preliminary assessment of cognitive impairments in canine idiopathic epilepsy. Veterinary Record 182, 633
 O'NEILL DG; BARAL L; CHURCH DB; BRODBELT DC; PACKER RMA (2018) French Bulldogs under primary veterinary care in the UK: Demography and disorders. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology 3(5): 3
 FARNWORTH MJ; PACKER RMA; SORDO L; CHEN R; CANEY SMA; GUNN-MOORE DA (2018) In the eye of the beholder: Owner preferences for variations in cats’ appearances with specific focus on skull morphology. Animals 8(2): 30
 PACKER RMA; MCGREEVY PD; SALVIN HA; VALENZUELA M; CHAPLIN C; VOLK HA (2018) Cognitive dysfunction in naturally occurring canine idiopathic epilepsy. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0192182
 PACKER RMA; MCGREEVY PD; PERGANDE A; VOLK HA (2018) Negative effects of epilepsy and antiepileptic drugs on the trainability of dogs with naturally occurring idiopathic epilepsy. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 200: 106-113.
 INGLEZ C; RYAN R, TER HAAR G, PACKER RMA, VOLK HA, DE DECKER S (2018) Evaluation of the influence of kyphosis and scoliosis on intervertebral disc extrusion in French bulldogs. BMC Veterinary Research 14:5
 O'NEILL DG; KEIJSER SFA; KISKO C; LEROY G; LLEWELLYN-ZAIDI A; MALM S; OLSON P; PACKER RMA; ROUSSELOT JF; SEATH IJ; STULL JW; BONNETT B (2017) Moving from information and collaboration to action: report from the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop, Paris in April 2017. BMC Veterinary Research 4:16
 PACKER RMA (2017) Survival in feline epilepsy: the long and short of it. Veterinary Record 181: 477-478.
 PACKER RMA (2017) Wider impacts from dog showing; more than just a rosette? (Editorial). AWSELVA Journal
 PACKER RMA; VOLK HA; FOWKES RC (2017) Physiological reactivity to spontaneously occurring seizure activity in dogs with epilepsy and their carers. Physiology & Behavior 177: 27-33
 STANCIU G-D; PACKER RMA; PAKOZDY A; SOLCAN G; VOLK HA (2017) Clinical reasoning in feline epilepsy: what combination of clinical information is useful? The Veterinary Journal 225: 9–12
 BRISTOW P; TIVERS MS; PACKER RMA; BROCKMAN D; ORTIZ V; NEWSON K; LIPSCOMB VJ (2017) Long term serum bile acid concentrations in dogs after complete extrahepatic congenital portosystemic shunt ligation. Journal of Small Animal Practice. doi: 10.1111/jsap.12685
 PACKER RMA; MURPHY D; FARNWORTH MJ (2017) Purchasing popular purebreds: Investigating the influence of breed-type on the pre-purchase attitudes and behaviour of dog owners. Animal Welfare 26: 191-201
 PACKER RMA; DE RISIO L; VOLK HA (2017) Investigating the potential of the anti-epileptic drug imepitoin as a treatment for co-morbid anxiety in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. BMC Veterinary Research. 13:90
 PACKER RMA; LUCAS R; VOLK HA (2016) Owner perception of focal seizures in canine epilepsy. Veterinary Record doi:10.1136/vr.104099
 PACKER RMA; SEATH IJ; O'NEILL DG; DE DECKER S; VOLK HA (2016) DachsLife 2015: An investigation of lifestyle associations with the risk of intervertebral disc disease in Dachshunds. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology 3:8 doi: 10.1186/s40575-016-0039-8
 FARNWORTH MJ; CHEN R; PACKER RMA; CANEY S; GUNN-MOORE DA (2016) Flat feline faces: Is brachycephaly associated with respiratory abnormalities in the domestic cat (Felis catus)? PLOS ONE 11(8): e0161777
 WESSMANN A; VOLK HA; PACKER RMA; ORTEGA M; ANDERSON TJ (2016) Quality of life aspects in idiopathic epilpesy in dogs. Veterinary Record:10.1136/vr.103355
 DE DECKER S; GOMES S; PACKER RMA; KENNY P; BELTRAN E; PARZEFALL B; FENN J; NAIR D; NYE G; VOLK HA (2016) Evaluation of magnetic resonance imaging guidelines to differentiate between thoracolumbar nucleus pulposus extrusions and anulus fibrosus protrusions in large breed dogs. Journal of Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound doi: 10.1111/vru.12394
 SUITER EJ; PACKER RMA; VOLK HA (2016) Comparing the effects of first line antiepileptic drugs on the gait of dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Veterinary Record doi:10.1136/vr.103736
 O'NEILL DG; PACKER RMA (2016) The First Canine Behaviour and Genetics Conference: Summary and recommendations for future directions in canine behavioural science. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2016.02.006
 GOMES SA; VOLK HA; PACKER RMA; KENNY PJ; BELTRAN E; DE DECKER S (2016) Clinical and magnetic resonance imaging characteristics of thoracolumbar nucleus pulposus extrusions and anulus fibrosus protrusions in large breed dogs. Journal of Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound. DOI: 10.1111/vru.12359.
