10th July 2012, 09:26 PM
6 month old puppy tail chasing alot!
Hi i am very new to this forum and have a concern about my lovely ruby cavalier puppy.
He is 6 months old and has always chased his tail a little since we got him at 8 weeks. The last few weeks have been very different however and he is chasing and catching his tail quite frequently especially when he first wakes up and for a while in the evenings before he settles down. He has started to growl and bark at his tail and his legs and paws during this behaviour and also at times seems very irritated by his bottom and genitals and will nibble them whilst making a grumbling noise.
I have taken him to my vet in the last week who didn't seem overly concerned by this behaviour but did empty his anal glands and checked his paws. I asked him about rabbit mites but he said i would notice this and he couldn't see any signs of them. i have recently wormed my pup and he is treated with front-line for fleas and ticks although i have on occasion seen a flea on him sometimes after out walking.
My concern is that this could be the start of something more serious in him such as flycatchers syndrome or sm?
I would be very grateful if anyone had any further advice for me in how to deal with this as i am beginning to feel very worried about my lovely puppy.
Thank you in advance.
12th July 2012, 04:08 PM
My first cavalier chased her tail quite a bit. I thought it was cute and encouraged it. I suggest you not encourage, as it can become an OCD thing. We always joked my cavalier was a little neurotic.
Anyway, I would think if your pup is always chewing that area there may be something causing irratation or itching. My dog did it when she was bored, along with ear chewing. We ended up excercising her more and it seems to help the frequency of the habit.
12th July 2012, 11:30 PM
Funny Fletcher does this little tail chase in the mornings too. I would say he only does it for a min. or so but I have never seen him do it any other time of day. Weird! He does not butt drag like some people tell me cavalier's do. He also does not scratch much at all, but I'm a little neurotic about brushing him. Now that we are home most of the time I find myself brushing him twice a day!! Whatever he loves it and I love any time I can spend with a pup in my lap.
13th July 2012, 10:42 AM
Thank you so much for both of your responses.
I am only taking my pup out for a walk in the mornings on most days so increasing his exercise is definitely something i will do. I was a little worried about over exercising him but I think he would be fine for two walks a day now he is 6 months?
It is funny that you mentioned the brushing as this is something I had thought about - that he may be irritated by his fur which is seeming to be growing thick and fast at the moment! I probably am not brushing him as much as i should be so will make this something we do when he climbs in my lap - which is most evenings after he has worn himself out!
I am still concerned about the noises he is making whilst biting his paws and tail chasing - is this something you have ever experienced? i will be keeping a close eye on him and making sure we distract him as soon as he starts!
I also found another flea on him yesterday
Thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions and i wish you and your dogs all the best!
13th July 2012, 02:45 PM
Welcome to the forum. We usually recommend 5 mins off lead exercise per month of age twice per day - and definitely no stairs until they are 9 - 12 months old so that they have finished growing. So at 6 months, 30 mins twice per day. Obviously also play in the garden and training at home.
Definitely get him used to being brushed every day, that should help if the irritation is from loose hair.
However I think the presence of fleas may be a big part of the problem, when you do comb him are you seeing small dots of dirt? If you put them on wet tissue, you might get a ring of "rust" around them, if so, they are flea dirts which would indicate the presence of fleas. For every flea you see on the dog, there are usually lots more about, in their bed, carpet, soft furnishings etc so you prob need to treat the house too. Vacuuming at least once a day is a good way of controlling fleas - and it means moving furniture regularly too. He may have a flea allergy, so would be very irritated even from one wee bite.
These behaviours can also occur with blocked anal glands but it sounds like they haven't resolved since the glands were emptied?
I'm afraid I don't agree with your vet about rabbit mite, Cheyletiella yasguri, C. blakei (Rabbit Fur Mite) - commonly known as walking dandruff. On close observation of an infested dog, cat, or rabbit, it may be possible to see movement of the dandruff on the skin. The mites cause skin irritation, usually along the back of the animal.
Did your vet do a skin scraping and look at it under the microscope? That is what they usually do to rule out rabbit mite.
If you are not happy with your vet, then look at perhaps changing vets - it is essential to be working with a vet who will work with you and with whom you have a good relationship and level of trust. They are partners with you in the care of your beloved companion.
Sadly many parasite treatments lose their effectiveness over time as the parasites become immune to them. I would think about trying something else to rule out parasites.
