Excessing Drooling in your Dog??

As seen on PETMD -Reviewed for accuracy on April 1, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

When it comes to drooling in dogs, “normal” is a relative concept. “Saliva (drool) is a normal part of digesting food, and there is a ‘normal amount’ of saliva that is produced at all times,” explains Dr. Rory Lubold, DVM, CEO of Paion Veterinary in Arizona. “Some breeds of dog, and some dogs within a breed, can produce a higher-than-average amount of drool.”

 

As a general rule, most breeds of dogs do not normally have a problem with drooling, according to Dr. Jill Lopez, DVM, MBA, director of marketing and strategic partnerships at the Essentials Pet Care Clinic in Port Richey, Florida. “However, dogs with large upper lips are known to be droolers—and this includes Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Bloodhounds and Newfoundlands.”

 

Excessive drooling in dogs that don’t normally drool can be a sign of a health issue, so it is important to notice when your dog is drooling a lot or more than they usually do. Dr. Lubold advises pet parents to observe what’s typical for their pet so they can easily identify changes.

 

If you notice your dog drooling more than normal, it is important that you talk with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

 

Here are some potential causes of excessive drooling in dogs so you can have a more informed discussion during your vet visit. 

 

Anticipation and Stress Can Result in Excessive Drooling

 

Anticipation can be triggered by both positive and negative things. For example, you’ve probably seen your dog drool a little more than usual when it’s time for dinner or if they think you might share some tasty food with them.

 

“Some dogs may drool if they see a treat or maybe when you are opening up a can of food,” Lopez says. “The body is preparing to eat and is increasing the salivation level.”

 

You might also notice excessive salivation as the result of anxiety caused by visits to the vet, a car ride or even moving to a new home, says Dr. Lubold. Dogs may drool during a car ride due to stress and/or motion sickness.

 

“Stress can be a powerful reason for dogs to salivate,” Dr. Lubold says. “Often it is accompanied by other signs of anxiety, such as restlessness, panting or even diarrhea.”

 

Pain-Induced Drooling

 

“Oral pain or pain in the abdomen often leads to nausea, panting, vomiting and drooling,” says Dr. Lubold.

 

Abdominal pain often appears together with other signs, such as restlessness, diarrhea, loss of appetite or even abdominal distention. Some dogs will brace, or “guard,” their abdomen to avoid being touched where it hurts.

 

If you suspect the drooling is caused by periodontal disease or other oral problems such as a tumor or infection, Dr. Lubold recommends looking for signs such as a mass, blood, pus or a foul odor coming from the mouth.  

 

Eating Dangerous Plants Can Cause Drooling in Dogs

 

Many plants are irritating or poisonous to dogs when chewed on or eaten and can cause anything from drooling to life-threatening side effects. While there are literally thousands of potentially poisonous plants, Dr. Lopez says some are more likely to be found in households everywhere. 

 

“One type of plant that can cause drooling in pets are those that contain calcium oxalate crystals, such as peace lilies and mother-in-law’s tongue,” explains Dr. Lopez. “When the plant is bitten, the crystals inside cause irritation of the oral cavity, mouth, tongue and lips.”

 

While Dr. Lopez says these types of plants are not life-threatening to dogs, they will make them very uncomfortable if ingested. “Dogs will drool excessively and sometimes paw at their mouth,” says Dr. Lopez.

 

Furthermore, Dr. Lubold says, “If a plant is toxic enough to be the cause of excessive salivation, it likely also has other serious effects, and a veterinarian should always be consulted.”

 

You can also call a poison hotline, such as ASPCA Poison Control or the Pet Poison Hotline; it’s helpful if you can tell them the name of the plant your pet ate.

 

Neurological Conditions Will Cause Drooling

 

Dog drooling could indicate damage to the nerve that connects to the salivary gland, damage to the salivary gland or damage to the brain, says Dr. Lopez. “Other signs, like uneven pupils, lethargy and weakness may accompany this,” Dr. Lopez adds. 

 

Some neurological conditions can also cause too much saliva production or even make it difficult for your dog to swallow the saliva produced, says Dr. Lubold.

 

If you notice that your dog has difficulty swallowing, talk to your vet right away.  

 

Oral Injuries Can Lead to Excessive Dog Drooling

 

Injuries to the mouth are a common cause of excess drooling. Blunt force trauma, chewing on a sharp object, or foreign material that’s lodged in the mouth may all be to blame.

