Environmental effects on compulsive tail chasing in dogs

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Abstract

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder observed both in humans and animals. Examples of Canine Compulsive Disorder (CD) include excessive tail chasing (TC), light/shadow chasing and flank sucking. We performed a questionnaire survey to investigate the characteristics of compulsive (TC) and its possible associations with environmental correlates and personality in a pet population of 368 dogs from four dog breeds. We observed an early onset of TC at 3-6 months of age and a large variation in TC frequency in all breeds, with an overrepresentation of milder cases. Almost half of the TC dogs showed lowered responsiveness during bouts and displayed also other types of compulsions more often than the controls. Interestingly, dogs that received dietary supplements, especially vitamins and minerals, expressed less TC compared to dogs that did not receive any supplements. Neutered females had less TC, suggesting an influence of ovarian hormones on TC. Tail chasers were shyer and had separated earlier from their mothers than the controls. Finally, our genetic study did not find an association between TC and CDH2, a locus previously associated with the canine flank sucking compulsion. In conclusion, the early-onset and the variable nature of the repetitive behaviour, which is affected by environmental factors such as micronutrients, neutering and maternal care, share several similar components between canine and human compulsions and supports canine TC as a model for human OCD. © 2012 Tiira et al.

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Tiira, K., Hakosalo, O., Kareinen, L., Thomas, A., Hielm-Björkman, A., Escriou, C., … Lohi, H. (2012). Environmental effects on compulsive tail chasing in dogs. PLoS ONE, 7(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0041684

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