Plenty of dogs chase their tails, chew their paws or track shadows along the wall, but not all dogs do so obsessively. Some dogs, however, are inclined to perform certain behaviors compulsively, according to a new study that finds a genetic basis for canine OCD. The new findings, published in the research journal Genome Biology, show that dogs -- like humans -- can suffer from the confounding mental disorder, although some breeds are more likely than others to show symptoms.
Elinor Karlsson, a computational biologist at Harvard University and one of the study's authors, told Discovery News that she and her colleagues found four genes that are correlated with OCD in dogs -- especially Doberman pinschers, Shetland sheepdogs, bull terriers and German shepherds. Karlsson explained that their discovery could have important implications for OCD research if the same genes are affected in humans with the disorder.
"This is really exciting because psychiatric diseases tend to be very heritable, but finding genes associated with psychiatric diseases in humans has been really difficult," Karlsson said. "The question is: can we use genetics to pinpoint what the brain pathways are that are going wrong in these diseases? And can we design drugs that target those pathways in ways that are much more specific than we are doing now?... Anything we can use to pick apart exactly what is going wrong so we can treat these diseases [in humans and dogs] is going to be a huge benefit."