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Hidden Health Dangers of Dog Tail Chasing
By Jennifer Viegas
Look up “dog chasing tail” on YouTube, and you will
find thousands of videos showing breeds, ranging
from sprightly adult collies to yipping tiny lap dogs
running around in circles, trying to catch their elusive
tail. Your own dog may even be a tail chaser, since
the playful behavior is quite common.

But too much tail chasing can be a symptom of
health problems, including high cholesterol,
according to new research. Does your dog need
professional help, or does it just enjoy some good
old-fashioned tail fun? We’ve got the questions to
help you determine the answer.
How often does your dog chase its tail?
A recent study conducted by Hasan Batmaz and colleagues from the University of
Uludag, Turkey, found that dogs exhibiting compulsive tail chasing engaged in this
activity for a minimum of 60 seconds per bout, several times a day. Additionally, “all
owners reported that their dogs commonly whined, barked or growled during tail
chasing,” according to Dr. Batmaz, a member of the university’s Faculty of Veterinary
Medicine, and his team. They observed dogs rapidly spinning in tight circles over and
over again. The canines would also sometimes back up against a wall and stare at
their tail or sit in a corner in an apparent effort to grasp the tail.

Does your dog demonstrate other obsessive-compulsive behaviors?
In addition to tail chasing, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in dogs can include
behaviors such as grooming, flank sucking, pacing, whirling, snapping at air and
chewing. Most canines do all of these things every so often, but similarly to an OCD-
afflicted person, when behaviors become overly repetitive, they can signal a problem.
(The TV character Detective Monk, for example, is forever trying to keep his hands
clean, to the point of obsession.)

What is your dog’s age, sex and breed?
Lisa Peterson, a dog breeder who is the director of communications for the American
Kennel Club, says that while tail chasing is usually just a puppy thing that happens
when young pups discover they have a tail, it can also be influenced by a dog’s age,
sex and breed. Dogs with OCD will remain obsessed with their tails long past
puppyhood. Females and certain breeds also tend to chase their tails more.

The Uludag scientists, whose research was published in the Journal of Small Animal
Practice, studied many different breeds. They believe terriers, German shepherds,
Anatolian sheepdogs and dogs originally bred for herding appear to be more prone to
tail chasing.

Have you recently had your dog’s cholesterol levels checked?
The majority of dogs with obsessive tail chasing in the recent study were found to
suffer from high cholesterol, with HDL and LDL cholesterol both significantly higher
than in dogs that only chased their tails on occasion. High amounts of cholesterol may
clog cell membranes at the microscopic level, affecting flows of brain hormones
involved in mood and behavior. High cholesterol has also been linked to people who
suffer from panic attacks and/or OCD.

If you suspect that your dog might chase its tail too often and could have high
cholesterol, experts suggest the following:

Schedule a visit with your veterinarian A simple blood test can determine your dog’s
cholesterol levels. It’s a good idea to do this on at least an annual basis, since high
cholesterol can be associated with many other health issues, including:

Kidney disorders
An under-functioning thyroid gland
An over-functioning adrenal gland
Diabetes
Pancreas inflammation
Bile duct obstruction
Feed your dog a high-quality commercial dog food Manufactured pet foods must all
meet governmental regulations for protein, ash, fat and water content, and more.

Look for high-quality fat sources on dog food labels Fats from poultry and fish sources
not only help to keep cholesterol levels in check, but they also help your pet maintain
a healthy skin and coat, metabolize vitamins, and last but not least, they can be tasty
to your dog when mixed with other good ingredients.  

Don’t feed your dog table scraps While dogs don’t suffer from hardening of the
arteries, you can elevate your dog’s blood cholesterol levels by feeding it table scraps,
like that half-eaten burger snuck under the table. “Dogs don’t naturally gorge
themselves on junk foods like we do,” says Peterson, who adds that we determine
how healthy our dogs’ diets are.

With proper maintenance of your dog’s health and diet, you can enjoy watching your
pet engage in the occasional tail chase without worry. Just ask the owners of Angel, a
Maltese puppy featured on YouTube. After running in circles chasing his tiny stub of a
tail, Angel gave up and enjoyed a relaxing head brush.