A pointer mix continually licks the carpus of its right front leg, causing localized hair loss and skin lesions.
The dog is apparently healthy (medical and dermatologic problems were ruled out) and does not show any local abnormalities upon orthopedic examination, which includes radiographs. What can be done to treat the problem?
Repetitive behaviors in animals (locomotor, oral, aggressive, and vocal) that occur out of context and serve no obvious purpose are commonly described as compulsive disorders because of their similarity to the psychiatric condition OCD in humans. Acral lick dermatitis was the first canine compulsive disorder proposed as a model for OCD when psychiatrists noticed the similarities of this self-grooming behavior in dogs with that of human patients who could not stop washing their hands.1
OCD in humans manifests in ways that may vary over the course of a lifetime. Children seem to be affected more frequently by compulsive counting. In puberty or adulthood, compulsive behaviors may change and focus on religious rites, sexuality, or cleanliness. Some people have trouble leaving home without first spending hours turning off the coffee machine, relocking the door, and repeating other such safeguarding behaviors. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which classifies OCD as an anxiety-related condition, defines it as recurrent obsessions and compulsions that are time-consuming, excessive, and unreasonable.