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  • Writer's pictureRenée at Bravo Dog

Compulsive Behaviours

Unraveling the Medical Issue

Dogs are known for their playful and often quirky behaviours, but when these behaviours become repetitive, excessive, and uncontrollable, it can be a cause for concern. Compulsive behaviours in dogs, often referred to as Canine Compulsive Disorders (CCD), can have a significant impact on their overall well-being. This discussion explores the nature of compulsive behaviours in dogs, their potential medical implications, and the findings from several notable studies in the field.


Understanding Compulsive Behaviours in Dogs

Compulsive behaviours in dogs are repetitive, ritualistic actions that dogs perform seemingly without reason. These behaviours can manifest in various forms, such as excessive licking, tail-chasing, excessive barking, pacing, and even fly-biting and light chasing. While some of these behaviours may seem harmless or amusing at first, they can escalate to the point where they interfere with a dog's daily life and cause distress to both the dog and guardian. If you suspect your dog has a compulsive disorder, start documenting how long the behaviours are practiced and how often. Take video. Intervene by redirecting your dog when they start the behaviour. Go for a walk, get out a stuffed Kong... document whether or not it's easy to redirect your dog and the behaviour ceases. This should all be discussed with a vet/veterinary behaviourist.


Clinical Features and Outcome

A study conducted by Overall and Dunham in 2002, titled "Clinical features and outcome in dogs and cats with obsessive-compulsive disorder: 126 Cases (1989-2000)," shed light on the clinical aspects of OCD in dogs and cats. This comprehensive research analyzed a substantial number of cases over a decade, highlighting the importance of recognizing OCD as a genuine medical condition. The study emphasized that compulsive behaviors in dogs are not just quirky habits but rather a significant medical concern.


Medical Implications of Compulsive Behaviors

Compulsive behaviors in dogs can be indicative of underlying medical issues. While the exact causes of OCD in dogs are not fully understood, there are several factors that are believed to contribute, including genetics, early life experiences, and neurotransmitter imbalances. Additionally, some medical conditions can trigger or exacerbate compulsive behaviors.


Veterinary and Pharmacological Approaches

Addressing compulsive behaviors in dogs often requires a multifaceted approach. Mason and Rushen's work in "Veterinary and Pharmacological Approaches to Abnormal Repetitive Behaviour" highlights the importance of veterinary and pharmacological interventions to manage and treat compulsive behaviors. Veterinarians may recommend behavior modification techniques, such as desensitization and counterconditioning, along with medications to help alleviate the symptoms.


Gastrointestinal Disorders and Excessive Licking

Compulsive licking, where a dog incessantly licks surfaces or parts of their body, is a common compulsive behavior. A study by Bécuwe-Bonnet et al. in 2012 titled "Gastrointestinal disorders in dogs with excessive licking of surfaces" found a correlation between excessive licking and gastrointestinal disorders. This suggests that some compulsive behaviors may be a response to underlying medical discomfort or pain.


Fly Biting and Medical Evaluation

Fly biting, a compulsive behavior where a dog appears to snap at imaginary flies, can be perplexing for owners. Frank et al.'s research in "Prospective medical evaluation of 7 dogs presented with fly biting" demonstrated the importance of a thorough medical evaluation in such cases. Identifying and addressing any potential medical issues is crucial to effectively managing compulsive behaviors.


Chiari-Like Malformation and Syringomyelia

Certain breeds, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, are predisposed to neurological conditions like Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia, which can lead to compulsive behaviors. Plessas et al.'s study in 2012, "Long-term outcome of Cavalier King Charles spaniel dogs with clinical signs associated with Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia," emphasized the need for long-term medical management and care for dogs with these conditions.

What To Do?

Compulsive behaviours in dogs are more than just quirks; they often signal underlying medical issues that require attention and care. The studies mentioned above have contributed to our understanding of the clinical features and medical implications of compulsive behaviors in dogs. Recognizing these behaviors as potential medical issues and seeking veterinary guidance and treatment is essential to ensure the well-being of our canine companions. If you suspect obsessive-type behaviors, I urge you to see a vet that specializes in behavior or a veterinary behaviorist. By addressing the root causes of compulsive behaviors, your dog can find relief and live a much happier and fulfilled life.


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