Greyt Inspirations Life

A little about our life, our business and our pets.

Tail chasing and other compulsions

How many of you have happily watched your puppy chase his tail in circles?  I have to admit that it always makes me laugh when one of my dogs does this.  I can’t believe how long a puppy can spin himself in circles trying to catch his tail.  Even some juvenile dogs will occasionally do “spin the tail on the dog.”  It always make me wonder if dogs get dizzy like people do.  I know when I was a kid sometimes I would stand outside and spin in circles until I got dizzy just for the fun ot it.  (Is that weird?)  It was always especially fun to do that when the wind was blowing or a storm was coming.  I’d spin until I fell down laughing.  Is that what a puppy’s doing?  I would get dizzy but it was what we call “self-limiting.”  After you get to a certain point you can’t physically do it anymore.





Most puppies outgrow the tail-chasing stage.  After they discover they have a tail (“Hey!  What’s that?  Let’s chase it!”) they usually forget about their tail unless they have an itch or when they’re wagging it and it thumps something.  But there are dogs who become obsessed with chasing their tail. There are dogs who can develop obsessions about different things, whether it’s chasing their tails, chewing themselves, fetching a ball, carrying a favorite toy around, chasing flies, and so on.


There’s a new study out that says that high cholesterol may be a marker for these problems.  If I’m reading the story correctly, that doesn’t mean that high cholesterol causes these obsessions, but that if you find high cholesterol in your dog’s blood work it would be a tip off that you’re dealing with this kind of problem.  The two things — obsessions (obsessive compulsive disorders, panic attacks and other behavioral problems) often go hand in hand with tail-chasing in dogs.


According to a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Small Animal Practice:


The finding adds to a growing body of evidence — mostly from studies on humans — that high cholesterol may be a marker for behavioral problems such as panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder, which could be expressed by frequent tail-chasing falls in dogs.


Bouts of tail-chasing can also occur after a dog experiences physical trauma, surgery or illness, noted Hasan Batmaz, a member of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Turkey’s University of Uludag, who conducted the study along with a team of colleagues.


Certain breeds, such as bull terriers and German shepherds, seem to chase their tails more often than others.


I have no idea why there would be a connection between high cholesterol and these behaviors.  I didn’t even know that when you had your dog’s blood work done they looked at the cholesterol count, so this is all new to me.  But it sounds promising.  If cholesterol can be controlled in dogs as it is in humans, perhaps these obsessive behaviors can be controlled, too?


I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a dog with a compulsive behavior problem.  I did foster a Golden Retriever/Irish Setter cross one time and he was fairly compulsive about wanting me to throw balls and things for him to retrieve.  I think he was feeling some anxiety because he was being shuffled from home to home before he went to his permanent home.  He would make me throw balls for him for 2-3 hours and he never seemed to wear out.


I also had a dog one time that had a thyroid problem and a flea bite allergy in the days before we had products like Frontline to control fleas.  No matter how much I bombed my house or how much I sprayed him and the yard, if just one flea bit him he would die itching and chewing his skin.  I think he was very close to being compulsive about scratching and chewing on himself.


It’s hard to be around a dog with a compulsive problem.  Maybe researchers can make some progress now that they have identified cholesterol as a possible marker for compulsive behavior.


March 25, 2009 - Posted by | dogs, Pets | , , ,

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