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How to treat a dog with compulsive disorder

 by ben on 31 Jul 2019 |
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We’re all familiar with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but few know that compulsive disorders can also impact dogs.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects up to 3 percent of the human population, but many people don’t realize that the same disorder also affects our pets. Canine compulsive disorder, or CCD, can cause serious physical damage to your dog as repetitive attention to one spot on his body can lead to lesions and infections. Here are a few ways to recognize compulsive behavior and help your canine companion:

Compulsive disorders take root in instincts that are necessary for a species to survive. Dogs are natural predators, diggers and groomers, for example, so canine compulsive behaviors often manifest as the repeated version of these actions. In fact, the first established CCD was acral lick, or the repetitive licking of the wrist, paw or leg. Other compulsions commonly observed include tail chasing, snapping at imaginary flies, running in repetitive patterns, or sucking at his flank or a blanket, though many others exist. Often, this repeated behavior can lead to infection as pets create open wounds or lesions over time. While antibiotics can cure an infection, it’s important to address the underlying cause of Fido’s obsessive behavior.

Genetics play a role in pets’ susceptibility to CCD, but chronic stress or anxiety act as triggers for compulsive behavior. Though an action may initially be a response to one particular, stressful event, dogs may begin to perform this comfort behavior any time they feel stressed. While your pet cannot attend counseling sessions, there are many ways to manage his stress and compulsive behavior. Provide him with daily exercise through walks and play and, whenever possible, offer your pet the chance to socialize with other dogs and humans. You can strengthen the bond you share with your pet and stimulate his mind with activities such as agility training, nose work, or fly ball. Chronic boredom or loneliness can lead to frustration that triggers compulsive behaviors in some pets, so consider a pet sitting service or companion animal of you’re away from home for long periods of time.

Because physical conditions can cause signs similar to canine compulsive behaviors, it’s important to take your pet to the veterinarian to rule out any medical causes behind Fido’s actions. After a complete physical examination and lab work, you may consider seeking treatment for CCD. As in humans, effective treatment of canine compulsive disorder involves medications that lower arousal and conflict, as well as behavior modification that gives your pet an alternate strategy for coping with stress. This is often a lifelong process and treatment can be hard, but the prognosis for your companion is much better if you catch the early stages of development of a compulsive disorder and start treatment before it becomes a chronic state.

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