Does your dog engage excessively in repetitive behaviors? Does she hoard toys? She may be suffering from canine compulsive disorder (CCD), the dog equivalent of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in humans. Scientists already knew that OCD and CCD sufferers had similar behaviors (think compulsive paw licking in dogs and excessive hand washing in humans) and respond to the same medications, according to an article by Christine Dell’Amore at nationalgeographic.com.
New research also shows that dogs with CCD show “similar structural brain abnormalities as those found in people diagnosed with OCD,” according to an article by HealthDay Reporter Alan Mozes. About 2 percent of people in the U.S. have OCD. Only about half of them currently respond well to treatment options, which include medications and cognitive behavior therapy, according to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian with the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and co-author of the new study. Research with dogs may help find better treatments for both them and humans.
Comparing dogs without CCD, the Tufts researchers showed “higher total brain and gray matter volume among the CCD dogs, as well as lower gray matter density in particular brain regions,” the article reported. The researchers compared these abnormalities with those already seen in human OCD patients, and Dodman said that the brain changes were “precisely identical.”
By doing brain scans of dogs, the scientists have gotten a better picture of the mechanics of CCD, which offers a window into the physiology of OCD. Doberman Pinschers were used in the Tufts study, as well as in a study at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, which was cited in Dell’Amore’s article. According to the Purdue lead researcher, Niwako Ogata, about 28 percent of U.S. Dobermans have a genetic basis for CCD.
The evidence that the brain abnormalities are the same in canines and humans will add to the body of knowledge that may bring relief to thousands of sufferers as better treatments can be developed.
If you suspect your dog has CCD, animal behaviorist Jill Goldman offers tips for handling it, in Dell’Amore’s article. Don’t reinforce the behavior, she says. It may look funny to see your dog chasing its tail, but you have to remember the dog’s behavior is based on anxiety. Don’t encourage it. Instead, try distracting him or her. The same technique can discourage excessive licking. And by all means, reduce stress.
The research findings further show how much we have in common with our canine companions. Read our earlier blog about parallels in the dog and human genome.