Canine Compulsive Disorder
CCD is a mental health disorder that is characterized "by the excessive performance of repetitive behaviors that don't serve any apparent purpose."(Dr. Summerfield, Whole Dog Journal) These behaviors include spinning, tail chasing, licking, chasing lights, fly snapping and a bunch of others. CCD is comparable to OCD in humans.
Some repetitive non functional behaviors such as spinning in circles when excited or retrieving the ball for as long as you can throw it are considered benign for CCD but it crosses a line if it begins to interfere with normal activities like drinking or eating.
My dog Molly has CCD. She repeatedly fly snaps, even when there are no flies around her.
According to the vet, studies have shown that abnormal repetitive behaviors are associated with abnormalities in a particular area of the brain. These areas are called the "cortico-striatal-thalamic-cortical (CSTC) loop. Basically it means that the circuits are out of balance and creates a loop effect of the behavior and the animal has a hard time stopping it.
The cause of CCD is still being researched, because the brain is incredibly complex. There are a few theories:
1. Genetics: There are a few breeds that have a higher risk than others.
Dobermans, Bull terriers and border collies all seem to have some sort of compulsive behaviors that fall into the abnormal range.
2. Response to Stress: Dogs that live in a situation for long periods of time that don't allow them to express normal behaviors can develop abnormal behaviors.
3. Response to Arousal or Frustration
Dogs who become light obsessed after playing with laser pointers fall into this category. The theory is that the dog cannot complete the predator-prey sequence so they become frustrated and continually search for the light.
4. Medical Problems
Sometimes there are underlying med. conditions or problems causing these behaviors. Some dogs might spin or chase their tail in response to anal gland problems, pinched nerves or spinal problems. Dogs who lick or chew may have allergies, skin infections or discomfort. Fly snapping can be neurologic, with a variety of possible underlying causes such as brain tumors, seizure disorders or hydrocephalus (build up of fluid in the brain cavities).
So what do you if your dog has signs of CCD or has been diagnosed?
Always consult with your vet when it comes to your dog.
The vet may suggest diagnostic testing or imaging studies. Trail courses of steroid or pain meds might be used or they may suggest behavior modification training.
There may be a dog's treatment plan that involves: 1.Avoiding known triggers, redirection, or teaching an alternative response.
Most trainers that I have spoken with have suggested a daily routine along with increased exercise and more mental stimulation.
Consult with your vet if you think your dog has CCD and know that recovery is doable with hard work and perseverance.