Dog Autism – Signs, Symptoms & Treatments
Since research has advanced so much over the years, we are learning more and more about the disease called autism. While we may be familiar with this diagnosis in humans, many are starting to believe it may affect our canine companions. So can dogs have autism?
In this article we will dive into the topic of autism in dogs. Our goal is to help you understand what this tentative diagnosis could mean for your furry friend.
Can Dogs Have Autism?
Though this has become a controversial topic in the veterinary world, the subject of autism in dogs is gaining more traction. Autism is a condition that impacts the way a person views the world. It includes social and developmental complications that come along with it. Those with autism generally fall into a spectrum of impaired interactions and behaviors. They often have a combination of unique symptoms that impact their daily life.
So can dogs be autistic as well? Though we can’t accurately gauge a dog’s social interactions as we do in humans, scientists have been recording autism-like behavior in dogs since the 1960’s. The research could point to an official diagnosis of autism in dogs one day. It simply states that this condition could be possible. So if you think your dog has autism, it’s time to read along and see if your dog falls into any of the behavioral criteria that we will dive into below.
What Can Cause Autism In Dogs?
Though the topic of autism in dogs is still being researched, some scientists do believe there are possible causes behind autism-like behavior in dogs. Veterinary professionals can’t say that these are definitive causes.
These possible causes of autism in dogs include:
- Genetics, and that it could be a hereditary condition
- Lack of neurons within the brain (there is ongoing research on this possibility)
- Underdeveloped connections within the brain
- Improper socialization
Dog Autism Symptoms
Since possible autism in dogs is a condition that affects their social behaviors, most of the possible symptoms include underdeveloped social skills and behaviors. Though autism is not yet an official diagnosis, there are some common signs and symptoms in dogs that are thought to be autism candidates.
The most common symptoms of possible autism in dogs includes:
- Chronic behavioral problems that won’t seem to resolve
- Poor socialization skills with other dogs
- Poor socialization skills with humans
- Not responsible to calls, for example their own name
- Disinterest in activities that most dogs love, like playing with toys, playing with their owners, etc.
- Easily experiencing sensory overload with noises, stimulation, etc.
- Unable to concentrate on activities or skills that dogs usually enjoy
Since many of these symptoms can be a result of other behavioral and medical conditions, it’s important to speak with your vet if your dog ever experiences any of the above behavior.
How To Diagnose Autism In Dogs
Possible autism in dogs is an extremely tricky condition to diagnose. Since autism is yet to be officially recognized as a possibility in our canine friends, you may not ever receive the actual diagnosis from your veterinarian. If you think that your dog may have autism, there are a few behavioral assessments that may help your doctor in accepting the possibility.
Behavioral disorders and other conditions like this are more challenging to diagnose in dogs. Since so many of these conditions have such a broad spectrum of symptoms and no set diagnostic tools, you may only receive a tentative diagnosis. Similar to anxiety in dogs, most vets will often recommend environmental changes and mood stabilizing medications to try and relieve any severe behavioral symptoms.
In order for a vet to consider the possibility of a dog having autism, the dog must show chronic behavioral patterns that allude to the condition. Your veterinarian may perform diagnostics to rule out other medical possibilities that could cause these symptoms. Only then they may consider the chance that a dog has autism-like behaviors.
Can You Treat Dog Autism?
Autism in dogs is yet to be officially recognized, so there is no set treatment plan for the possible condition. Since the only problems that can be addressed are the behavioral issues that a dog presents, the best treatment option is to meet the dog where they are struggling. Most dogs that struggle with possible autism generally have their own set of triggers. It’s important to try and help them with these situations.
Make Adjustments That Benefit Them
For example, if you know that your dog struggles with interactions with other dogs, you should try to support them in these situations and avoid canine conflict when possible. Another example would include a dog that suffers from severe separation anxiety, and trying to adjust your schedule to allow for more time at home. Most of these behavioral struggles improve most when a dog owner offers a solution in the dog’s environment. Making your home a safe zone for your struggling dog can help to improve their life immensely.
Offer A Stress Free Life
One of the biggest triggers for dogs with autism is excess stress. A chaotic life is stressful enough for a dog, but can be detrimental for a dog that struggles with possible dog autism. Since these dogs do not have the ability to cope in stressful situations, they often struggle greatly. Because of this, it’s important to offer as stress free of a life as possible.
This may mean:
- Offering your dog a quiet environment
- Avoiding people coming and going from your home
- Avoiding extended periods away from home
- Offering a safe zone like a crate or comfortable bed, and more.
Mental stimulation and positive exercise can relieve stress in dogs with autism. Excess energy can cause any dog to become anxious, but especially dogs that struggle with autism or other behavioral issues. Not only can excess energy cause a dog to experience stress, but it can also result in even more behavioral issues within your home. Try your best to offer your dog mentally stimulating toys, enjoyable exercise, and any other activities that take their mind off their struggles.
If your dog needs medical intervention, there are medication options that help dogs work through severe anxiety and other behavioral issues. Some dogs cannot find relief in changes within their environment alone, and require extra veterinary care to find comfort. If you think your dog has autism that cannot be resolved with daily changes, you can speak with your veterinarian about medical intervention.
Special Needs In Dogs
So can dogs have special needs? Since our dogs are just as prone to medical conditions that can impact their daily lives, there is no doubt that dogs can be considered special needs. If a furry friend has a condition that requires a bit of extra help on our part, that means they fall into the category of dogs with special needs.
A dog with special needs is no less lovable than any other pup, and can bring immense joy to our lives. Almost any condition has a list of management options that can help to improve their lives, and can offer them a brighter future. Just be sure to speak with your vet about your concerns with your pup, and they can point you in a positive direction.
Final Thoughts About Autism in Dogs
Though autism in dogs is still being researched, it’s clear that the possibility of this condition in dogs is on the map. Be sure to review the information we discussed above on and know that there is help for dogs who may have autism or some kind of special needs.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 10 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! Read more about us here.