 

Dr. Lubold adds, “Many caustic chemicals (such as battery acid) and any electrical burn (like chewing an electrical cord) can cause bleeding and sometimes drooling. Many times, these injuries or chemicals can also cause other health problems, and seeking veterinary care right away can limit the extent of the injuries or toxins.” 

 

Chemical burns are often accompanied by pain and lesions, and your pet may paw at his mouth, says Dr. Lopez. If you notice any of these, call your vet right away, even if you can’t tell what caused the irritation.   

 

By: Diana Bocco

 

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Pet-Safe Indoor Plants

Pet-Safe Indoor Plants

By Dr. Karen Becker

If you’re like a lot of pet parents, you’d love to fill your home with greenery, but are unsure which indoor plants are safe for dogs and cats. Whereas some pets are utterly uninterested in sampling houseplants, others — especially cats — can’t resist a nibble or even a mouthful, so your concern is warranted.

Actually, if you have cats that like to sample your houseplants, I recommend providing them roughage that is more palatable and safer than houseplants. You can do this in the form of cat grass, which is wheatgrass, or by offering fresh sunflower sprouts.

In addition to adding beauty and color to your home, plants improve the air quality as well by removing toxins like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene from the air you and your family (including pets) breathe. These toxic compounds are released into the air each time you use chemical-based products inside your home.

Plants also increase the level of health-inducing oxygen in homes by absorbing the carbon dioxide exhaled into the air by both humans and pets and replacing it with oxygen.

“Oxygen is critical for good brain and muscle function,” veterinarian Dr. Cathy Alinovi tells PetMD. “Therefore, stagnant air can lead to tiredness and brain dizziness, and can even affect heart function. The good news is, safe indoor plants help clean the air and increase oxygen concentration while decreasing waste products.”1

The following is a list provided by PetMD of a few plants that are safe for cats and dogs:2

Perennials Herbs Succulents Palms Ferns
African Violet Basil Blue Echeveria Areca Palm Boston Fern
Aluminum Plant Cilantro Christmas Cactus Dwarf Palm
Bamboo Dill Haworthia
Friendship Plant Lemon Balm Hens and Chicks
Spider Ivy Rosemary
Swedish Ivy Sage

For an extremely comprehensive list of both safe and unsafe plants, visit the ASPCA’s “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Dogs” and “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Cats.” The lists are in alphabetical order, and each entry links to a picture of the plant.

 

Boost your dog’s immunity with acupressure

By: Amy Snow as seen in Animal Wellness 2013

 

These four acupressure points are powerful allies for making sure your dog’s immunity is up to the job of protecting him from illness.

Your dog’s immunity is everything. His health depends on how well it protects him from all sorts of pathogens and toxins lurking in the environment, in food, and even in your house. Any breakdown in this system means his health can easily be compromised.

The immune system has a huge job to do. Your dog is constantly being bombarded with allergens and toxins from plants, bugs, fertilizers, and household chemicals. Trips to the dog park or doggie daycare expose him to bacterial and viral pathogens. When his immune system is strong – great, no problem, he stays healthy. In fact, a moderate level of daily exposure to allergy-causing irritants and other pathogens can actually make his immunity stronger. Your dog’s natural resistance builds when challenged by exposure to pathogens.

Health issues arise when the dog’s body is not able to resist pathogens because his immunity is weak. Allergies, respiratory problems, digestive issues, inflammation, and other immuno-mediated diseases are all due to a compromised immune system, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

TCM is all about the immune system

In TCM, every health issue goes back to the body’s ability to resist external pathogens and maintain internal balance. The key word here is “balance”. Health is maintained when chi (also seen as qi), the essential life-promoting force, fl ows in a harmoniously balanced fashion throughout the body. Any disruption to the smooth and balanced flow of both chi and blood interrupts the balance of the body.

When there’s an imbalance of chi and blood, the health of the animal is compromised. Chi is unable to vitalize the body, and blood can’t moisten and nourish it. This, in turn, leads to an inability of the internal organs to function properly. A domino effect occurs in which the immune system becomes weakened and your dog becomes vulnerable to pathogens.

