Blanket sucking and flank sucking have long been recognized as abnormal behaviors that are almost exclusive to Doberman Pinschers.1 When engaged in blanket sucking, affected dogs mouth fabrics and suck on them, sometimes accompanied by kneading movements with the forepaws. Although blanket sucking causes fabric to become wet and damaged, it has not been associated with any effects detrimental to affected dogs. Flank sucking is characterized by repetitive mouthing and sucking of the flank region, resulting in effects ranging from a rough, dampened coat to alopecia to raw, open skin lesions.2
Both behaviors may most accurately be described as forms of nonnutritive suckling. Like flank sucking, blanket sucking usually occurs immediately before the dog falls asleep, a pattern reported to resemble suckling in neonates.1 Nonnutritive suckling behavior has also been considered an anxiety-related comfort behavior, perhaps originating out of conflict as a displacement behavior.3 At this point, there is no research to substantiate whether these behaviors more accurately resemble nursing or comfort behaviors. Flank sucking and blanket sucking in dogs have been deemed forms of canine compulsive disorder.4,5,6,7,8 Little is known about blanket sucking and flank sucking except their general features and the observation that they primarily affect Doberman Pinschers.5,7 In 1 report,1 the author describes blanket sucking as a variation of flank sucking. Pica, the persistent consumption of nonnutritive substances,9 is an abnormal ingestive behavior that affects Doberman Pinschers, which we hypothesized may be comorbid with blanket and flank sucking. Although pica can be a sequela of various medical conditions, it may also be an oral compulsive behavior.8,10
The purpose of the study reported here was to evaluate blanket sucking and flank sucking in Doberman Pinschers and evaluate any association with pica.
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