Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Dogs?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in dogs is also referred to as Canine Compulsive Disorder (CDD). The disorder is identified by behaviors that are considered normal but when done so in an excessive, repetitive way can interfere with your dog’s ability to function and quality of life. 

An example of normal dog behaviors that can become obsessive compulsive in some dogs include excessive licking, pacing, chasing their tail, unprompted barking, and excessive drinking of water. While these are behaviors that most dogs take part in, the concern comes when these behaviors become excessive and their lack of control over them. It has been observed that dogs do indeed perceive and experience concern, making these obsessive compulsions viable for dogs to experience just as some humans do. 

What Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Dogs?

Research on OCD or CCD is still rather new. One possible cause looks into the genetic link to the disorder. It’s possible for any breed of dog to develop OCD, however, there are some breeds more prone to compulsive behaviors. Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and Bull Terriers have been identified as more likely to develop OCD due to genetics. 

Dogs with OCD also likely have altered serotonin transmission. Essentially, the brain cells and nervous system cells don’t effectively communicate with each other. 

Additionally, some professionals believe that in some dogs, compulsive behaviors are a result of lack of physical and mental stimulation, anxiety, frustration, and receiving insufficient attention. 

Who’s At Risk of Developing OCD?

It’s possible for any breed of dog to develop OCD, however, there are some breeds more prone to compulsive behaviors. Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and Bull Terriers have been identified as more likely to develop OCD due to genetics. 

What are the Symptoms of OCD in Dogs?

A dog with OCD or CCD participates in behaviors that are considered normal, but performed in an obsessive and extensive manner including: 

  • Sucking on a toy or their flank 
  • Excessive licking (acral lick dermatitis) 
  • Excessive biting at their fur 
  • Pacing or spinning 
  • Chasing their tail 
  • Snapping at invisible items 
  • Unprompted barking or vocalizing
  • Excessive water 
  • Eating dirt or other non-food substances
  • Hallucinating/staring 

How is OCD in Dogs Diagnosed?

OCD can be very difficult to diagnose in dogs. You will need to consult a veterinarian to receive a proper diagnosis of OCD in your dog. The vet will initially rule out any underlying medical causes behind your dog’s behaviors. Prior to visiting the vet, capture videos of the behaviors, a log of the behaviors, and when they began to occur. This will help your veterinarian to have as much information available in order to make a proper diagnosis. 

What is the Treatment for OCD in Dogs?

Treatment typically includes a combination of medication and behavior modification. Medications that affect the absorption of serotonin can help to reduce some behaviors. Accompanying medication with teaching new behaviors that can redirect the unwanted compulsive behaviors can be very successful. 

Consulting with an animal behaviorist can be beneficial in the behavior modification piece. They will be able to help you understand how to understand and redirect to teach new behaviors. 

Your dog’s environment can also make a difference in many circumstances. A predictable routine in place can help to reduce their anxiety while increased physical and mental stimulation can provide needed relief. 

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