Chinese medicine practitioners focus on restoring and supporting a balanced, harmonious flow of chi and blood. Chi and blood flow along energetic pathways, or meridians, throughout the dog’s body. Along these meridians are pools of energy called “acupoints”. We can influence the fl ow of chi and blood by stimulating specific acupoints.

Left: The Thumb Technique works best on larger dogs and on the trunks and necks of medium-sized dogs. Gently place the soft tip of your thumb on the acupoint, count to 20 very slowly, then move to the next point.


Right: The Two-Finger Technique is a good choice when working on small dogs or the lower extremities on medium to large dogs. Place your middle finger on top of your index finger to create a little tent; lightly put the soft tip of your index finger on the acupoint and slowly count to 20.

For instance, the Lung is responsible for creating and dispersing Protective or Defensive chi, also called Wei chi. Protective chi is immune system chi and defends the dog from external pathogens, such as Cold or Heat, that can enter the body and disrupt the balanced flow of chi and blood. We can select certain acupoints, known after thousands of years of clinical observation, that enhance the Lung’s capacity to perform its role in strengthening immunity.

Immune strengthening acupressure session

The only difference between acupressure and acupuncture is that in acupressure you don’t use needles to stimulate acupoints; you can use your thumb or index finger. By following the accompanying acupressure chart for Immune System Strengthening, you can support your dog’s health, help him maintain a balanced flow of chi and blood, and benefit his immune system.

Each of the four acupoints selected for this session are commonly used to boost immunity. Remember to stimulate these points on both sides of your dog’s body.

1. Lung 7 (Lu 7), Lie Que, Broken Sequence – Regulates and supports Lung function, enhancing Protective Wei chi in benefiting the immune system.

2. Large Intestine 4 (LI 4), He Gu, Adjoining Valley – This point is known to directly boost the function of Protective chi.

3. Large Intestine 11 (LI 11), Qu Chi, Pond in the Curve – LI 11 has many energetic properties; one is to benefit immunostimulation by energetically building Protective Wei chi while also clearing the Lungs of excess fluids.

4. Stomach 36 (St 36), Zu San Li, Leg Three Miles – St 36 also has a tremendous number of properties and is the goto acupoint for metabolic issues as well as enhancing Lung function and Protective chi.

These four acupoints are powerful allies for making sure your dog’s immune system is up to the job of protecting him from illness. Regular acupressure sessions, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, mean you can relax and enjoy yourself when you’re out and about with your dog, because you know his body is strong and healthy.

 

How to treat hot spots on dogs

By: Animal Wellness

Hot spots bugging your dog? Here’s how to identify these irritating lesions and heal them as quickly as possible.

Canines with allergies, sensitivities or skin irritations are prone to developing hot spots. Excessive paw licking is the first sign of a developing hot spot, and the infection can quickly worsen if your dog continuously aggravates the area.  Luckily, there are a number of natural remedies available. But before you reach for a solution, let’s take a closer look at hot spots so you can identify whether your pet has one. Remember – the earlier you start the healing process, the better!

What causes hot spots in dogs?

Your dog will generally feel immediate relief from hot spots when gentle topical solutions are used. But first, it’s important to note that hot spots have an underlying cause — which, if not addressed, will result in additional problems.  Causes may include:

·         Skin fungal condition

·         Allergy to flea or tick bites

·         Skin disease

·         Dietary intolerance

·         Food allergy/sensitivity

·         Environmental allergy/sensitivity

Treating hot spots

You’ve identified the cause of your dog’s hot spot. Now it’s time to treat it. Your first step should be to heal him from the inside out with a healthy, high-quality diet. An allergy test can help you determine which ingredients are best for your pooch. Next, remove anything in his immediate environment that might be irritating his skin. Rule out causes of allergies such as fleas, dust mites, mold, or chemical-based cleaning products.

Once you’ve removed the underlying problem, reach for a non-toxic solution formulated for pets. Antibacterial and anti-fungal products like Banixx Pet Care are designed to help your dog make a speedy recovery from hot spots, regardless of the cause. This steroid-free, sting-free solution does not contain alcohol, and won’t harm the healthy tissue surrounding your dog’s hot spot. Simply apply twice a day to the affected area (disposable gloves are good for this), and take your dog on a short walk to allow the formula time to work its magic.

