Why does my dog chase its tail?

Sunday, January 12, 2003

By Dr. John Koch

Question: My dog has this terrible habit of chasing its tail. Sometimes he will chase it for several minutes. Is there anything I can do to stop this?

Answer: Tail chasing is an example of a syndrome known as canine compulsive disorder. Canine compulsive disorder is an anxiety problem seen in approximately 2 percent of dogs. In dogs, other symptoms might include snapping in the air, excessive licking or sucking on the hair coat, licking the air, monotonous barking or any other quirky repetitive behavior. This condition appears to be similar in many respects to a syndrome seen in humans with the same name.

CCD is present being studied at Purdue University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Researchers at Purdue are using various imaging techniques to compare the problem in dogs with what is already known about the same condition in humans. If the two problems are closely comparable, then medications known to be effective in humans may offer hope in the treatment of canines as well.

At the present time, a medication used in humans and categorized as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor is also being researched and shows promise of treatment. Until more is known about the condition, we can at least be thankful that, although annoying, CCD is not a serious health threat.

Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau area veterinarian.

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