OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOURS – #BellLetsTalk
Now that I have your attention, I would like to note that, although it may seem as if I was making light of the situation in the title, these behaviours are serious having an impact on mental and physical health.
Tail chasing, obsessive licking (Henry), and destructive acts (Jack) are common obsessive behaviours in dogs. The licking may result in ‘a lick granuloma’ or ‘ALD’ acral lick dermatitis.
Obsessive behaviors in cats include ‘pica’ (wool-sucking or eating substances other than food), and ‘psychogenic alopecia’ (excessive grooming causing hair loss and baldness).
As is the case with people suffering from OCD, the compulsion is brought on by anxiety. The behaviour provides temporary relief until further obsession over an issue, causes anxiety to escalate.
It is a vicious cycle
It has been suggested that our animal companions mirror our moods and symptoms. I do experience mild anxiety and have two dogs that are highly anxious. Did my issues make them that way? No.
Animals demonstrating such compulsions tend to be anxious. It’s less likely you will notice these behaviours in laid back animals. All my dogs are puppy mill rescues, and we have had to work on mental and physical issues: building trust and improving their health.
According to Veterinary Practice News:
Environmental enrichment alone will not normally reverse a compulsive disorder, but a stress-free, user-friendly environment can prevent compulsive behavior from developing in the first place and make relapse less likely after successful pharmacological treatment.”
Preventing a dog or cat from performing a compulsive behavior by physically restraining the animal in some way only leads to more anxiety, not less.
As a human, I appreciate the fact that I can calm myself down in most situations and I avoid the ones that might trigger anxiety (crowds). I am also very lucky that the people in my life are respectful of my feelings and I don’t feel pressured to do anything that might make me uncomfortable. Or, if I do, they are okay if I remove myself from the situation.
I have been able to manage my anxiety by attending yoga classes, practicing reiki, walking and other exercises, writing, painting, playing the piano and even singing. Not performing – that’s a trigger.
Similarly, there are things we can do for our animal companions. Before assuming they are reacting to a compulsion, discuss your concerns with a veterinarian to determine the source of the obsessive behavior to rule out physical conditions, such as thyroid disease, or diabetes.
Diet & Nutrition
Read labels and know what ingredients are in the products you are feeding your companions. Avoid fillers and byproducts
When we first rescued Reese and Jack, their bodies were frail, they were underweight and lacked muscle tone. Daily exercise is key to a strong, resilient body. Even small dogs require regular exercise. They are dogs; they were designed to enjoy the outdoors!
Walks, Hikes or Jogs
Some days in Ontario, it is just too cold. We provide additional mental stimulation and play ‘brain games’ or,
Puzzle and treat-release games
Biking or Rollerblading
Swimming (weather permitting)
We also love agility:
Find a reputable trainer if you’re interested in participating in tracking events, flyball, agility or dock diving in your community
Build a Strong Immune System
A healthy immune system will protect cats and dogs from diseases. This has been a challenge for us, with Henry. He has an over-reactive immune system to the point of creating allergies and autoimmune disease. We are working with our DVM and a holistic vet to balance his system. We also spoke with our holistic vet about vaccinations, and the possibility that our companions may be over vaccinated and over medicated. We are looking at alternatives to Vanectyl-P, a brand name medication that combines trimeprazine and prednisolone.
There are several homeopathic remedies for obsessive behaviors such as Bach Flower remedies (rescue remedy). Discuss these options with your holistic veterinarian. Alternatively, you could try the Thundershirt by Thunderworks. The shirt wraps snuggly around your cat or dog, and the pressure is believed to be comforting and provide reassurance. Reiki and acupuncture may also help relieve anxiety in your companion.
Cats and dogs like routine. As we know, cats are
in charge independent, and changes are especially stressful to them. We often have visitors, and recently introduced our newest pack member Jack into the fold. We try not to do everything at once and no matter what is happening, we stick to the Rooster’s routine (cat). That way, he feels that he still rules the roost.
Our routine includes:
-Escort him to his ‘free feed’ station in the morning for breakfast BEFORE we feed the dogs
-Both litter boxes scooped daily and cleaned regularly
-Bedding washed weekly (as is the dogs)
-Play station and toys remain in the same place. We try to ensure the toys are not accessible to the dogs
-Rooster decided he would like to eat his evening meals with the dogs. His dish is first on the floor, and there is no ‘wait’ for him
It is equally important to interact with cats. I have tried training Rooster, and he will sit and beg (really). In this case, I am referring to puzzle toys, scratching posts or fishing pole type toys.
Rescue Remedy and Thundershirts are also an option for our feline friends.
I wrote this post in support of the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign.
Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness.
Listen to what Howie Mandel has to say:
Bell Let’s Talk day is January 25th, 2017. Us hashtag #BellLetsTalk to get the conversation started.