If your dog’s hot spots persist despite home treatment, seek help from your veterinarian

 

Dementia Symptoms Increasing in Older Dogs

Written by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Not many years ago, people with aging dogs focused only on keeping their pets healthy from the neck down, forgetting that such issues as weight control, possible arthritis and major organ support only go so far if their dog’s brain health is overlooked. Including your dog’s brain health in the overall picture is even more important as they get older, especially since more and more reports are emerging that show a “startling” number of older dogs starting to show signs of dementia.

According to veterinarian Melissa Bain, professor of Clinical Animal Behavior at UC Davis, canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD, usually starts when the animals reach 9 or 10 years of age, and there are five typical signs that point to a dog’s cognitive decline:

  • Loss of house training or other previously acquired knowledge
  • Changes in sleep habits and reversed sleep cycles, e.g. sleeping all day
  • Failure to recognize their owners or other pets in the household
  • Anxiety in the form of excess panting, shivering, moaning and/or nervousness
  • A decrease in purposeful activity

Dog owners should also know about other signs to watch for. Witnessing certain behaviors may help you recognize something is happening with your dog’s cognitive abilities, especially if you’ve never seen them before. Examples that may indicate CCD, otherwise known as geriatric dementia, include:

  • Getting lost in the house
  • Getting stuck behind furniture
  • Becoming overly aggressive

Vetstreet1 notes other signs that indicate something might be wrong; such as noticing your dog staring at walls for long periods of time, repetitive behaviors like walking in a circle or pacing, changes in hearing and vision, and/or vocalizing at inappropriate times. My ancient Boston terrier, Rosco (over 18 years old in this picture), would often get “stuck” in the narrow space between the toilet and the wall and was unable to navigate himself out without assistance, a common sign of CCD in older dogs.

One of my friends has a 14 year old golden retriever who is just beginning to show signs of geriatric dementia.  He normally doesn’t leave her side—no need for a leash but just recently he wondered down the drive way and started walking down the sidewalk seemingly confused.  She called him and asked where he was going.  He seemed to come out of a fog, looked at her and realized he was leaving the yard then came back to her.  This is an example of the type of behavior you can experience when your dog begins geriatric dementia.

What Causes Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Helping your companion animals maintain bright, strong brain function throughout their senior years is even more important as you start noticing changes. If changes look as if they’re a mental or behavioral problem, it may actually be physical. Three main signs of age-related changes in dogs that cause gradual impairment stem from three main contributors:

  • Oxidative stress from free radical damage is physiological and impacts your dog’s brain tissue more than any other parts of their body, and can be evidenced both by decreased cognitive function as well as nerve disease, similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
  • The formation of lesions on the brain may include nerve-damaging beta amyloid deposits, proteins that form “senile plaque” buildup that interferes with the transmission of brain signals.
  • Alterations in brain metabolism can diminish due to decreased availability of oxygen and energy, at least in part due to environmental stressors, including your dog’s diet.

Although human and canine brains are significantly different, they have remarkably striking similarities both anatomically and physiologically, and the way the diseases manifest themselves appear “almost identical,” Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital explains further:

“More, dogs’ brains react to dementia treatments exactly as human brains do, making them ideal human dementia testbeds. As with human dementia, causes of CCD are not well known.

But accumulations of sticky proteins called beta-amyloid plaques around neurons, and the breakdown of neurons resulting in so-called neurofibrillary tangles, are considered leading causes. As in humans, both phenomena impact the brain by interrupting nerve impulse transmission.”2

Studies estimate that more than 60 percent of dogs between age 15 and 16 can show at least one symptom of CCD, but according to Bain, one reason more dogs have been showing signs of mental aging in recent years is simply because dogs are living longer due to advances in veterinary medicine.3

 

Danish Study: ‘Support’ Is Key for Dogs With CCD

A Danish study during which 94 dogs 8 years of age were investigated with a CCD questionnaire and observational sleep studies, subsequently published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, notes that vitamin E was investigated as a potential marker of CCD. The researchers reported:

“Four key clinical signs dominated in dogs with CCD: sleeping during the day and restless at night, decreased interaction, disorientation at home, and anxiety … CCD did not influence survival negatively. Small breeds did not show better survival than large breeds and there was no difference between sexes.

