Keoki's Corner

Asta’s OCD Journey

A few months ago, we posted a video on the blog about mental illness in pets.  We briefly mentioned obsessive behaviors. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a complex disorder in which pets excessively repeat otherwise normal animal behaviors that they (and often, their owners) having difficulty stopping.  OCD can resemble other diseases, such as epilepsy, dermatologic conditions, and digestive issues. Since there is no single test for OCD, diagnosis is made by behavior history, observation of behaviors (either directly or by video), and ruling out other medical conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical because the more the dog has a chance to practice his OCD behaviors, the harder it is to extinguish them.

We love to hear your success stories.  One of our long-time clients has raised and trained Shetland sheepdogs for many years.  Their most recent addition, Asta, developed OCD behaviors as a puppy.  Through diligent behavior modification and medical management, Asta is on the road to recovery.  We would like to share her story through this video made by Asta’s loving and dedicated owners.  She put together the video to show Dr. Overall, Pat Miller, and Dr. Karen Hoffmann the difference that they were making in Asta’s life and to thank them for all of their help.  Dr. Hoffmann wanted to share Asta’s story in hopes of informing pet owners about OCD in dogs and to show that there is hope.

As you watch Asta’s Story, keep in mind that these changes did not happen on their own.  It took many months of hard work with behavior modification, medication and management to get Asta where she is now.  Asta’s owners, Susan and Ken, worked closely with Dr. Karen Overall, board-certified veterinary behaviorist, Pat Miller, certified dog trainer and behavior consultant and Dr. Karen Hoffmann, Asta’s primary care veterinarian to optimize Asta’s treatment plan.  And the work is ongoing, but the rewards are great.

astaAsta’s story is heart-warming and has a wonderful outcome.  Not all dogs are lucky enough to have their disease recognized or to have such dedicated owners willing to put the time, energy and money into diagnosis and treatment.  Many dogs will suffer a lifetime with their disease.

If you have any concerns that your dog may have OCD, it is a good idea to schedule an exam with your regular veterinarian. They may suggest a consult with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. These veterinarians have received specialty training in the diagnosis and treatment of OCD and other behavior disorders. They can work with you and your primary care veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan to help you and your dog deal with this potentially devastating disease.  Many veterinary behaviorists will do in-home assessments and some will do long-distance consults.

Be sure to check back for part two of Asta’s story coming soon!

Pet Dental Health

In following the discussion of last week’s post we are going to discuss some important points of pet dental disease. Nearly 85% of pets over three years of age have some form of dental disease, though most will show little sign of it.  While this number is staggering, we have to think of it in relation to humans; on average, we get two dental exams and cleanings per year and brush our teeth every day.  How often are we brushing our pets’ teeth?  Probably not as much as you brush your own.  

What are the signs of dental disease?

The most common sign pet owners notice is bad breath.  Bad breath is often caused by bacteria and decaying food that stick to the tartar on teeth.

Another sign of dental disease is tartar.  Tartar begins as plaque (bacterial biofilm) that coats the surface of the teeth.  If plaque is not removed from the teeth, it will harden (called mineralization) and form tartar and calculus.  Tartar appears as a tan or brown coating on the teeth, particularly on the molars and premolars.  Tartar buildup above and below the gumline can lead to gum recession and infection resulting in tooth loss if untreated. 

Other signs of dental disease could include discomfort while chewing, drooling, or reluctance to eat. Continue…

Mental Illness in Pets

Did you know that pets can suffer from mental illness like humans?  Pets can suffer from a multitude of mental illnesses that include anxiety, phobias, dementia, and obsessive compulsions.   Have you ever watched those videos of cats and dogs doing silly things like continually walking in circles, biting at invisible flies, or obsessive grooming?  These are just some of the manifestations of mental illness in animals.  Some owners use laser pointers to play with their dogs.  In some cases this has caused dogs to become afraid of light reflections or shadows.  Many owners don’t realize that many behaviors they think are “normal” for their pets are actually signs of mental illness. Continue…

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