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Like their pet parents, dogs have many unique personality traits and behaviors. In many cases, those oddities are just strange or funny actions that don’t affect the dog’s overall health or quality of life.
But sometimes, a dog’s unusual behaviors can result from a compulsive disorder. How can a pet parent tell when their dog’s actions are a sign of a bigger problem? What can they do to help? Here’s what pet parents should know about compulsive disorders in dogs.
Also known as Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is exaggerated normal dog behavior. In other words, a dog does a typically normal behavior for longer than usual. The behavior may become repetitive, or the dog might start doing it at unusual times. In some cases, it can interfere with the dog’s ability to live a regular, happy, healthy life.
Causes of OCD in dogs include:
Genetics (some breeds are more likely to develop certain types of OCD than others)
Structural brain abnormalities
Conflict or stress (such as abuse or aggression from another animal)
Lack of attention
Boredom/lack of stimulation
An underlying medical issue
In many cases, CCD symptoms are typical dog behaviors taken to the extreme. They may include:
Self-destructive licking or chewing
Licking or sucking on a toy or object for extended periods
Tail chasing or spinning around
Snapping at nothing
Eating inappropriate items (such as dirt)
Excessive drinking or eating
There are a few different types of compulsive disorders dogs experience, including:
Repeatedly licking the same spot can cause skin lesions. The lesion can become raw and itchy, triggering the dog to lick even more. It affects larger breeds more, such as Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and Golden Retrievers. In some cases, it occurs due to a medical issue like arthritis. In others, it may be the result of stress or under-stimulation.
Flank sucking is seen almost exclusively in Doberman Pinschers. A dog takes a section of their flank into their mouth and holds it there. In mild cases, this coping mechanism doesn’t harm the dog. Increased exercise or treating separation anxiety can help lessen severe cases. If the dog is causing self-harm, pet parents can work with their vet for treatments like behavior management or medication.
Dogs bark for many reasons. They might be trying to get their pet parent’s attention, warn an invader, or encourage playtime. Dogs with separation anxiety may bark excessively when their pet parents leave for work or run errands. It’s often accompanied by other behaviors such as pacing or signs of depression.
Tail chasing, spinning, and pacing can often indicate a medical issue such as a seizure disorder or physical pain. Sometimes, spinning and tail chasing may have started as play, but increased because a pet parent rewarded the actions. Some herding breeds may develop these behaviors because they aren’t getting enough physical exercise. Bull terriers are prone to spinning and tail chasing, and they tend to perform these actions more vigorously.
Some dogs freeze and stare for extended periods. Pet parents may have a hard time getting the dog’s attention or keeping it. While this can sometimes indicate a cognitive condition like dementia, it can also be a sign of OCD.
Also known as “fly snapping,” this is when a dog looks like they’re trying to catch flies out of the air. The thing is, there aren’t any, and they can’t seem to stop. Schnauzers tend to be more prone to this compulsive disorder.
Pet parents should know that OCD in dogs is treatable. An animal behaviorist can show them how to interrupt obsessive behaviors and teach healthy ones. Developing — and sticking to — a predictable schedule can help, too. Pet parents may also need to provide more mental or physical stimulation.
In some cases, dog anxiety medication can help. Medication can help balance a dog’s serotonin levels, reducing obsessive behaviors. Pairing a prescription with behavior modification can help improve a dog’s situation.
Without intervention, OCD can take over a dog’s life, affecting their pet parents and other pets in the house, too. Seeking answers to dog health questions as soon as possible can help rule out any potential medical issues and allow a pet parent to get their dog back to their usual healthy self.
Pet parents can get expert advice 24/7 through Fuzzy Vet Chat to get their dog training and behavior questions answered.