Remember that viral video of a dog “attacking” his hind leg that a lot of people found funny? I cringed every time it was sent to me with a comment like, “Isn’t this hilarious?” Clearly, the dog was suffering from some kind of illness and needed treatment, not to be videotaped and shown far and wide for the ignorant masses’ amusement. That’s an extreme example, but it got me wondering—are some of our dogs’ “cute” or “funny” behaviors actually a reflection of poor health?
A recent study published in Journal of Small Animal Practice (March 2009) demonstrates a possible link between compulsive tail-chasing and high cholesterol. What’s even more fascinating is that, according to Discovery News, “The finding adds to a growing body of evidence—mostly from studies on humans—that high cholesterol may be a marker for behavioral problems, such as panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder, which could be expressed by frequent tail-chasing falls in dogs.” The theory so far is that high cholesterol blocks the normal flow of serotonin to the brain and thus affects behavior. Females and certain breeds, such as Bull Terriers and German Shepherds, seem more prone to chasing their tails, but it’s not known why. So the next time your dog does something cute or funny, it might be time for a check up!
Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’sNew Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.