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

Compulsive behavior in dogs may seem like a funny quirk or oddity that your dog exhibits every so often. But the truth is, like with “human” sufferers, this disorder can cause your pet enormous stress and discomfort. Especially as these “quirks” (which may have been an exaggeration of some “normal” behavior like scratching or “chasing one’s tail” trying to satiation an inch) slowly begin taking place for a more extended period, 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 quality of life for your pet.

What is compulsive behavior in dogs?

Probably the best way to understand “compulsive behavior” in dogs 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 to “satiate” these thoughts or feelings.

Now in dogs…

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

Examples of “compulsive” behavior in dogs?

Some dogs may stare at or chase a reflective surface or repeatedly lick certain characters, such as linoleum or tile floors. Other dogs may groom or lick themselves repeatedly, lick their hindquarters, or suck on a body part of theirs. While some dogs’ zone’ out, start spinning, or chase their tails or light.

Again, these may seem funny, mainly if you don’t “own” the dog. Still, the truth is that compulsive behavior in dogs can be severe and even possibly dangerous to your dog’s life, including deterioration of their mental acuity or physical harm.

What can cause compulsive behavior in dogs?

As with humans, compulsive behaviors in dogs are a poorly understood condition. A dog’s everyday life/environment may be a factor when added to another 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 obsessive-compulsive disorders in humans, it 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 suck on the area on their sides, before the rear leg but behind the end of the chest, 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 caused by excessive loss and is an exhibition of obsessive behavior.
  • Tail chasing can be familiar to Bull Terriers and German Shepherds.
  • Pica (the act of eating objects that have no nutritious value) is expected in Labrador Retrievers.

Diagnosis of compulsive behaviors in dogs

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

These compulsive behaviors…

This can be a sign of something wrong medically with your dog, and you must get them checked out. Compulsive behaviors could mean your dog has a neurological, endocrine, or 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 biological reason for these behaviors.

On the other hand, what you think might be some “compulsive” behavior could just be a symptom that your dog is experiencing some different 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 find relief. This is why it’s always essential to have your pet checked out by a professional before making your own “diagnosis.”

Treatment Options

Your veterinarian will first want to look for any “natural” reason why your dog is “acting” the way she or she is. Then, if your veterinarian doesn’t find anything “physically” abnormal, they’ll consider that your dog may suffer from a compulsive disorder. Depending on the severity of your dog’s obsessive behavior, your veterinarian approaches your mess in several ways.

If they believe…

If the compulsion can be treated with therapy, then a Veterinary Behaviorist will be the one who will assist you with some behavior modification for your dog. In cases like these, they will try to find “alte” native” cal” ing behaviors that your dog can engage in other than the “comp” live” one” 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 causing the compulsive behavior. However, if your dog is exhibiting extreme compulsive behaviors that lead to self-harm and endanger your dog’s life, then hospitalization with 24-hour 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.

In many cases, seeking the advice of a quality dog “trai” can”often be beneficial in treating dogs suffering from a compulsive disorder. Remember, many of these cases can be caused by boredom, and an experienced dog trainer may have ample advice for you regarding keeping your dog entertained and mentally stimulated.

Your veterinarian will also…

Be able to give you plenty of advice on how to avoid using “puni” he” or “negative reinforcement” techniques when training any dog that may suffer from compulsive behaviors. This is very important because these types of “tech” piques” are”’ aren’t” and”will typically only lead to more significant anxiety, leading 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 they should fear, making treatment much more difficult.

Confinement or disproportionate physical limitation…

It should also be avoided because it will only add to or increase your dog’s anxiety. These types of restraints will also serve to have the dog focus on what is causing the stress, making your dog feel worse. If any condition is required to assist in the healing, it should be done minimally and ONLY per your recommendation.

Which brings us to…

The last topic we wanted to discuss when dealing with compulsive behavior is the “cost” of “treatment. If you haven’t done it yet, treating compulsive behavior in dogs can be challenging and expensive. 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 due to compulsive behavior, 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 ever require the services of a veterinarian, theyn’t 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 to insure your loved one, how will you know if getting a pet insurance policy on them makes any sense?

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

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