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Compulsive Dogs Yield Clues to Human OCD, Autism
Date:1/19/2010

will compulsively suck on blankets or on themselves.

"These are not just funny things," said Dodman, professor of clinical sciences at Tuft University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass. "It's a physically injurious and life-threatening disease and can seriously impair the relationship between owner and dog, which can lead to euthanasia."

"There [has been] no explanation for it and it's clearly genetically driven," added Dodman, who is also the author of several well-known animal behavior books.

Up to 70 percent of puppies in certain Doberman litters can be afflicted, he said. One German shepherd bit his tail so badly that he bled to death, he added.

"While we have known the flank-sucking in Dobermans had to have a genetic component because it occurred in certain bloodlines, this study confirms it and identifies where the trait is carried," said Bonnie Beaver, professor in the department of small animal clinical sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of Texas A&M University in College Station. "It provides a starting place to look at genetic relationships of other compulsive disorders and . . . might help the understanding of compulsive human disorders and be able to differentiate the genetic ones from the environmental ones."

Chromosome 7 appears within the cadherin-2 gene (CDH2), which is involved in communication among neurons in the brain.

And cadherins, proteins that enable cells to adhere or stick to each other, are also involved in human obsessive-compulsive disorders. Recently, cadherins were linked to autism spectrum disorder, also characterized by compulsive behaviors, such as repetitive head-banging.

The Tufts researchers teamed up with the Program in Medical Genetics at the University of Massachusetts and the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to test Doberman blood samples that the Tufts s
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