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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Dogs and Cats

obsessive compulsive disorder in petsObsessive compulsive behaviors occur in many types of animals, including horses, dogs, cats, exotic birds, pigs and many zoo inhabitants.

Two of the most common behaviors in dogs are obsessive licking which results in acral lick dermatitis (ALD), also known as a lick granuloma, and tail chasing.

In cats, common obsessive behaviors include wool-sucking (pica, or the eating of non-food substances) and psychogenic alopecia, which is hair loss and baldness from excessive grooming of the hair and skin.

According to Veterinary Practice News:

"In people with OCD—and by inference in animals exhibiting compulsive behavior—the cycle goes something like this: Anxiety leads to engagement in a repetitive behavior (a compulsion), which affords temporary relief. Later a constantly recurring thought (an obsession) occurs that causes escalating anxiety. Engagement in the compulsion relieves the anxiety, and so the cycle is propagated."

Animals with compulsive disorders tend to be relatively anxious and high strung. It isn't common to find OCD-type behavior in laidback animals. An anxious nature may be inherited, however, research indicates a component of 'nurture,' for example, a high conflict situation, is necessary for expression of a compulsive behavior.

In considering treatment for a pet with OCD, according to Veterinary Practice News:

"Environmental enrichment alone will not normally reverse a compulsive disorder, but a stress-free, user-friendly environment can prevent compulsive behavior from developing in the first place and make relapse less likely after successful pharmacological treatment."

Preventing a dog or cat from performing a compulsive behavior by physically restraining the animal in some way only leads to more anxiety, not less.

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