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Compulsive Behavior in Dogs… What to Look Out for as Well as Treatment Options.

Compulsive Behavior in Dogs

Compulsive behavior in dogs may start out seeming like a funny quirk or oddity that your dog exhibits every so often.  But the truth is, just like with “human” sufferers, this disorder can cause your pet an enormous amount of stress and discomfort.

Especially as…

These “quirks” (which may have simply been an exaggeration of some “normal” behavior like scratching of “chasing one’s tail” trying to satiation and inch), slowly begin taking place for a longer period of time eventually becoming more insidious over time.

This is why…

We wanted to take a moment and discuss exactly what compulsive behavior is in dogs and discuss some of the treatment methods that may be available to you so that you can help improve the qualify of life for your pet.

So, what is compulsive behavior in dogs?

Probably the best way to understand what “compulsive behavior” in dogs is, is to consider what obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is in humans.

In humans…

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers will experience unwanted and repetitive thoughts, feelings and “compulsions” to engage in behaviors or mental acts in order to “satiate” these thoughts or feelings.

Now in dogs…

We drop the “obsessive” part of this disorder because it’s not certain whether or not a dog is constantly “thinking” or “obsessing” about a particular behavior.  The “compulsive” part however is quite similar because as with humans, dogs will become “compelled” to perform certain behaviors over and over presumably to satiate some kind of desire.

Side note…

For many of us animal lovers, we might disagree about whether or not animals “think” before acting.  But in the world of animal psychiatry, and the purposes of this discussion, we’ll “assume” they don’t consciously “think” about what they are doing.

What are some examples of “compulsive” behavior in dogs?

Some dogs may…

Stare at or chase a surface that is reflective or repeatedly lick certain surfaces, such as linoleum or tile floors. Other dogs may groom or lick themselves over and over lick their own hind quarters or suck on a body part of theirs. While some dogs ‘zone’ out, start spinning, or chase their tails or light.

And again, these may seem funny…

Particularly if you don’t “own” the dog in question, but the truth is, compulsive behavior in dogs can be really serious and even possibly dangerous to the life of your dog including deterioration of their mental acuity or physical harm.

What causes compulsive behavior in dogs?

As with humans, compulsive behaviors in dogs is a condition that is not well understood. A dog’s everyday life/environment may be a factor when added with other potential stressor such as:

  • Boredom
  • Over-Stimulation (fence fighting, chasing other dogs)
  • Frustration
  • Environment (frequent confinement, raised in kennel)
  • Social conflict (aggression from others or separation anxiety)
  • Physical Abuse (or punished randomly/unpredictably)

Obsessive-compulsive behaviors in dogs…

As with as with obsessive compulsive disorders in humans can also sometimes be linked to genetics. Here are some examples of dog breeds and some of the compulsive behaviors that have been linked to their heredity.

It is common for:

  • Doberman Pinschers to suck on the area on their sides, before the rear leg but behind the end of the chest which is called the flank, thus they are ‘flank sucking.’ This sucking or licking can lead to acral lick dermatitis, which is the name of an infected, non-healing, opening that was caused by excessive licking and is an exhibition of obsessive behavior.
  • Tail chasing can be common to Bull Terriers and German Shepherds.
  • Pica (the act if eating objects that really have no nutritious value) is known to be common in Labrador Retrievers.

Diagnosis of compulsive behaviors in dogs

If you suspect your dog is exhibiting any kind of compulsive behaviors, please, take your dog to your veterinarian for definitive diagnosis.

These compulsive behaviors…

Can be the sign of something wrong medically with your dog and it is very important that you get them checked out. Compulsive behaviors could mean that your dog has a neurological, endocrine, gastrointestinal problem. Your veterinarian will most likely want to do not only a physical exam, blood work, and probably a urinalysis to rule out a physical reason for these behaviors.

On the other hand…

What you think might be some type of “compulsive” behavior could just be a symptom that your dog is experiencing some other kind of “medical condition”.

For example…

Your dog could be chasing his tail because his flea or tick medication has worn off and he’s getting bitten by fleas back where he can’t get to them!  Or he may have an inflamed or swollen anal gland that is causing him discomfort causing him to “scoot” around in circles to try and find relief from his discomfort.

This is why…

It’s so important to always have your pet checked out by a professional before you start making your own “diagnosis’s”.

Treatment of compulsive behavior in dogs

The first thing that your veterinarian is going to want to do is look for any “natural” reason why your dog is “acting” the way her or she is.

Then…

If your veterinarian doesn’t find anything “physically” abnormal then they’ll begin considering that your dog may very well be suffering from compulsive disorder.

Now…

Depending on the severity of the compulsive behavior that your dog is exhibiting your veterinarian choose to approach your dog’s disorder several different ways.

If he or she believes…

That the compulsion can be treated with therapy then a Veterinary Behaviorist will be the one that will assist you with some behavior modification for your dog.  In cases like these, they will try to find “alternative” calming behaviors that your dog can engage in other than the “compulsive” ones they are exhibiting now.

In more severe cases…

The treatment can be managed on an outpatient basis with you administering anxiety medications or alleviating the stresses that are causing the compulsive behavior. Although, if your dog is exhibiting very strong compulsive behaviors that are leading to self-harm and are actually endangering the life of your dog then hospitalization, with 24hour care.

In the most severe cases…

Sedation may be necessary. Then when the anxiety is alleviated your dog training and teaching some coping skills can begin.

Also…

It should be noted that with many cases, seeking the advice of a quality dog “trainer” can often times be EXTREMELY helpful in treating dogs suffering from compulsive disorder.  Because remember, a great many of these cases can be cause by boredom in which an experience dog trainer may have ample advice for you regarding how to keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated.

Plus…

They’ll be able to give you plenty of advice on how to avoid using any kind of “punishment” or “negative reinforcement” techniques when training any dog that may suffer from compulsive behaviors.  This is very important because these types of “techniques” aren’t “kind” and then will typically only lead to greater anxiety which will of course only lead to the worsening of the compulsive behavior.

Punishment techniques…

Will also probably cause your dog to stop looking at you as an ally or companion but as more of an enemy or someone that they should fear which will make treatment much more difficult.

Confinement or disproportionate physical limitation…

Should also be avoided because it will only add to or increase the anxiety that your dog is feeling already. These types of restraints will also serve to have the dog focus on what is causing the anxiety and will in turn make your dog feel worse.

 

If any type…

Of restraint is required to assist in the healing it should be done minimally and ONLY per your veterinarian’s recommendation.

Which brings us to…

The last topic we wanted to discuss when dealing with compulsive behavior which is the “cost” of treatment.  Because if you haven’t picked up on it yet, treating compulsive behavior in dogs can be quite challenging and which means that it can also be quite expensive.

What with…

The prescription of medications that may be required for life, the use of behavioral modification techniques and the curative treatment care for any injuries suffered as a result of the compulsive behavior, it’s easy to see how treating compulsive behavior can cost a pretty penny!

This is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet always like to advise any individual who is considering adopting a new pet, to take a moment and consider possibly buying a pet insurance policy so that if their animal does every require the services of a veterinarian, they won’t be on the “hook” for 100% of the costs!

Now will a pet insurance policy be “right” for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you know how much it will cost you to insure your loved one, how will you know if getting a pet insurance policy on him or her makes any sense?

For more information about who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies in the industry, we would invite you to check out our article:  Top 10 Best Pet Insurance Companies.

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