A few key questions addressing sleep-wake cycle, interaction, and signs of confusion and anxiety can be used as a clinical marker of CCD. Special attention should be paid to anxiety in dogs with CCD because it may be especially stressful to both dog and owner. Dogs with CCD seem to have a good chance of living a full lifespan if supported by the veterinarian and the owner.”4

Significantly, most veterinarians are becoming more aware of CCD and asking questions earlier rather than later in the lives of the dogs they treat, but some experts maintain that as many as 80 percent of older dogs have CCD that is both unrecognized and undiagnosed.5

How a Dog’s Diet Influences His or Her Health, Including Cognitive Health

Rather than assuming it’s an age-related cognitive issue, investigating the underlying cause of what appears to be CCD with the help of a professional veterinarian is important, especially if the dog in question is young, such as 5 or 6 years old.

To view the overall picture of your dog’s health, Bain says taking a look at their diet may be a significant key. I couldn’t agree more. She also notes, “There could be anything from hypothyroidism to urinary tract infections to blindness to deafness that all can mimic the signs of canine cognitive dysfunction.”6

These and other physical problems can be addressed to the greatest degree by providing a balanced, fresh food diet that includes “brain food” coming from omega-3 fatty acids, such as krill oil, MCTs coming from coconut oil and plenty of food-based antioxidants (only found in fresh fruits and vegetables), which are crucial for cognitive health.

You may also be surprised to learn that aging dogs require more rather than less protein, but it should come from quality sources and include a variety of living, whole, easily-digestible, moisture-rich fresh meats that are suitable for a carnivore. Animal meat should be the foundation of your healthy dog’s diet throughout his life.

In some cases, a species-appropriate diet for your dog is also about what should be eliminated. Unfortunately, many commercial dog foods are loaded with processed ingredients, such as refined carbohydrates that turn to sugar.

Also, eliminate grains, potatoes and legumes in your aging dog’s diet and pay attention to the amount of fiber your dog consumes, as it’s often just unnecessary filler, displacing crucial meat-based protein your aging dog requires. Additionally, the byproducts of high heat processing, known as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, negatively impact the aging process and may play into premature cognitive decline.7

Needless to say, exercise and lots of time outside is also important for dogs of any age. It not only keeps their blood pumping, but keeps them limber and enhances detoxification. Additionally, one of the most important aspects of maintaining cognitive health in aging humans is social interaction, but it’s also true for dogs.

Exposure to other humans besides his or her immediate family is helpful, and being around other animals is beneficial for them, as well. Continuing mentally engaging exercises on a daily basis is also important, including fun nose work games and treat release puzzles.

One of the most important things for dog owners to do is work with an integrative or functional medicine veterinarian early on in the disease process. I was able to manage my dog’s age-related dementia very well because I addressed it immediately, as soon as symptoms became noticeable.

Proactive vets have been using nootropic supplements for pets (used to enhance memory and brain health) for years, including specific B vitamins, rhodiola, phosphatidylserine, lion’s mane mushroom and a variety of specific brain-supportive herbs.

 

Horse Body Condition

Horse Body Condition

As seen in Equus Extra

 

When you see your horse every day, slow, subtle fluctuations in weight can be easy to miss, especially under a winter coat or blanket. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your horse’s body condition so you can catch developing changes earlier.

One of the most objective ways to evaluate a horse’s weight, short of walking him onto a scale in a veterinary hospital, is to learn to determine his body condition score (BCS), a method of ranking body fat on a scale from 1 (poor) to 9 (extremely fat) developed in 1983 by Don Henneke, PhD.

When horses develop fat, they tend to store it in distinct places just under the skin where it can be easily seen and felt. And they lay fat in certain parts of the body in a particular order—first over the heart and the ribs, then over the rump and back, forward to the withers, and last over the neck. As a result, the specific location of stored fat can tell you how overweight the horse is.

If your horse has a “weight problem” —whether he needs to lose or gain—his feed ration will obviously be central to the solution. An overweight horse needs to consume fewer calories and/or exercise more. But simply cutting back on your horse’s regular feed is not a good idea if it means you’ll be shortchanging his nutrition. Instead, consider switching to a lower-calorie feed meant for easy keepers. Ration balancer products can help ensure  your horse gets all of the vitamins and minerals he needs if you need to  reduce or eliminate his concentrates.

