Can Dogs be Autistic? Major Symptoms and Treatments

Although autism has been linked to canines, it hasn’t been yet proved that it is the case of autism. Veterinarians prefer to call this condition “canine dysfunctional behavior.”

The study of autism in dogs has been going since 1966. It involved extensive DNA analysis of different dog breeds. Studies like this one indicate that autism could very well occur in dogs. However, nothing can be proved until more research is done.

Can dogs be autistic? Major symptoms and treatments

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.

A medical condition is always a possible underlier when dogs experience severe behavioral issues like aggression or obsessive licking, however, this can’t be directly linked to autism.

The important fact to understand is that autism is congenital, meaning that dogs or humans cannot suddenly become autistic, they are born with autism.

Early research concludes that these syndromes in dogs could be linked to a genetic condition called fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome is the prevalence of concurrent autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Diagnosing Autism in Dogs

For a dog to be tentatively diagnosed with autism, it should exhibit atypical repetitive behaviors and some degree of impaired social interaction with dogs and people. A veterinarian must rule out every other condition that might be responsible for the observed autistic syndrome.

Dogs with tendencies of autism onset may entail such signs:

a. Challenges with social skills

If dogs tend to avoid socializing with other dogs, animals, or humans, this may be a sign of underlying problems. Dogs are social animals; hence, lacking social skills can be a sign.

b. Repetitive behaviors

Repetitive behavior refers to repeating certain behaviors or actions, such as grinding teeth, chewing, or walking.

c. Speech and nonverbal communication

Due to difficulties in code processing, emotions and interactions, communication and language development is a challenge for animals with autism.

Possible causes of autism in dogs

The two tell-tell causes of autism in dogs are as follows:

  • Scientists believe that it is caused by underdevelopment in certain brain circuits and the over-development of other sensory circuits.
  • It is also suggested that it could be a condition inherited from parents or forebears.

Symptoms of Autism in Dogs

The major symptoms of autism in dogs include:

i. Lack of Social Interaction

Lack of socialization or social interaction is common in dogs showing the signs of autism. The lack of socialization is common with both dogs and humans. Dogs with poor socialization skills will often ignore your call. It doesn’t usually engage in everyday activities such as playing, eating and even going for a walk.

ii. Behavioral Issue

The peculiar behavior exhibited by autistic dogs doesn’t necessarily involve violent behavior but unusual behavioral issues, such as staring at stuff, avoiding people and objects, running or staying still without any reason. They entail a lack of excitement with new places, new toys, or other pets.

iii. Mental condition

The mental condition of an autistic dog can only be diagnosed by an experienced veterinarian. It is important to rule out every other mental issue before you can tell that your dog has autism. Such dogs cannot exhibit emotions correctly; therefore they can get scared randomly, making them avoid places and people that don’t present any threat to them.

iv. Physical

The physical activity and gesture are less or none in dogs with autism. They will not behave normally. Although you may get the signs of illness, they just do not show any interest in physical activity. Autistic dogs can be tagged as lazy as they don’t want to play or do anything fun.

v. Sensorial

Like autistic children, dogs with autism feel everything differently. They link physical and sensorial stimuli to wrong emotions, and that makes them react in off the wall ways as if they were hurt just by the gentle touch of their owners. This behavior can be disheartening as you don’t know the cause of this sad reaction. It’s important to know that the dog is not acting correctly and it doesn’t mean the owner is doing something wrong.

Possible treatment of autism in dogs

The diagnosis of any canine problems should be carried out by an experienced veterinarian. It’s important to ascertain the underlying emotional or physical problem with the dogs before diagnosing any medical condition.

If you think your dog might have autism, one of the most important things you can do is determine what his or her triggers are (what causes atypical behavior to flare-up) and avoid those things.

For instance, if your dog becomes fearful and aggressive when approached by a stranger, you can avoid taking it to the public places

a. Medicine

There is no definite treatment for autism or autism-related issues. The treatment with medications doesn’t mean your dog will stop having autism, but it can help to curb the symptoms and provide relief. The veterinarians may prescribe Fluoxetine which is already being used to treat OCD and autism problems in people and dogs. Medicine would help to tranquilize your dog and prevent aggressive behaviors.

b. Secure and safe environment

Ensuring a safe habitat for dogs with autism-related issues is a must. Autistic dogs might be afraid of almost everything. If your dog gets nervous and anxious around other people, dogs or animals, and an unknown environment then you should ensure to provide a neutral environment for your dog.

Build a quiet, safe space just for them so they can hide every time they need to.

c. Anti-stress life

Avoid situations that may give stress to your dog or that could cause your pet any stress or anxiety. If the dog doesn’t like to be petted, don’t pet it. If she or he doesn’t like to meet people or dogs, let it be. Learn to be gentle with both and humans who are suffering from autism.

d. Exercise

Exercise can be a good idea to preoccupy their mind. If your dog has plenty of exercise, it will have less stress and anxiety. Dogs can also be trained to do “heavy work” such as pulling a loaded wagon or carrying a doggy backpack filled with soft weight. These sorts of activities are known to help many people with autism.

e. Diet

Learn more about the appropriate diet for dogs with behavioral issues. You must consult with your vet about possible changes in their food regime.

f. Positive Reinforcement

Work with trainers or therapists who specialize in positive reinforcement. Find a trainer who has experience working with dogs who have behavioral concerns; a good trainer should be part of the treatment team for any dog who may be exhibiting autism-like behaviors.

Urban Pet Hospital & Resort is a premier dog daycare in Des Moines specializing in pet care, pet boarding, training, and therapy services. We are also a reliable veterinary in Des Moines and offer both medical and alternative pet care services.