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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Last updated on January 24, 2012

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a behavioural disorder. A pet is diagnosed with OCD when a normal behaviour becomes extremely repetitive, affecting the animal’s well-being. They become so engrossed in their behaviour that they forget to eat, or they make themselves sick. 

Common repetitive behaviors in cats include grooming excessively, sucking on wool, or chase their tails. Dogs are known to lick to the point of causing a wound (lick granuloma), tail-chase until they’re exhausted, and chase shadows and/or light rays. 

OCD not only stresses the pet, but their owner as well. It is usually caused by stress, the environment, emotional conflicts, genetics, and medical conditions that go unnoticed. 

The action, such as the licking, can be triggered by an event, but the longer the action goes on for, the more the pet disassociates the action with the trigger, so the more difficult it is to stop the behviour.

The environment may play a role if the pet experiences excessive confinement, not enough physical and mental stimulation, and no contact with other pets in their same species. Also, stress results from exposing a pet to an unfamiliar environment for a prolonged period of time without properly acclimatizing the pet to the space. 

In emotional conflicts, the pet is forced to choose between two behaviours that both have a negative outcome, so the pet resorts to the displacement behaviour instead, such as licking. 

Genetically, Dobermans may develop a condition called flank sucking, where they suck on a fold of skin. German shepherds and bull terriers are known to tail-chase. Herding breeds, such as the Belgian Malinois and border collie tend to chase light rays and/or shadows. In cats, wool sucking is popular amongst Siamese and Oriental breeds. 

Medical conditions, such as spinal and neurologic diseases may trigger OCD because of the changes in sensation in the animal’s limbs. 

Owners who are open to helping their pet’s can successfully manage their behaviour. It is important to note that punishment never works and can worsen the situation.