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Bad Dogs May Be Sad Dogs

Researcher studying canine compulsive disorder

MONDAY, Oct. 28, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Is your dog bad to the bone?

It could be he has a condition called canine compulsive disorder. It can cause unexplainable, repetitive behaviors such as tail chasing, snapping at the air, excessive licking, chewing with an empty mouth, and monotonous barking without any change in volume or intonation.

About 2 percent of dogs have canine compulsive disorder, says Andrew Luescher, the director of Purdue University's Animal Behavior Clinic. The disorder can be so severe that it affects the dog's daily living. For example, he says, one dog was so distracted by its own shadow that it stopped drinking water.

Strange behaviors caused by the disorder are often misdiagnosed as neurological problems. The longer the behaviors are allowed to continue, the more difficult treatment can be, Luescher says.

However, punishing your dog for those behaviors caused by canine compulsive disorder isn't the answer. Luescher says this is a stress and anxiety-related disorder and punishment just increases the dog's stress and anxiety and worsens behavior problems.

He's overseeing two research efforts to see whether drug treatments and diagnostic techniques used for humans with obsessive-compulsive disorder can work in dogs.

The first study will evaluate the effectiveness in dogs of a class of drugs called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The second study will examine whether positron emission tomography (PET) can be used to diagnose and evaluate neurophysical brain changes in dogs with the disorder.

More information

Here's where to go to learn more about dog behavior problems.

SOURCE: Purdue University, news release, Oct. 2002; photo courtesy of Purdue University
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