Wednesday, July 10, 2013

OCD in dogs

Canine Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

If retrieving a ball 28 times in a row is considered normal canine behavior, how do you know when your dog's eccentricities go beyond normal and head into the realm of obsessive compulsive behavior? People with OCD  ritualize ordinary tasks to the point of disrupting their daily lives - for instance washing hands over and over. It's the same with dogs. Repetitive behaviors performed out of context that are exaggerated or sustained indicate OCD traits in dogs.  These include spinning, tail chasing, fly snapping, shadow chasing, air licking, eating/suckling, flank sucking, and paw licking. Whereas 2% of the human population has OCD,  in the general dog population it's closer to 10%. Specific types of compulsive behaviors are more frequent in certain breeds, suggesting a genetic predisposition. For instance, although tail chasing may occur in a variety of breeds and mixes, it is most commonly observed in German Shepherds and Bull Terriers.
Up to a third of the Bull Terrier population 
exhibit signs of OCD, usually tail chasing. 
Many cases are so severe the dogs must be euthanized.
Read more about obsessive tail chasing.

Dobermans with OCD suck their skin.
Dobies are of special interest to scientists because about 70% suffer from the disorder.  With such a large population, scientists were able to compare healthy dogs to afflicted dogs to identify a genetic basis for the disorder. (Tufts University, 2010)  But they still didn't know how the gene was affecting the brain to create the condition.  Just recently, they found out. (Brain structural abnormalities in Doberman pinschers with canine compulsive disorder) Using an MRI to compare brains of healthy and afflicted Dobies, scientists found inconsistencies in the brains of dogs with OCD.  When they looked at the brains of humans with OCD, the anomaly was in the same area. You can read more about the study at National Geographic News.
And if you have a dog with OCD and need some help,
check out this article in Whole Dog Journal.


  1. That is funny, think mine had it, lol.
    If I threw a ball he had to go get it, could not just leave it there, no matter how tired he was and if I threw two, he would spend an hour trying to get both in his mouth before he came back.


  2. A very interesting topic! I haven't really noticed any exaggerated repetitive behaviours in my dogs, sometimes when they are on their beds in the sewing room with me I notice one of my dogs will do a bit of paw licking but only for a few minutes then she snoozes off! My girls have pretty mellow lives, not too many things to get anxious about around here!!