Earlier this week we learned that Toxoplasmosis, the cat-transmitted parasite that many of us have, is connected to suicidality. Today, tail-chasing hounds offer insight into understanding origins and treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder in people.
PROBLEM: Obsessive-compulsive disorder is, it turns out, a cross-species problem. The analogous version in dogs is called canine compulsive disorder and includes "excessive tail chasing (TC), light/shadow chasing, and flank-sucking." Basically, it's hand-scrubbing and nail-biting for quadrupeds. Ergo, scientists at the University of Helsinki in Finland devised a study to explore some provocative genetic and environmental influences for this behavior using a cohort that has a particular advantage over humans: For dogs, owners are omnipresent and tend to keep their pets honest when it comes to data reporting.
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METHODOLOGY: The researchers collected surveys on one specific symptom -- tail-chasing -- from the owners of 368 dogs, representing four different breeds. This last bit is important: the authors wanted to figure out as much as they could about what might be genetic (things that, say, a Bull Terrier is known to do) versus environmental (your German Shepherd is acting strangely). Questions revolved around frequency of behavior, as well as other factors including nutrition, when the dogs were neutered, and, yes, their relationship with their mothers. In addition, 181 DNA samples were gathered to further examine genetic components.