Obsessive Compulsive Behavior in Dogs

Obsessive compulsive behavior in dogs often occurs due to canine obsessive compulsive disorder, an anxiety-related disorder in which dogs engage in repetitive and often self-destructive behavior. These dogs may have a history of abuse, or they may have recently experienced a great deal of stress. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this canine disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors for Canine Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Vets don't know exactly what causes dogs to develop obsessive compulsive disorder, but they think that hereditary factors may make some dogs predisposed to the condition. Dogs who suffer this condition often first suffer trauma or extreme stress. Dogs who have been abused, neglected or confined in small spaces without exercise or intellectual stimulation are at the highest risk for developing obsessive compulsive disorder. Dogs are most likely to develop obsessive compulsive disorder between the ages of one and three years, especially if they are experiencing pain, stress or decreased sensory functions at that time.

Symptoms of Canine Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Dogs with obsessive compulsive disorder do many of the same things that normal dogs do, but they do them repetitively until the behaviors become tiresome and even dangerous. Obsessive compulsive behavior in dogs can include some or all of the following behaviors:

  • Chewing on furniture, rocks, or themselves
  • Licking or sucking on the feet, tail or sides
  • Inappropriate toilet behaviors
  • Digging
  • Pacing
  • Scratching
  • Barking
  • Digging
  • Circling
  • Fence-running
  • Tail-chasing

While most of these behaviors are normal, normal dogs do these things only from time to time. Dogs with obsessive compulsive disorder do them over and over again. They cannot be dissuaded from performing repetitive behaviors, even when the behaviors bring detrimental consequences, such as punishment or self-injury.

Since dogs with obsessive compulsive disorder are often stressed and anxious, they may be jumpy and frightened to be touched. They may seem uncomfortable interacting with familiar others in familiar situations. They may become inexplicably aggressive, or suffer from separation or other forms of anxiety.

Dogs can harm themselves through obsessive compulsive behaviors such as licking, sucking and biting at themselves. Licking, sucking and biting at the tail, flanks and legs can cause hair loss, open sores, bleeding and infection. Dogs who dig obsessively may have bleeding, damaged paws. Obsessive barking may make your dog hoarse, or cause him to lose his voice.

If your dog has obsessive compulsive disorder, he will continue to perform his repetitive behaviors despite the injuries they may be causing.

Diagnosing and Treating Obsessive Compulsive Behavior in Dogs

Your vet may perform a wide range of tests before diagnosing obsessive compulsive disorder in your dog. These tests rule out other possible causes of your dog's obsessive compulsive behavior. Once your vet has ruled out all possible physical causes, he may want to watch video of your dog's obsessive compulsive behavior in order to understand it better.

A veterinary behaviorist can help you modify your dog's obsessive compulsive behavior without making it worse. Anti-anxiety drugs can help soothe your dog's obsessive compulsive behavior by relieving the anxiety that inspires them.