Researchers Find Shared OCD Genes in Dogs, Humans, and Mice

PetGuide logo

Does your dog lick their paws or scratches incessantly without any obvious reason? If that’s the case, he might suffer from canine form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dubbed canine CD, this behavioral issue was long believed to be just an exaggeration of normal behavior, rather than a condition with a genetic link. However, Hyun Ji Noh, a geneticist and the lead author of the study done at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, came to a surprising conclusion.

Related: Why Does My Dog Keep Licking His Paws?

OCD is a complex condition, that is based on repetitive behavior, whether it’s focused on thoughts or actions, that’s been linked to abnormalities in neural circuitry. The study published in Nature Communications used multispecies approach to sequence genomes and, possibly, find gene mutations that could suggest potential for the manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Ewen Kirkness, a molecular biologist at the Institute for Genomic Research, paved the way for this groundbreaking study once he started mapping dog genome with his poodle, Shadow, in 2003. That research was later expanded on (first fully sequenced genome was of a boxer). and made us realize that canines share 5% of our genome. So, we knew that we share more than friendship with our pooches, but now we know a little bit more about genetic disorders we share, as well.

Related: Could Music Ease Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety?

The researchers studied three different sets of DNA – dog, mice, and human- and found many similarities. Out of 608 genes they compiled, they identified four associated genes that indicate the potential of development of OCD. The multispecies approach led to finding “the first genome-wide-significant association reported for OCD”, Hyun Ji Noh reports in these findings.

Although the presence of genes in one’s DNA indicates the developing obsessive-compulsive disorder is more likely, it’s not a definitive indicator. Even if the variation in genes is present, the person (or canine) don’t necessarily develop OCD.