September 1991

Compulsive Feather Picking in Birds

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychiatry University of California, Davis Medical Center 4430 V St Sacramento, CA 95817 Ed Ramsay, DVM Davis, Calif

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1991;48(9):857. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1991.01810330081012

To the Editor.—  Recently, Rapoport1 reported successfully using clomipramine hydrochloride in treating dogs afflicted with compulsive paw licking (acral lick). This neurobiological approach not only benefited the animals but also provided a model for trichotillomania, believed to be a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorder.Preliminary information suggests that feather-picking disorder, a behavioral abnormality in birds, may represent an avian analog to obsessivecompulsive disorder in humans.2,3Feather-picking disorder in birds is a common problem for pet owners, breeders, zookeepers, and veterinarians.2,3 It has approximately a 10% incidence by consensus, although it has not been formally studied. In severe cases, the birds will become denuded and risk infection, hypothermia, or fatal hemorrhage if "blood feathers" are picked. This behavior, which can occur among any order or species, is repetitive, irrepressible, and maladaptive. Placing a plastic collar around the bird's neck is palliative, but the behavior usually resumes when the collar is

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