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Posted on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 6 a.m.

Compulsive disorder in dogs and humans may be linked by a common thread

By Lorrie Shaw


Lorrie Shaw | Contributor

So many of us are familiar with dogs who display obsessive-compulsive behavior, and there has been little known about the etiology. Even more distressing, it's hard to help empower pets to curb the behaviors that characterize it.

We've a little experience with Canine Compulsive Disorder, or CCD, in our household, and sadly, with the dog's increasing age, I'm seeing that the condition can increase in complexity.

Early life stressors have been thought to be at the root: abuse, premature weaning, prolonged isolation and other stressful types of things.

A recent study offers interesting insight into the mechanics of the disorder, and it shows that humans and canines have more in common than you might think. The findings might even help find better treatments for humans and dogs alike.

The research, published in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, suggests a root cause that could help clarify a cause of the behavior.

In looking at brain scans of 16 Doberman pinschers (the breed has a high incidence of CCD) studied, researchers found that the eight dogs who had CCD had higher total brain and gray matter volumes and other similarities that correspond with the severity of compulsive behavioral traits and consistent with humans who suffer OCD-like symptoms.

CCD is characterized by behaviors such as tail and shadow chasing, spinning, excessive drinking of water, licking obsessively, snapping at flying insects (even when they are not present), continuous barking and pica.

The findings are a joint effort between veterinarians at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and researchers at the McLean Imaging Center at McLean Hospital, in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Niwako Ogata, BVSc, Ph.D., an assistant professor of animal behavior at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, led the Tufts/McLean research team.

"Canines that misbehave are often labeled as 'bad dogs,' but it is important to detect and show the biological basis for certain behaviors," noted Ogata.

"Evidence-based science is a much better approach to understanding a dog's behavior."

Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB, professor of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University offered this:

While the study sample was small and further research is needed, the results further validate that dogs with CCD can provide insight and understanding into anxiety disorders that affect people. Dogs exhibit the same behavioral characteristics, respond to the same medication, have a genetic basis to the disorder, and we now know have the same structural brain abnormalities as people with OCD.

Click here to read a piece in the Whole Dog Journal on ideas to effectively address CCD, and food or thought on how to help prevent it.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly and subscribe to's email newsletters.



Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

I've seen one sad case involving a beautiful Irish Setter. It's disorder led to the dog being "put away" and it was definitely owner-generated. :-(


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 3:01 a.m.

This article goes hand in hand with the other article that goes along the same lines with pets. Depends on what breed you want and how active you want to be. Now, if you want to get in shape? LOL A Jack Russell is the breed for you. Otherwise, Chihuahuas make great television dogs.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

Those of us with experience with dogs and horses know that they [can] get it from their owners. Its odd/funny that dogs which have behavior issues are blamed but the owners are the cause. The Dog Whisperer has explained this in a book and in the TV show. Its just 'programming', you know?. Like Visual Basic for Windows, its How to Cope with Life. Dogs and horses need rehabilitating. Owners need to be drugged.

music to my ear

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

MY doggie does all that, I told my family member that my dog needs puppy prozac and I totally believe that but I refuse to put her on meds I may take her to a dog behaviorist but they will just tell me put her on drugs,and I will not it is how god made her as well as how he made us,none of us came with a prescription label it is just people trying to get rich off other people and pets misadvangtages