Seemingly Funny Pet Behaviors May be Caused by Serious Compulsive Disorders
An article in the June 1, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) made an interesting point about a YouTube video.
A popular YouTube clip features a dog growling and biting at a potential threat to its chew bone. The punch line is the threat is actually the dog's own hind limb. To the untrained eye, the clip is hilarious. Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Terry Marie Curtis sees it differently, however.
Sadly, the author of the article was not kind enough to offer a URL that would direct readers to the clip in question. However, I believe I have found it. Click here to watch the video. (Sorry, the user who uploaded the video forbid people to embed it in their blogs.)
The JAVMA article continues.
Dr Curtis, in fact, believes the dog is suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD] on par with the teenager who washes her hands so much they bleed or the adult who stays up through the night repeatedly locking and unlocking the front door.
"People laugh about that clip, but it makes me very sad to see the dog that upset and worried about itself," said Dr. Curtis . . . Animal OCD is a serious welfare issue . . . Compulsive behaviors in animals show themselves in a variety of strange ways. A cursory list includes tail chasing, pacing, excessive grooming, overeating, vocalization, self-directed aggression [such as the behavior in the video clip], staring, and hunting imaginary prey.
In my practice, I often see animals that display these sorts of behaviors. As the article points out, many people don't realize when their pet engages in these sorts of behaviors that the animal may be suffering or unhappy. The people who filmed the video can be heard laughing riotously. To me, the video is depressing. The dog is in distress.
What can be done for pets with OCD? Animal OCD, like the human form, has no cure. But it can be treated. Behavioral modification (the veterinary equivalent of counseling or therapy) is the best place to start.
[B]ehavioral modification involves highly structured interactions, and owner-administered punishment is to be avoided. Environmental changes, such as removing sources of conflict or distress, are also necessary.
Animals with severe OCD may also respond to medications such as Prozac.
Talk to your vet if you suspect that your pet may be suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.