So what’s your horse’s body condition score?

score: 1 (Poor) • Extreme emaciation. • Spinous processes, ribs, tailhead, and hooks and pins are prominent. • Bone structure of withers, shoulder and neck is easily noticeable. • No fatty tissue can be felt.

score: 2 (Very thin) • Emaciated. • Thin layer of fat over base of spinous processes. • Transverse0 processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded. • Spinous processes, ribs, tailhead, and hooks and pins are prominent. • Withers, shoulders and neck structures are faintly discernible.

score: 3 (thin) • Fat about halfway up spinous processes; transverse processes cannot be felt. • Thin fat layer over ribs. • Spinous processes and ribs are easily discernible. • Tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be visually identified. • Hook bones appear rounded but not easily discernible. • Pin bones not distinguishable. • Withers, shoulders and neck  are accentuated.

score: 4  (Moderately thin) • Ridge along back. • Faint outline of ribs discernible. • Tailhead prominence depends on conformation; fat can be felt around it. • Hook bones not discernible. • Withers, shoulders and neck are not obviously thin.

score: 5 (Moderate) • Back is level. • Ribs cannot be visually distinguished but can be easily felt. • Fat around tailhead beginning    to feel spongy. • Withers appear rounded over    spinous processes. • Shoulders and neck blend     smoothly into body.

score: 6  (Moderate to fleshy) • May have slight crease down back. • Fat over ribs feels soft and spongy. • Fat around tailhead feels soft. • Fat beginning to be deposited along sides of the withers, behind the shoulders and along the sides of the neck.

score: 7 (Fleshy) • May have crease down back. • Individual ribs can be felt, with noticeable filling between ribs with fat. • Fat around tailhead is soft. • Fat deposited along withers, behind shoulders, along neck

score: 8 (Fat) • Crease down back. • Difficult to feel ribs. • Fat around tailhead very soft. • Area along withers filled with fat. • Area behind shoulder filled in. • Noticeable thickening of neck. • Fat deposited along inner buttocks.

score: 9  (extremely fat) • Obvious crease down back. • Patchy fat appearing over ribs. • Bulging fat around tailhead, along withers, behind shoulders and along neck. • Fat along inner buttocks may rub together. • Flank filled in flush.

Dogs with Compulsive Disorders

By Dr. Karen Becker

Dogs with compulsive disorders are relatively common, and unfortunately, this is due in large part to modern-day lifestyles. As much as we love our four-legged family members and try to provide for all their needs, most of us aren’t in a position to allow them to live according to their true canine natures. If they could make their own choices, our dogs would be extremely active, spending lots and lots of time outdoors.

Canine Compulsive Disorder

Canine compulsive disorder (CCD), also called compulsive behavior disorder, is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in humans. People with OCD perform repetitive activities (e.g., washing their hands over and over) and can’t seem to control the behavior.

Compulsive behavior disorder in dogs is also characterized by the repetitive performance of behaviors that serve no purpose. These behaviors include tail chasing or spinning, excessive licking or self-mutilation, flank sucking, chasing lights or shadows, fly snapping and chasing after or pouncing on invisible prey.

CCD shouldn’t be confused with similar repetitive behaviors some healthy, well-balanced dogs perform. For example, herding dogs and other working breeds evolved to do jobs that require the same behavior over and over again. Many retrievers will fetch the ball from sunrise to sunset; other dogs spin in happy circles when they’re excited.

There are also dogs who fixate on smaller animals such as lizards or birds, or inanimate objects like rocks or golf balls. Bored dogs also tend to develop habits that might seem compulsive, such as running along the fence in the front or backyard, or gently licking and chewing a particular paw.

As with humans with OCD, the favored behavior of dogs with CCD can take them over to the point that it interferes with normal daily activities like mealtime and playing. It can also be difficult to interrupt the compulsive behavior once the dog begins performing it.

Research Compares CCD in Dogs and OCD in People

Two of the most common repetitive behaviors in dogs are obsessive licking which results in acral lick dermatitis (ALD), also known as a lick granuloma, and tail chasing. A 2012 Finnish study suggests that dogs exhibiting indicators like tail chasing, air biting (fly snapping), obsessive pacing, trance-like freezing, or licking or biting their own flanks do indeed have a disorder similar to OCD in humans.1 A number of features of tail-chasing dogs are similar to obsessive-compulsive humans, including:

