Effects of OCD
Our canine companions are like us in so many ways, but unfortunately that is not always a good thing. Like people, dogs have the potential to suffer from a number of mental and emotional disorders. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of them. Animals with obsessive compulsive disorder engage in activities that occasionally are normal for its species, but they engage in them in an abnormally and alarmingly repetitious manner. Dogs and people who suffer from OCD display eerily similar symptoms. In severe cases, OCD can contribute to serious health problems and can dramatically affect both the animal’s and the owner’s quality of life. Interestingly, in most cases, dogs with OCD seem unaware that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The repetitive behaviors that dogs with OCD engage in are otherwise normal in small doses. They become clinically problematic when the dog engages in them purposelessly, ritualistically and destructively, in a manner beyond anything that conceivably could be considered appropriate in the daily routine of a normal dog. Some of the most common behaviors seen in dogs with obsessive compulsive disorders include one or more of the following:
- Flank-sucking (often seen in Doberman Pinschers)
- Chewing (often on rocks, fabric, furniture or their own tail, paws or nails)
- Inappropriate elimination (pottying in the house or other unusual places)
Again, most healthy dogs engage in some or all of these behaviors from time to time. Dogs with obsessive compulsive disorders repeat them over and over, and then over again. In many cases, the behaviors are more annoying than actually harmful. Unfortunately, some dogs with OCD can cause dangerous physical damage to themselves or to property if the condition is not brought under control. Some of the other things owners may notice that can arise from OCD include:
- Open weeping sores, which can deteriorate into secondary bacterial infections
- Licking and chewing at obvious wounds, despite the pain
- Bleeding paws and toes (from digging or chewing)
- Changes in vocalization (from chronic barking)
- Loss of hair, particularly around the flank (from flank-sucking or scratching)
Dogs with obsessive compulsive disorder can display other behavioral and psychological problems as well. They may:
- Startle easily
- Shy away from physical contact
- Have problems relating to or interacting with familiar people and animals in ordinary situations
- Have severe separation anxiety when apart from their owners (separation anxiety is a separate recognized disorder)
- Display aggression
If your dog displays unusual repetitive behavior(s) suggestive of OCD, schedule an appointment to discuss the situation with your veterinarian. There are a number of medical, behavioral and supportive therapeutic options that can help calm the symptoms of this condition in companion dogs.
Dogs At Increased Risk
The onset of obsessive compulsive disorder usually corresponds with social maturity in dogs, which typically is between one and three years of age, depending upon the breed. Dogs suffering from pain, particular anxiety or injury or a disease that alters their sensory function (vision, hearing, taste, smell and/or touch) are at an increased risk of developing OCD.