Tag Archives: obsessive compulsive disorder

OCD – dogs and humans are not that different

The structural abnormalities in the brains of dogs suffering from canine compulsive disorder (CCD) are similar to the abnormalities found in humans suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) according to new research.

A collaboration between veterinarians at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and researchers at the McLean Imaging Center at McLean Hospital, in Belmont, Massachusetts have published their findings in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.

The study involved 16 Doberman Pinschers, 8 with CCD and 8 without.  Dogs with CCD engage in repetitious and destructive behaviors such as flank- and blanket-sucking, tail chasing, and chewing,  whereas people with OCD tend to have repetitious behaviors that interfere with their daily life.

Here’s a video of a German Shepherd with CCD engaging in a circling behavior:

“While the study sample was small and further research is needed, the results further validate that dogs with CCD can provide insight and understanding into anxiety disorders that affect people.  Dogs exhibit the same behavioral characteristics, respond to the same medication, have a genetic basis to the disorder, and we now know have the same structural brain abnormalities as people with OCD,” said Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB, professor of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

It should be noted that the research also provides insight into dog behavior and management.  In some cases, a dog labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘destructive’ may actually have a biological basis for their problems.

Source:  TuftsNow media release

Tail chasing – an obsessive compulsive disorder?

The genetics research group at the University of Helsinki has published its findings into a study of tail chasing in dogs.  The study involved 400 dogs and questionnaires to the owners about their dog’s behaviour.  Samples of each dog’s blood were also taken.

The questionnaires covered behaviours, aspects of the dog’s puppyhood and daily routines.  Owners were also asked to evaluate their dog’s personality.

Compulsive tail chasing can occur in any dog but is common in breeds such as the Bull Terrier and German Shepherd.  These breeds were included in the research, as were the Miniature Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The study aimed to describe the characteristics of tail chasing in dogs and to ascertain the environmental risk factors for the disorder.  The researchers also wanted to know if a previously identified gene that has been associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)  had a role to play.

What they found

  • The OCD gene that had been linked to other compulsive disorders in dogs was not associated with the tail chasing disorder
  • Dogs responded with less tail chasing when fed supplements of vitamins and minerals, although the researchers feel that more study is warranted to prove this link
  • Early separation from their mothers and/or poor care from their mother also predisposed dogs to compulsive tail chasing

Dogs may be a good model for studying OCD in humans because they are physiologically similar and share our environment.  Consequently, this research has wider implications.

The research paper is available in the 27 July 2012 edition of PloS ONE

Source:  University of Helsinki press release

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand