Behavior consultations are commonly sought for dogs exhibiting bizarre repetitive behaviors. Examples of repetitive behaviors
observed in dogs include flank sucking, fly biting, light chasing, spinning, tail chasing, hind end checking, self licking,
and licking of surfaces.
These behaviors may be compulsive disorders, which are described as repetitive, ritualistic behaviors that are performed in
excess of what is required for normal function and that interfere with normal daily activities.1 Compulsive behaviors are often initially associated with conflict or frustration and are later displayed out of context
in other situations of high arousal.2 They can occupy a large percentage of a dog's daily time and adversely affect quality of life.
Treatment for compulsive disorders has mostly centered on the use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as clomipramine (a
tricyclic antidepressant), as well as behavior modification strategies to interrupt and redirect the problem behavior to a
more appropriate activity.
However, before you begin treatment, a thorough history and medical evaluation are essential. It is especially important to
rule out any medical disorders that can be a primary or contributing cause of repetitive behaviors. For example, two recent
studies have shown that in the case of oral repetitive behaviors, an underlying gastrointestinal (GI) problem may be present.