Recent rough estimates by Dr. Karen L. Overall, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, suggest that up to 8 percent of dogs in America — five million to six million animals — exhibit compulsive behaviors, like fence-running, pacing, spinning, tail-chasing, snapping at imaginary flies, licking, chewing, barking and staring … Dogs can be treated, but if they are not, compulsive behavior is one of the main reasons that people give them up for adoption or euthanasia, according to veterinary behaviorists.
OCD behaviors in animals are sometimes genetic, as this research shows – and when that is the case, research like this may go toward helpful treatments for both dogs and humans.
What the article ignores, however, in its TV references and the usual relentless focus on human hand-washing, is the fact that inbreeding has destroyed the genetic makeup of purebred dogs with horrifying consequences – including OCD, but not at all limited to it: we breed for ‘cute’ brachycephaly so our dogs can’t breathe (or swim, or regulate their temperatures properly, or clear phlegm), we breed for low-riding hips so our dogs can’t walk or run properly and spend their lives in extreme pain, we breed for certain markings and create the unintended result of skulls too small for the brains they contain, dooming dogs to agony, seizures, desperate attempts to scratch off their own heads, or worse.
And: we cause OCD behaviors in animals by confining them without any chance of adequate exercise or outlets for natural behavior.
As in this short video, cheerfully entitled ‘a day at the zoo.’ I will never understand how anyone can see this and not see cruelty: it’s human-induced madness put on show for entertainment.
There’s more on the genetic devastation being wrought by breeding dogs for specific traits in “Tortured for our vanity and sport.” There you’ll find the BBC video “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.” I recommend watching it in its entirety to anyone who is considering getting a purebred dog instead of a rescue mutt – and to anyone who cares about dogs’ well-being.
This isn’t a PETA-style diatribe (I hate everything PETA has come to represent).
It’s ethics 101. Genetic engineering ethics 101. Humane treatment of sentient beings 101.
Spinning/obsessively licking/scratching/pacing/etc. dogs aren’t cute, they’re miserably neurotic, in a completely unnatural state, and missing out on the joy of a healthy life.
A dog’s eyeballs shouldn’t fall out of its head if it bumps into the coffee table.
We are responsible for much of this suffering – perhaps for all of it. Small changes in our behavior could correct it – if not for the dogs we’ve already made sick (and who now require our care), at least for dogs in the future who should have some chance at a life free of pain and human-caused suffering.