  • People with OCD and tail-chasing dogs begin acting out their behaviors at a young age
  • Both are inclined to engage in more than one compulsive activity
  • Nutritional supplements (vitamins and minerals) are beneficial in reducing the behaviors in both people and dogs
  • OCD is linked to childhood trauma and stress; tail chasing is seen more often in dogs who were separated too early from their mothers
  • Certain people with OCD are on the shy, inhibited side, and this tendency is also seen in tail-chasing dogs

In addition to these similarities, a team of researchers including veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, professor emeritus at Tufts University and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, performed MRI scans on a group of Doberman Pinschers (a breed predisposed to repetitive behaviors), half with acral licking and half without.2

“When we scanned the Dobermans with acral licking, we found they had sophisticated, minute details in the brain that are also found in humans suffering from OCD,” Dodman told veterinary journal dvm360. “The changes were, if not identical, compellingly similar.”3

The Doberman study also revealed a genetic component to CCD. “We … found a gene called CDH2, otherwise known as neural cadherin (NCAD), expressed most significantly in dogs with the compulsive problem,” explains Dodman. Following Dodman’s study, psychiatrists in South Africa discovered that the same deformation of CDH2 was found in humans with OCD.4

Important Considerations for Dogs With Compulsive Behaviors

If you suspect your dog is developing a compulsive disorder, I strongly encourage you to take her to your veterinarian for a wellness exam to ensure the source of the repetitive behavior is indeed behavioral and not an underlying physical condition that needs to be identified and addressed.

The sooner strange behavior stemming from CCD (and diseases causing behaviors that mimic CCD) is addressed, the sooner you can intervene and help. For example, there are lots of reasons dogs lick certain areas of their bodies, many of which can involve allergies and/or skin disorders. It’s important to rule out a problem that actually started in the body rather than CCD, which starts in the head. Other steps you can take to help a dog with CCD:

  • Feed a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet that provides everything your dog needs and nothing she doesn’t (e.g., dyes, preservatives, artificial flavors, synthetic nutrients).
  • Ensure she’s getting daily (and sometimes twice a day, depending on the dog), consistent, rigorous exercise that promotes good muscle tone and body weight, and provides for a strong and resilient musculoskeletal system and organ systems. Exercise releases “feel good” hormones dogs benefit from on a daily basis.
  • Find a hobby or “job” she really enjoys (my personal favorite is K9 nose work).
  • Limit exposure to EMFs in your home by turning off the wireless router at night and providing a grounding pad.
  • Ensure your dog’s immune system is balanced and optimally functional and titer test, in lieu of potentially over-vaccinating.

Most dogs today aren’t nearly as physically active as they’re designed to be. It can be a challenge to tire out a big or high-energy pet, especially a working or sporting breed. If your dog is performing compulsive behaviors, try increasing her exercise. Some suggestions:

Walking or hiking Jogging
Swimming Obedience or nose work events
Playing fetch or tug-of-war Flyball
Biking with a special dog bike leash Agility or other canine sports

I also recommend helping your dog stay mentally stimulated with chews and treat-release toys. In my experience, there are very few extremely healthy, physically active dogs with intractable compulsive disorders, so I can’t overstate the importance of helping your dog be as healthy and active as possible.

Additional Recommendations

Dogs with compulsive disorders tend to be more anxious and high strung than other dogs. An anxious nature may be inherited, but studies suggest environment also plays a role in triggering the expression of a compulsive behavior. Dr. Dodman makes the point that environmental enrichment by itself probably won’t resolve a compulsive disorder, but a stress-free, enriched environment can prevent CCD in the first place and make relapse less likely after a dog has been successfully treated.5

Veterinarians often treat dogs with CCD with drugs that block opioid receptors, but needless to say, I’m not in favor of jumping immediately to pharmaceuticals to treat this condition. They are sometimes appropriate in extreme, intractable cases (for example, a dog headed for the shelter) or when an animal is causing harm to himself.

They can also be beneficial as an interim measure to interrupt the cycle of behavior at the same time other less harmful remedies are being attempted. But my general recommendation is to try behavior modification along with a wide variety of natural remedies first, since every drug has side effects.

In a recent post in the Whole Dog Journal, professional trainer Mardi Richmond discusses additional treatment strategies such as avoiding known triggers, interrupting and redirecting the compulsive behavior, teaching an alternative response, and creating a structured daily routine (to reduce stress).

It’s also important not to try to prevent a dog from performing a repetitive behavior with physical restraint, because it typically causes more anxiety, not less.