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Can Dogs Have Autism?

VetKidz, this is a question that I have pondered for quite a while. I said to myself, “If people can have it, and it’s related to the brain, why couldn’t a dog?” Today you will find answers to the question, “Can dogs have autism?”. Before we begin, please take a moment to pin this to your Dogs board.

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Can Dogs Have Autism?

Canine Autism, scientifically called canine dysfunctional behavior, may be a problem our dogs suffer with.

Some scientists and veterinarians say that Canine Autism isn’t possible, or doesn’t exist. However, it could be possible, and is very rare.

What is Autism?

In the human world, Autism refers to many different disorders. Humans with autism usually have similar traits to each other. It can affect them socially, verbally and their relationships. Humans with autism can have trouble understanding emotions and non-verbal cues. They also have repetitive behaviors. They can become unstoppable, even if it causes the human to hurt him/herself.

It’s the same with Canine Autism.

Vets are reluctant to diagnose a dog with Autism. It’s very rare that they will. The research in canine autism isn’t fully developed and we don’t know much, it’s impossible to be sure that dogs can have Autism. However, there are some symptoms to look out for.

The Most Common Canine Autism Symptoms

  • They don’t interact with people or other dogs. Dogs love spending time with humans and other animals. They are natural pack animals and normally stick together. If your dog doesn’t want to spend time with you, other people or dogs, it should be considered a red flag, especially if the dog doesn’t pay attention to you when walking or feeding.
  • Restricted behavior. The dog might limit itself to only doing a few tricks/commands and avoid learning new ones.
  • Repetitive Actions, or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Your dog might want to stick to the EXACT SAME ROUTINE over and over and over again, but it can also be things like walking in circles around the room over and over again, grinding their teeth and chasing their tails repetitively. They may even develop an odd habit of keeping things extremely organized, such as sorting toys by color or softness. While that may seem amazing, and extremely helpful, it is a sign of Canine Autism.
  • Inability to express joy, fear, and other emotions. They won’t let you know when they’re happy, with that super tail-wag. They won’t tell you, “I’m sad,” with their puppy-dog eyes and pleading whine. They won’t let you know any emotion they feel. They may even enter a trace-like stare where they stare at one direction for a long time.
  • Doesn’t make eye contact. Most dogs look up, into your eyes. However, dogs with Autism, don’t like to make eye contact.
  • Odd Reactions to Unfamiliar Things. An autistic dog might yelp or bark if you just touch it. They might overreact to unexpected sounds, because they are unable to cope with any new things. They might run to a space they feel comfortable in.
  • Lethargy. Lethargy is mostly, in short, lack of energy or laziness! An Autistic dog might rather laze around all day doing nothing rather than play and run go outdoors. It’s scary, especially if you have a high-energy dog.

Dealing With an Autistic Dog

While there is no known treatment to “fix” an Autistic dog, there are some things you can do to help him or her cope. And remember, no matter how “different” your dog is, you need to show it love. You need to have that special place in your heart for the dog. That, VetKidz, is the sign of a truly special owner.

  • Make your dog a Safe Place. Create a space that the dog can go at any time, such as it’s bed, crate or a special room. If you have the space, you can design an entire room for your dog, just don’t change anything in it once it’s done.
  • Stick with a routine. Your dog will have so much less stress on him or her if you stick to a routine. No matter if your dog is “normal” or Autistic, a routine is a good thing to establish. For a “normal” dog, a routine will help it thrive. For an Autistic dog, it’s kind of like a security blanket. They know exactly what to do.
  • Introduce new things slowly. If you are going to introduce a new toy, let them figure it out first. If you are introducing a new baby, start with a doll and play baby crying sounds to get them used to it.
  • Don’t baby them. It will enforce bad behavior. You are showing them that there is something to be scared of. You need to show them that you love them, but also be firm.

Fun Fact! A study in 2011 showed that Bull Terriers may be more likely to have Autism, as they displayed OCD symptoms like chasing their tails. Some of them were so addicted to it that they damaged their tails in the act. In 2014, a study showed that Bull Terriers also release more neurotensin and corticotrophin.

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