does my dog have OCD, or is he just odd like me?

Comet, dog, compulsive, behavior
There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
- from the collection of Mother Goose nursery rhymes

From anecdotal evidence in personal and family recollections, some now-deceased relatives exhibited behavior associated with depression, phobias, and compulsive behavior. In reading the research and treatment for various disorders on clinical sites like the National Institutes of Health, I am becoming more informed and sympathetic with these conditions in others. Until I read a few articles online (on PTSD, OCD, and phobias), I only suspected canines were susceptible to disorders such as these. But Comet and Dexter both have behavior that is unlikely to be physical in origin (i.e, from pain or thirst). Most evenings, we have been managing the symptoms in our aging dogs with the hope that CBD treats or vet prescribed Gabapetin would help alleviate. We lose sleep occasionally reassuring anxious, compulsive pets.

Anyone who has adopted a shelter or rescue dog, knows that lots of training, encouraging and creating a safe environment are keys to a happy and healthy pet. While some behavior, like Comet’s penchant for getting into kitchen trash is understandable from our conclusion he lived on the street years ago, we took measures to mitigate. Other behavior developed in recent months, such as Comet relieving himself on cold or rainy days within feet of the back door. At least he still goes outdoors. However, it is Comet’s compulsive licking (“slurping” we coin it) of his paws, bedding and floor that is most aggravating. Surmised by the vet at the end of last year to be arthritic pain or overly tender paws, medication has not relieved this compulsion. He has a healthy appetite and nutritious food. Comet has regular access to the outside, frequent walks with Dexter, and regular attention from us, from neighbors and visitors. However, he is often attention-seeking, more than Dexter, especially in the evenings. He has some separation anxiety when we close our bedroom door. (I found that all the dander and licking was working against my allergies and was somewhat relieved overnight by keeping Comet out of the bedroom.)

Dexter has peculiarities that Comet does not share. Every time fireworks are set off by neighbors on Independence Day or New Year’s Eve, while Comet is unmoved, Dexter’s traumatic shaking and clawing to find the deepest, darkest hole to crawl into – inside the house – is very poorly controlled by “calming chews” or pills. That might be a form of PTSD, but I do not understand it well enough. Though I had some hesitation getting behind the wheel of a car following an accident seven or eight years ago, Dexter, who was propelled from back seat to the front as a result of the collision, seemed to recover quickly. On the other hand, he has some OCD with water. Whether it is hot, comfortably warm or cold weather, he will inhale as much water as he can physically hold all throughout the day and into the night. I attribute this compulsion to never having had a “mentor” to teach him how male dogs mark territory. He routinely pees in long bursts; he may think he has to continually drink water to maintain “machismo”.

I have really no idea how to help Comet with depression or OCD other than to treat the symptoms. Have you, my readers, successfully treated anything like this? Now that I am getting well past mid-life, I am much more sympathetic with older dogs and cats. About my peculiarities? After more than 21 years of marriage, my wife deals with them well. Despite the aggravation, she has not put the dogs into the street; I trust she will have the same compassion on me into old age.



    1. Some people ascribe human qualities to dogs, however dogs are complex social animals in their own right. I think domestication (30k + years) bound them to people as their pack. We see how abuse, war, stress, abandonment can be psychologically debilitating on dogs as with people. And yes, sometimes chasing their own tails is just a dog being a dog. Thank you for commenting!


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