 PACKER RMA; SHIHAB NK; TORRES BBJ; VOLK HA (2016) Risk factors for cluster seizures in canine idiopathic epilepsy. Research in Veterinary Science 105: 136–138.
 PACKER RMA, LAW TH, DAVIES E, ZHANGI B, PAN Y, VOLK HA (2016) Effects of a ketogenic diet on ADHD-like behaviour in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior 55: 62-68.
 PACKER RMA, HENDRICKS A, TIVERS MS & BURN CC (2015) Impact of facial conformation on canine health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0137496
 PACKER RMA, VOLK HA (2015) Epilepsy beyond seizures: a review of the impact of epilepsy and its comorbidities on health-related quality of life in dogs. Veterinary Record 177 : 306-315.
 HÜLSMEYER V; FISCHER A; MANDIGERS PJJ; DE RISIO L; BERENDT M; RUSBRIDGE C; BHATTI SFM; PAKOZDY A; PATTERSON EE; PLATT S; PACKER RMA; VOLK HA (2015) International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force’s current understanding of idiopathic epilepsy of genetic or suspected genetic origin in purebred dogs. BMC Veterinary Research 11:175.
 DE RISIO L; BHATTI S; MUÑANA K; PENDERIS J; STEIN V; TIPOLD A; BERENDT M; FARQHUAR R; FISCHER A; LONG S; MANDIGERS PJJ; MATIASEK K; PACKER RMA; PAKOZDY A; PATTERSON N; PLATT S; PODELL M; POTSCHKA H; PUMAROLA BATTLE M; RUSBRIDGE C; VOLK HA (2015) International veterinary epilepsy task force consensus proposal: diagnostic approach to epilepsy in dogs. BMC Veterinary Research 11:148.
 PACKER RMA, HENDRICKS A, & BURN CC (2015) Impact of facial conformation on canine health: Corneal ulceration. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0123827
 PACKER RMA; TIVERS MS (2015) Strategies for the management and prevention of conformation-related respiratory disorders in brachycephalic dogs. Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports 6, 219-232
 DE DECKER S; LAM R; PACKER RMA; GIELEN IMVL; VOLK HV (2015) Thoracic and lumbar vertebral bone mineral density changes in a natural occurring dog model of disseminated idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis. PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124166
 PACKER RMA; BERENDT M; BHATTI S; CHARALAMBOUS M; CIZINAUSKAS S; DE RISIO L; FARQUHAR R, HAMPEL R; HILL M; MANDIGERS PJJ; PAKOZDY A; PRESTON SM; RUSBRIDGE S; STEIN V; TAYLOR-BROWN F; TIPOLD A; VOLK HA (2015) Inter-observer agreement of canine and feline paroxysmal event semiology and classification by veterinary neurology specialists and non-specialists. BMC Veterinary Research 11 (1) 39
 PACKER RMA; NYE G; PORTER SE; Volk HA (2015) Assessment into the usage of levetiracetam in a canine epilepsy clinic. BMC Veterinary Research 11 (1) 25
 PACKER RMA; SHIHAB NK; TORRES BBJ; VOLK HA (2015) Responses to successive anti-epileptic drugs in canine idiopathic epilepsy. Veterinary Record doi: 10.1136/vr.102934
 PACKER RMA; SHIHAB NK; TORRES BBJ; VOLK HA (2014) Clinical risk factors associated with anti-epileptic drug responsiveness in canine epilepsy. PLoS ONE 9(8): e106026.
 ARMASU A; PACKER RMA; COOK S; SOLCAN G; VOLK HA (2014) An exploratory study using a statistical approach as a platform for clinical reasoning in canine epilepsy. The Veterinary Journal 202, 2: 292–296
 PACKER RMA; HENDRICKS A; VOLK HA; SHIHAB NK; BURN CC (2013) How long and low can you go? Effect of conformation on the risk of thoracolumbar intervertebral disc extrusion in domestic dogs. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69650.
 PACKER RMA; HENDRICKS A; BURN CC (2012) Do dog owners recognise clinical signs related to a conformational inherited disorder that is 'normal for the breed'? A potential constraint to improving canine welfare. Animal Welfare 21(S1): 81-93.
PACKER, RMA, HENDRICKS, A, & BURN, CC (2014) Conference Report: Building Better Brachycephalics 2013. The Royal Veterinary College, North Mymms. pp. 1-36 http://www.ufaw.org.uk/documents/BuildingBetterBrachycephalics2013Report.pdf Media coverage: Vet Record Telegraph
PACKER, RMA (2012) Normal for the breed? The Veterinary Nurse 3 (5) 326 http://www.theveterinarynurse.com/cgi-bin/go.pl/library/article.cgi?uid=92586;article=_3_5_326
Rowena is involved in lectures and Directed Learning sessions related to companion animal behaviour and welfare to the BVetMed, BSc and Veterinary Nursing courses. She supervises final year research projects across a range of topics primarily related to canine and feline behaviour, health and welfare.
