Canine Fly-Snapping Syndrome

Fly-snapping syndrome or as it is also known, fly-biting syndrome, is of special interest to me as one of my dogs appears to have the syndrome.

Murphy, my pittie mix, will sometimes stare at one of her paws and then lick or bite it as though something is there annoying her. At first I assumed it was something that was not visible to me. I examined the area and could find nothing there. But I’ve since discovered that it could be fly-biting syndrome.

The more common fly-snapping syndrome occurs when the dog snaps at the air as though seeing something flying about his/her head.

This syndrome could be a dog’s compulsive behavior. Others include spinning, tail chasing, pacing, repeatedly licking one spot, chewing or scratching, continuous barking and any behaviors that are repeated without responses to some normal motivation.

Causes for fly-snapping syndrome have been labeled idiopathic (of unknown origin) since experts do not agree on the reason or reasons for the behavior. It has been called an obsessive, compulsive problem, attributed to genetics or any number of issues from eye disorders to epilepsy.

One theory that is gaining interest is that fly-snapping syndrome is a form of epilepsy. Epilepsy in both humans and dogs can cause hallucinations and odd behavior. When a dog is experiencing the syndrome, it’s impossible to tell whether s/he is hallucinating and/or having a seizure.

Often, increased physical and mental stimulation will help to lessen episodes. I also distract my dog by calling her name and directing her attention to something else such as a toy. This seems to work for me.

If your dog appears to be experiencing fly-snapping syndrome, it’s important to visit your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems.

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