Karen Overall
VMD, PhD, Diplomate ACVB

Center for Neurobiology and Behavior

U of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Glen Mills, PA

Karen Overall is featured in these resources on ABRIonline.org:


Dr. Karen Overall received her BA and MA degrees concomitantly from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. After a year spent at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama she was awarded her VMD from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine in 1983. Dr. Overall attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin - Madison where her PhD in Zoology was awarded for research focusing on mating systems and egg physiology of a protected lizard. She completed a residency in Behavioral Medicine at Penn in 1989. She is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (ACVB) and is certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) as an Applied Animal Behaviorist.

Dr. Overall has given hundreds of national and international presentations and short courses and is the author of over 100 scholarly publications on behavioral medicine and lizard behavioral ecology and dozens of textbook chapters. She has also been a regular columnist for both Canine and Feline Practice journals, has been the behavior columnist for the popular magazine, Cat Fancy, and continues to write a bimonthly column for DVM Newsmagazine. Her best-selling textbook, Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, was published by Mosby in 1997. Her new book, Manual of Small Animal Clinical Behavioral Medicine, will be published by Elsevier in 2006, and her first instructional video, Humane behavioral care for distressed humans and their confused dogs: techniques for the treatment and prevention of canine behavior problems, will be released at the same time. Another text, Behavioral Medicine for Old Dogs, will follow later in 2006 or early 2007. Additionally, Dr. Overall serves on the editorial and editorial advisory boards of numerous journals, and is the editor-in-chief for the new Elsevier journal that will begin publishing in 2006, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

After 14 years at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, where she ran the Behavior Clinic for more than 12 years, she was offered a tenured position as an Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine and Director of the Behavior Clinic at The College of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign as part of the faculty excellence program. Instead, she chose to join the faculty of the Psychiatry Department at Penn Med as a Research Associate. Dr. Overallís clinical work has at its core the humane treatment of troubled pets and their distressed people. Her research has 2 main foci (1) understanding the neurobiology and genetics of canine behavior and canine cognition, and (2) the development of natural genetic and behavioral canine models for human psychiatric illness, particularly those involving anxiety, panic, and aggression. Such models allow better treatment for pets with behavioral problems while adding to our understanding of the shared conditions in humans. Dr. Overall and her colleagues have recently funded a series of studies to examine the behavioral genetics of anxiety in groups of dogs where familial concerns, including those that affect performance, have been noted.

Dr. Overall frequently consults with service and assistance dog organizations and military and police organizations that use dogs in any capacity. She also consults frequently with law makers regarding legislation affecting dogs. Dr. Overall is currently the Co-Chair of the US government SWGDOG (the Scientific Working Group on Dogs and Orthogonal detector Guidelines), and serves on the board of Directors of both charitable (PALS for Life) and working dog (International Working Dog and Breeding Association [IWDBA]) organizations. She was awarded the 1993 Randy Award for Excellence and Creativity in Research. In 2005, Dr. Overall was voted the Small Animal Speaker of the year at the North American Veterinary Conference.

When she is not traveling, speaking, writing, seeing patients, or conducting research, she tries to play with her 4 Australian shepherds and husband - and collaborator - Dr. Art Dunham, who shares her passion for the wonder and logic of science, fine art, language, culture, wild places, and doing the right thing.