News FocusProfile: Nicholas Dodman

Can Dogs Behaving Badly Suggest a New Way to Treat OCD?

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Science  23 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5990, pp. 386-387
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5990.386

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Veterinarian Nicholas Dodman regularly conducts seminars on pet behaviors for vets, animal trainers, and pet owners. He writes magazine columns; blogs for a dog Web site; runs another Web site on pets with his wife, also a veterinarian; and is a spokesperson for a spray that eliminates cat-litter odors. As such, it is perhaps easy to dismiss Dodman as the Oprah of the pet world. But the veterinarian balances this celebrity with innovative animal research that appears in scientific journals. Earlier this year, for example, he and colleagues reported that variations in the gene for a protein involved in central nervous system development may underlie "canine compulsive disorders" in Doberman pinschers. Moreover, Dodman contends that animal compulsions bear relevance to human obsessive-compulsive disorders and that the Alzheimer's drug memantine may help people with OCD. A small clinical trial just completed supports his view, suggesting that the compound could be the first new OCD treatment in decades. Dodman even argues that studying aberrant animal behaviors may suggest treatments for a wide range of psychiatric conditions. It hasn't been easy to convince other scientists, but some researchers are now at least paying attention.