Rowena annually guest lectures for the University of Edinburgh's MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare, and co-supervises MSc thesis projects related to her research interests.
Prior to her lecturership at RVC, Rowena lectured Animal Welfare at Queen's University Belfast on their MSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare in 2013-14.
Current clinical studies recruiting:
- RESET (Reducing Epileptic Seizures and improving Emotional state with behavioural Therapies). For more information visit: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/research/projects/reset
Rowena currently acts in the following roles:
- Founding member of the Legal Advisory Group on Extreme Conformation in Dogs
- Founding member of the Brachycephalic Working Group
- Coordinating Group member of the BBSRC-UFAW Animal Welfare Research Network
- Member of Guide Dogs’ Canine Scientific Advisory Committee
- Trustee of the Dog Breeding Reform Group
- Editorial Board Member at Scientific Reports
Rowena ia a member of the following societies:
- Contributing Supporting Member of the Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians
- Member of the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ)
- Academic Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors
Rowena is keen to share her research with relevant stakeholder including owners, breeders and animal charities, and organises public engagement events inlcuding:
Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs continue to grow in popularity internationally despite their well-documented health challenges. This study explores two questions: (1) Do brachycephalic-outcrosses exhibit improved respiratory and ‘innate’ health characteristics compared to their extreme-brachycephalic parent-breed?; (2) Do brachycephalic-outcrosses meet the aesthetic preferences of people who desire extreme-brachycephalic purebreds?
A solution right under our nose? Exploring health implications and public demand for brachycephalic ‘designer’ outcrosses (In Progress)
Vet Compass Project Type: Dog
Do brachycephalic-outcrosses exhibit improved respiratory and ‘innate’ health characteristics compared to their extreme-brachycephalic parent-breed?
Do brachycephalic-outcrosses meet the aesthetic-preferences of people who desire extreme-brachycephalic purebreds?
Genetics and management can greatly affect the welfare of farm, laboratory, companion and wild animals. We aim to improve animal welfare by understanding how human activities and management practices affect the welfare of animals that are kept, killed or otherwise impacted by humans. Comparative research can identify practices that generally elicit poor or good welfare outcomes, providing evidence that can be used to support initiatives to improve animal welfare.
Canine health and welfare research funding in the UK: Current status and future opportunities (In Progress)
Vet Compass Project Type: Dog
This project, supported by four leading UK canine charities in partnership with the RVC, will explore the levels and distribution of UK canine health research funding over the last decade, and analyse the areas of research this has included. Through collaborative discussion with funders, vets, scientists, dog breeders and owners, the project will develop a joint strategy to agree priorities for future research funding decisions.
Researchers and clinicians at the RVC have devoted more than a decade of work to improving our understanding of epilepsy in dogs, as well as cats. Ongoing RVC epilepsy research is improving the characterisation of this chronic disorder and its comorbidities, develops technology to aid its long-term management for vets and owners, and identifies fresh new ways to manage this age-old disorder.
Animal welfare refers to animal feelings, health, and environmental suitability. These projects explore which animals are sentient and what feelings they have, and how behaviour, health, environments, and welfare interrelate. We use a wide range of techniques to investigate these fundamental questions, each of which is tailored to the particular hypothesis and species involved. Emotions are subjective (private) to the individual experiencing them, which makes them challenging to investigate scientifically.
The project involves an interactive survey, consisting of realistic dog health scenarios. The aim is to explore UK dog owners' decision-making around their dog's health.
RESET is a randomised controlled trial in which participants are randomly allocated to one of three groups, including a baseline group so that different behavioural management techniques can be compared. Canine epilepsy is the most common chronic neurological disease in dogs, estimated to affect 0.6-0.75% of the population, which represents approximately 60-70 000 dogs of the 10.1 million pet dogs in the UK population.
This trial investigates how behavioural therapies can work alongside medication as a method to reduce seizure frequency and anxiety in drug-resistant canine epilepsy.
The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is calling for respondents for its survey on puppy buying experiences both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic
Vet Compass Project Type: Dog
This study aims to explore whether and how online information sourcing affects the decision-making of UK canine caregivers when deciding whether to seek veterinary care for dogs exhibiting clinical signs of disease.
VetCompass is a welfare-focussed epidemiological research project that shares anonymised clinical data from veterinary practices to investigate the frequency and nature of companion animal health problems.
Modern veterinary medicine has access to increasingly effective tools for diagnosis and treatment; yet many animals still continue to suffer from disorders that might be reduced or avoided if risks were better understood and measured.