After that, yes there are other more serious conditions affecting Cavaliers which cause scratching, chewing behaviours etc, such as SM. Read up and record anything you are seeing with your pup
13th July 2012, 02:56 PM
The flycatcher's-affected cavalier appears to be watching imaginary flies buzzing in front of its face and then trying to bite the flies. Some affected dogs may compulsively chase their tails or act as if their ears or paws are irritated. Episodes may last for several hours, and in severe cases, constantly. Fly biting behavior also has been identified as a symptom of syringomyelia, a serious neurological disorder more common in the cavalier King Charles spaniel than in any other breed. See Syringomyelia for information about this disease."
Please discourage any repetitive, obsessive behaviours - Cavaliers are very prone to OCD [use treats, toys, games, attention - not as a reward but to call them away from what they are doing]
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)
This column is intended to be of practical information to Cavalier owners. It is not
intended to be a comprehensive overview of the field of Animal Behavior, nor to simply
represent a small portion of the complete research that has been done in Behavioral
Medicine. The focus of this column is for information and educational purposes only
and to share this information with other owners of this beloved breed.
Ritualistic and stereotypic behaviors have long been recognized in veterinary medicine
and in small animals, including the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) and "Fly Catcher’s Syndrome" will be the topic of
this article by request of many CKCS owners, who are involved with cavaliers with one
or more of these puzzling behaviors.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) may include tail chasing, flank sucking
(particularly in Dobermans), wool chewing and fly "biting" or "catching". Most of
these behaviors are annoying but relatively benign in terms of damage to owners and
their dogs. In the past, treatment was usually geared towards physical restraint and
control, such as applying an Elizabethan collar to the dog. Such a device can prevent
the dog from accomplishing the actual behavior, but does nothing to diminish the
desire to commit the behavior as is confirmed when the device is removed. Behavioral
Veterinarians now believe that this is because the disorder is a behavioral one,
rooted in a neurophysiological abnormality.
OCD is characterized by repetitive, ritualistic behaviors, in "excess" of any required
for normal function, the execution of which interferes with normal daily activities
and functioning. It is a behavior that is exaggerated in form as well as in duration.
The behavior can be perceived by a "human patient" as abnormal, and may be controlled
to the extent that the behavior is performed only minimally, or not at all, in the
presence of others. This could possibly be true for domestic animals, such as the
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Dogs that flank-suck or tail-chase may, after frequent
reprimands and corrections, remove themselves from view of the owners and then commit
the behavior elsewhere. When the owner approaches, the behavior ceases, to be begun
again when no one is watching or when the dog removes himself from view. Not all dogs
fit this pattern, instead exhibiting more or less continuous stereotypic and
ritualistic behavior regardless of companionship. It is not necessary for the behavior
to be continuously witnessed for the dog to have OCD, but it is requisite that the
offending behaviors SUBSTANTIALLY INTERFERE with normal functioning in the absence of
We as cavalier owners, breeders and exhibitors must view the above statement and make
the determination ourselves. We must ask ourselves this question…"Is the desire to
exhibit the behavior present, despite restraint, punishment, training, or physical
incarceration?" If the answer is yes, and your dog persists in the behavior even
though he has been called to dinner, needs a drink or to go out to the potty area or
company arrives…then it is possible you are dealing with an OCD. In this case, true
clinical OCD can indeed be a serious problem. Potentially relevant human conditions
would be: Autism, Self-injurious behavior (SIB), Tourette’s syndrome, OCD,
Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and Chronic motor tics.
All cavaliers suspected of having severe OCD should have complete physical and
neurological examinations that include a metabolic screen, a complete blood cell count
(CBC), and serum biochemistry profile, electrocardiography (ECG) and may include tick
titer, distemper and other viral titers. Medical conditions should be ruled out first
before the diagnosis of OCD can be confirmed.
