Department: Clinical Science and Services

Campus: Hawkshead

Research Groups: Brain Health and Behaviour

Research Centres: RVC Animal Welfare Science and Ethics

Sarah is a PhD student in the canine epilepsy research team. Her PhD is a clinical trial investigating behavioural interventions for canine epilepsy, aiming to investigate the effect of behavioural therapies upon seizure frequency, behavioural comorbidities and general quality of life in canine epilepsy patients.

 

Sarah joined the RVC in 2017 as a research assistant with the canine epilepsy research team, working on various projects, primarily looking into associations between idiopathic epilepsy and anxiety, using behavioural and physiological measures. Since 2020 she has been a PhD student investigating behavioural interventions for canine epilepsy.

Sarah's background is in animal behaviour and welfare, she graduated from the University of Bristol with a BSc in Animal Behaviour and Welfare. Following this Sarah undertook a Clinical Behaviour Training Residency and a Masters by Research both at Bristol University. During this time she also helped on a variety of research projects within Bristol's Animal Welfare and Behaviour group.

Before coming to RVC, Sarah worked at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home as a Canine Behaviourist and Training Advisor.

 

Sarah is currently working on her PhD, investigating behavioural interventions for canine epilepsy. RESET (Reducing Epileptic Seizures and improving Emotional state with behavioural Therapies) aims to investigate the effect of behavioural therapies upon seizure frequency, behavioural comorbidities and general quality of life in canine epilepsy patients, as well as their owners.

Previously, Sarah has worked as a research assistant with the canine epilepsy research team looking into an association between idiopathic epilepsy and anxiety, using behavioural and physiological measures, as well as helping with various other projects. Prior to this, Sarah's MSc by Research looked into an association between abnormal repetitive behaviours and learning ability in dogs, using a reversal learning task.

Hobbs, S.L., Blackwell, E.J., Wetz, K.E., Packer, R.M.A., 2022. Owner reported management of interictal anxiety behaviours in canine epilepsy. Vet. Rec. https://doi.org/10.1002/vetr.1321

Hobbs, S.L., Law, T.H., Volk, H.A., Younis, C., Casey, R.A., Packer, R.M.A., 2020. Impact of canine epilepsy on judgement and attention biases. Sci. Rep. 10, 17719. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-74777-4

Packer, R.M.A., Hobbs, S.L., Blackwell, E.J., 2019. Behavioral Interventions as an Adjunctive Treatment for Canine Epilepsy: A Missing Part of the Epilepsy Management Toolkit? Front. Vet. Sci. 6, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00003

Packer, R.M.A., Davies, A.M., Volk, H.A., Puckett, H.L., Hobbs, S.L., Fowkes, R.C., 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, e0216000. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216000

Hobbs, S.L., Blackwell, E. J., Loftus, B. & Casey, R. Going round in circles: is altered ability to learn associated with an abnormal repetitive behaviour in dogs? ISAE UK & Ireland Regional Meeting (2018).

Sarah assisted with clinical behaviour teaching and practicals at the University of Bristol, on the Animal Behaviour and Welfare BSc, Veterinary Nursing BSc and Veterinary Sciences BVSc courses; and has assisted with teaching on the Veterinary Nursing BSc at RVC.

  • Epilepsy in companion animals

    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.


  • RESET: Reducing Epileptic Seizures and improving Emotional state with behavioural Therapies

    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.


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