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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24422
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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My 12-year old wire fox terrier keeps snapping and trying to

Customer Question

My 12-year old wire fox terrier keeps snapping and trying to bite something in the air (nothing is there). He is generally in good health and active. He recently was put on a special kidney diet.
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 month ago.

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Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 month ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with Murphy. You've described obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in Murphy - mood/behavioral disorders characterized by repetitive, invariant, patterned behaviors that are exaggerated in intensity, frequency, and duration given the inciting stimuli (i.e., expressed out of context). The behavior interferes with health and well-being. Earlier in the course you may have been able to stop the behavior, but that may not be the case at this time. Murphy may hide (to perform the behavior), become aggressive when you attempt to stop it, or may begin avoiding you.

His air/fly snapping may suggest partial seizures or dysphoria (a state of unease) and so consultation with a specialist veterinary neurologist (please see here: www.acvim.org) should be considered. All cases of OCD warrant intervention which is individualized and based on frequency and severity of clinical signs. Treatment is usually a combination of behavioral and environmental modification and psychotropic medication. The goal is to minimize and if possible eliminate bouts of compulsive behavior and the concomitant anxious states that accompany them.

In general, we need to identify and eliminate trigger events/situations. No punishment should ever be used since it can heighten anxiety and worsen the problem. If possible, these pets can be redirected to an alternative and incompatible behavior for example licking food from a toy instead of licking the skin if the redirection doesn't make the pet more anxious. Pets should be calmly rewarded for any spontaneous calm behavior. Keeping a structured daily routine helps decrease anxiety. The most successful medications used in the treatment of OCD in people include SSRIs such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and clomipramine (Clomicalm). Typically, psychotropic therapy is necessary for longer periods of time than other anxiety-based disorders (months to years depending upon severity and how long the disorder has been ongoing). Lifelong medication use isn't unusual in severe cases.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.