Sunday, 31 May 2009

Munchausen syndrome

The department of Veterinary Clinical Studies from the University of Edinburgh published a series of papers a few years ago and in one of them it describes a study of veterinarians’ experiences of encountering non-accidental injury in dogs and cats. Sexual abuse is reported but also cases of suspected Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP), involving pets as proxies, were identified among 448 cases of non-accidental injury to small animals. These cases, recorded by a random sample of small animal practitioners in the UK, demonstrated several combinations of features, including attention-seeking behaviour by the owner, real and apparently factitious clinical signs, deliberate injury, markedly abnormal biochemical profiles, serial incidents, interference with surgical sites, recovery after separation from the owner, and 'veterinarian-shopping' by the owner. All of these features are consistent with those identified in the well documented MSBP in which children are the victims. One of the cases involved serial attempts at poisoning other animals and a child. Sudden death and unusual illnesses in pets are recorded in this study.
In Munchausen syndrome, a child is the usual proxy characterised by falsification of illness usually, but not invariably, by the mother in order to mislead the physician into believing that the child is ill. The usual motive is to gain sympathy and attention.
The syndrome was named after the 18th century mercenary, Baron von Munchhausen, who was compelled to tell the most incredible lies about his adventures, and who became increasingly addicted to the attention and adulation he received.

4 comments: said...

Cool blog!!!

jmb said...

Isn't it amazing that people will use their pets in this way. Or their children for that matter.

Sheila said...

I have a friend who shows all symptoms of having her dog sick. I don't know what to do about it as it would be impossible to prove. It's so upsetting to see this darling little dog in this situation.

Eurodog said...

Hello Sheila,
Yes I know it is very difficult to intervene. I knew a person like that who made her healthy dog sick. She could not see what she was doing and in fact I realised she was mentally not very stable.