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Can pets have OCD?

Admit it. You’ve gotten a chuckle or two out of watching your pet chase his tail. Maybe even caught it on video to share with friends and family. Silly habits like tail-chasing are cute and funny but certain incessant behaviors can be cause for concern. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) isn’t limited to humans. For our sweet fur-kids, diagnosing the issue takes a watchful eye. Common behaviors might actually be signs your pet has OCD or, as some like to call it, canine compulsive disorder (CCD).

Cocker spaniel digging

What causes CCD?

While CCD can’t be narrowed down to a single cause, there are common variables seen in medically diagnosed dogs. Oftentimes, CCD can be credited to unpleasant life experiences, including abuse, neglect or exposure to high-stress environments. Lack of mental stimulation can also lead to obsessive tendencies. Environment and lifestyle are typically common causes for erratic behaviors. However, more studies now also attribute certain behavioral patterns to ancestral causes that may be passed down from previous generations. For CCD cases shown at later stages in life, obsessive behaviors tend to be caused by to lack of sensory functions, such as impaired vision or decreased hearing capabilities that can result in heightened anxiety and stress.

Common CCD behaviors

By definition, CCD is recognized as a dangerous medical condition in which a dog engages in normal canine activities in an abnormally repetitive, frantic and self-destructive manner. This means any form of regular activity that is performed out of context and to an incessant degree. Some examples include:

  • barking
  • digging
  • scratching
  • licking
  • pacing
  • circling
  • tail-chasing
  • chewing
  • urination/defecation

On their own, these behaviors are no cause for concern. Steps should be taken if your dog begins to practice any behavior on a repetitive basis and especially if the activity causes physical harm to himself, others or personal property. Many rescue dogs who suffer from CCD due to previous history of abuse or neglect can also exhibit signs of aggression, shyness, separation anxiety and lack of socialization skills.

How to treat CCD

If you suspect your dog has CCD, the first step is a complete diagnosis by your veterinarian. Once your pet has been diagnosed, there are a few common treatment options to help your pet live a healthy and happy life.

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Treat underlying health issues

First and foremost, find out if there are underlying conditions causing your pet to behave erratically. Is your pet injured? In pain? Suffering from discomfort? If the underlying problems are medical, your veterinarian should be able to provide a solution. Oftentimes, a quick health check is all your pet needs to end compulsive tendencies.

Break the habit

If your pet is of sound health, then work with a trainer or animal behavior specialist to break the habit. This will require a lot of patience, consistency and trial. Using methods like positive reinforcement and distraction, old habits can be broken.

More on animal behavior

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Expert tips for apartment life with a dog
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