Other behaviors that may have components of stereotypic behavior but are not OCD may
include boredom, attention-seeking behavior and anxiety. Some bored cavaliers
"exercise spin" or chase their tails simply because they are bored. Should the dog
truly be bored, increased socialization time with humans, added toys, music, increase
in exercise and rooms to "view" outdoor activities such as the lawn, trees, cars, or
other activity should diminish or halt the behavior. If this does not occur, the dog
was not "bored". Sometimes a diagnosis of boredom is simplistic and wrong. As an
attention-seeking situation, some dogs quickly learn that if they are not getting the
desired attention from positive, quiet behaviors, they can invariably get it from
behaviors that their owners find much less savory…jumping, barking, howling, spinning,
tail chasing, sucking, ear chewing, and "fly catching". Because the owners find these
behaviors annoying, they yell or attempt to correct the dog. If the distraction is by
good and loving attention such as grooming or play, the dog effects the change it
wants and "conditions" the owner. Cavaliers have certainly been noted (especially at
my house) to do exactly this. Many dog owners have difficulty understanding how a
behavior could be attention-seeking, if physical or verbal punishment is involved. If
the dog gets little attention, negative attention is better than no attention. We
sometimes get in a "rut" with our multiple-dog households and forget to spend some
one-on-one time with each animal in our care. I know I experience this from time to
time, and we must then "regroup" and take a hard look at our situation and MUST take
more time to spend with our animals. If simple modification of our lifestyle improves
the behavior, then you are dealing with attention-seeking behavior rather than a more
For true clinical OCD, a combination of behavioral modification (primarily
counter-conditioning and habituation as listed in the previous article on
fear-aggression) and short-term medication prescribed only by your veterinarian (I
prefer to begin with Amitriptyline/Elavil or Clomipramine/Anafranil) can work wonders.
Many times the stereotypic or ritualistic behaviors have an underlying anxiety and the
medication will enhance the counter-conditioning and break the psychological trigger
for the cycle. Regardless, all behavior modification designed to encourage relaxation
and competitive inhibition should be used.
13th July 2012, 05:06 PM
Thank you for posting this Nicki. This provides so much great information on OCD. I found this very helpful! I agree with the part that talks about OCD is when offending behaviors substantially interfere with normal functioning. So this was a helpful reminder for me that the diagnosis of OCD in a dog wouldn't be any different than in a human and that there would have to be significant interference in functioning.
Sonny doesn't chase his tail, but I posted a while back how Sonny has become fixated on lights and shadows in the house. He chases, growls and barks at moving lights and shadows. When he gets into this mode, it is like he is in a trance and WILL NOT listen at all, even to the simplest command! We have really struggled with how to handle this problem and our vet didn't have any suggestions.
Recently when he gets into this mode, we have been removing him from the room and putting him in his crate to settle down. This is the only thing that has worked so far. When working with human clients who have OCD I teach them to Relabel, Reattribute, Refocus and Revalue. Well you can't really use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques with dogs , but I think removing him from the situation helps him Refocus, so that is what I have been doing.
I didn't mean to hijack the thread, I know my post doesn't have to do with tail chasing, but I have been really interested in OCD behaviors in dogs ever since Sonny started fixating on lights and shadows.
I hope that little Ruby is just going through a stage and that she doesn't have fly catchers syndrome or OCD! Good luck and keep us updated!
Originally Posted by Nicki
13th July 2012, 07:25 PM
Thank you for posting too ashleighelizabeth, it's really helpful to hear how it is dealt with from a human perspective although as you say obviously these techniques are not necessarily appropriate, you have successfully used them as a basis for a treatment program for Sonny It's sad how many people do have OCD/OCD type behaviours to some degree or other - although I think that the majority of people manage to continue to function normally with it. [please correct me if I'm wrong!]
I'm sure you already do this but when you put Sonny in his crate like this, put something in with him to chew, ideally a filled Kong etc, one so he doesn't see it as a punishment and two that he is getting something more rewarding than the OCD behaviour.
13th July 2012, 10:01 PM
We definitely make sure Sonny has a toy or a chew so that he doesn't think he is being punished. His crate just provides him a place to settle down and redirect himself.
13th July 2012, 10:10 PM
My 12 year old son is borderline OCD, at least that's what his physiologist thinks. But we are going to continue to monitor this thur puberty and see how it goes. My son has always been stuck on a specific topic or toy for several months, no matter what the conversation is he will always some how find a way to talk about this specific topic or toy. it has been all kind of topics or toys over the years, at age 4 it was Transformers. For awhile it was World War II, he reads and reads and knew every battle, type of weapon how many men died etc........ I have to tell him we are not talking about XYZ now and re-direct the conversations. We are not sure if this is true OCD or something he does to comfort himself, he has anxiety issues as well as ADHD. You would think raising him sounds like a nightmare but honestly, he is the most self-less caring child I have even met. He is made out of pure sugar, he has never needed a lot of disciplinarian parenting. The LOOK works on him, he works really super hard to do as he's asked the first time. HOWEVER, he is 12 and the teenage years are quickly coming because the "its not fair"s are becoming more common.
It's funny to me how much cavalier's are like people sometimes.